ThingMagic Puts RFID Protocols Into Software, Not Circuit Boards - InformationWeek

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ThingMagic Puts RFID Protocols Into Software, Not Circuit Boards

Its Mercury4 Platform will allow readers to be built to scan different tags simultaneously.

Radio-frequency identification standards are still unsettled, and that's making it difficult for businesses that need to purchase RFID equipment now. But one company, ThingMagic LLC, next week will unveil technology it says will help ease the standards dilemma.

ThingMagic's Mercury4 Platform embeds the RFID protocols into software, rather than circuit boards, so readers can be built to scan different RFID tags simultaneously. The platform can also be programmed to support different frequencies. "We make readers out of software," says Kevin Ashton, ThingMagic's VP of marketing. "The conventional approach is that you hardwire how the tag communicates with the reader into the circuit. In our system, there's nothing on the analog front end that understands RFID. All it does is convert 950-MHz radio waves into [data] bits."

Mercury4 already can support the current standards developed and endorsed by EPCglobal, an industry group defining RFID standards--the EPC Class 0 and EPC Class 1. When the next-generation specification, the UHF Gen 2 passive RFID standard, comes out later this year, only the software residing on the readers will have to be upgraded. "A flexible, scaleable architecture is always going to be important," Ashton says.

More than 100 prototypes built using the Mercury4 platform have been tested. Omron Corp. and Tyco International Ltd.'s Sensormatic subsidiary have licensed the technology and will begin offering readers built on the platform next week. ThingMagic officials say additional license agreements are expected later this summer.

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