'Revolutionary' tracking technology undergoes testing at KU

Lawrence,Ks (12-09-2004)

From University Relations
By Michelle Ward

LAWRENCE -- Researchers at the University of Kansas have published a report comparing the performance of 10 radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, the technology that is revolutionizing the tracking and management of products as they move from the factory to the consumer.

Manufacturers are implementing RFID technology to meet mandates issued by the U.S. Defense Department, Wal-Mart and a growing list of other retailers that are requiring the tags for inventory tracking. RFID users need accurate, nonbiased information on the tags, which has led researchers at KU's RFID Alliance Laboratory, a part of the KU Information and Telecommunications Technology Center, to conduct the tests.

ITTC; the RFID Journal, a media company based in Hauppauge, N.Y.; and Rush Tracking Systems, a private RFID systems integrator in Lenexa, created the RFID Alliance Laboratory this summer. The lab provides researchers with the facilities and resources to produce a series of reports on RFID technology.

The first lab report may be purchased online at www.rfidjournal.com/labreports.

"This is the kind of information end users and systems integrators have never had before," said Toby Rush, president of Rush Tracking Systems. "Many companies are trying to do their own tests, but they are not scientific and as a result, companies are wasting a lot of time putting different tags on products and testing them through trial and error. The lab's data takes the guesswork out of choosing tags."

" Scientific analysis of the performance of these tags will enable people to determine which tags are likely to perform best on their products," said Daniel Deavours, research assistant professor and director of the RFID Alliance Laboratory.

Deavours and his team logged 1,350 hours of lab work, conducting more than 5,000 tests on the tags. Researchers tested each tag's performance under ideal conditions in the lab and real-world conditions in an operational warehouse.

They evaluated a number of performance variables, including distance and tag orientation, Deavours said. For instance, when an object, such as a metal can, is placed too close to a tag it can interfere with communication between the tag and its reader. The tag is a microchip that contains tiny antennae and electronics. RFID users must know which tag will best be able to properly "listen" for a radio query from its reader and respond by transmitting its unique ID code. Successful communication between the tag and reader depends on the geometry of the tag, its placement and product packaging.

The RFID Alliance Lab will publish its second report this spring. It will focus on read rates of tags individually and in populations, statistical variation between tags, write performance, kill command performance, and depending on availability, performance of "pharma" tags (tags intended for use on pharmaceuticals). The overall goal of the lab is to help RFID users understand the technology and how to apply it to solve their particular needs, Deavours said.

" We would like to be the place people could turn to for accurate, unbiased RFID information,"Deavours said.

For more information, contact ITTC.

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