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Part 3: Tag Readers Are Fundamental

By Carol Sliwa
August 18, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - A tag reader communicates with an RFID tag and passes on the information to software applications. Readers work with passive tags using a method known as inductive coupling, in which a reader's antenna creates a magnetic field with the tag's antenna.
Although passive tags keep costs down, their readers can still cost more than $1,000, and most read only chips that use a single frequency. To address the problem, the Auto-ID Center designed reference specifications for software-based "agile" readers that can read different types of tags and tags that operate at varying frequencies. Ashton predicts that the reader cost can be cut to $100 to $200 each at a volume of 10,000 units within three years.
"That's an important step, because it means you no longer have to have a proprietary tag-reader combination," says Jim Crawford, vice president of Retail Forward Inc., a research and consulting firm in Columbus, Ohio. "It lets you put in a single infrastructure to read multiple tags."
But Paula Rosenblum, an analyst at Boston-based AMR Research Inc., says there's little evidence that the price of readers is dropping. Many readers don't work reliably, she adds.
The read range of a tag depends on the the reader's power, the frequency that the reader and tag use to communicate, and antenna size.
Gene Alvarez, an analyst at Meta Group Inc., says a powerful reader will be needed to read a passive tag from long distances. The read range for a passive tag is now three to six meters, he says.

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