One of the biggest challenges facing the RFID supply chain is choosing the right type of tag and then deciding where it should be placed on the product’s packaging. Incorrectly placed tags can lead to poor reading results and could mean failure to meet mandated compliance standards.
This is where CAPE Systems, with its tag locator software, hopes to make a difference. The New Jersey-based company is a provider of software technology for packaging design, RFID asset tracking, pallet optimization, inventory and warehouse management, supply chain execution and order fulfillment. Last month, it introduced its RFID Tag Locator software designed for RFID tag placement analysis and pallet-reading optimization.
The RFID Tag Locator uses commercially available RFID tags and readers to measure RFID performance at the case and pallet level under real-world conditions. Results from these measurements are displayed using interactive color-coded 3D models to show RF properties. This visualization system displays a picture of the projected RF behavior of a product. This can lead to optimal tag placement and improved case and pallet reading.
The software works with any of the industry standard RFID readers (Alien Technology, Symbol, WJ, Samsys and AWID) and with Class 0, Class 1 and the upcoming Gen 2 tags. The software itself operates as a standalone application (it does not require Internet access) on any Windows-based PC or laptop.
The RFID Tag Locator program is being marketed by CAPE Systems under a licensing agreement with Integral RFID, Washington state. CAPE is offering the RFID Tag Locator to end-users of RFID, resellers and to system integrators who include tag analysis as part of their revenue generating services.
“They (Integral RFID) developed it and asked us to help them market it,” said Brad Leonard, vice president of worldwide sales for Cape Systems. The price of the software is about $3,200, he said.
Users of this software, said Mr. Leonard, can attach an RFID antenna and reader to their computer. They are then given a choice of tags they have available. They are then able to position the tags on the surface of their products. As they move the tags around, the software will record whether the tag is readable based on the RFID signal, Mr. Leonard explained.
“You wave the tag in front of the box and the tag turns red or green,” said Mr. Leonard. “In a lab environment you can place a box on the lab bench and position it so the antenna can focus on the product and it (the software) gradually maps the surface of the shipping container with a red or green color,” he said.
Of course, the material contained in the box has a lot to do with the tag’s readability. “Metal and water inhibit the signal,” said Mr. Leonard. “If you have bottles of water, you have to put the tag on the side or along the top.”
While “we’re still trying to determine what the software is telling us” for some hard-to-read tags, it’s a far cry from the experimental methods companies are using now. “You on a tag and shoot it through the conveyor 10 times, then you go to another location,” said Mr. Leonard. “What we’re doing is measuring whether the tag can be read. At the same time we’re creating a 3-D map of the container, determining whether the tag can or can’t be read.”
He said it eliminates a lot of the guess work. “It will help determine whether their product is RFID-capable. If the box is all red, you’re stuck,” he added.
He said some people “are putting the tag on a piece of foam core to lift it off the surface of the box to give it more space” and to increase its chances of being accurately read.
“We’re going to set up an RFID lab in our New Jersey location to do testing for people.”
He added: “I have been told no one else does 3-D mapping like we do.”
For further information: www.capesystems.com/taglocator.htm.