RFID research promises improved range, accuracy with fewer antennas

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Employing a distributed antenna system like that commonly used to enhance wireless signals within a building, researchers have been able to achieve a massive increase in radio frequency identification, or RFID, range and accuracy.

The technique can identify RFID tagged items with near perfect accuracy over a much wider range than commercially available systems, finds a recently published paper from researchers at the University of Cambridge. The paper was published in the November 2013 issue of the academic journal, IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation.

RFID relies on both readers and tags. The newly designed model deals with passive RFID tags--tags that can be embedded in an object and require no internal energy source or maintenance. The researchers improved the accuracy of passive RFID tag detection from about 50 percent to almost 100 percent and increased reliable detection range from 3 meters to about 20 meters, says an announcement from the university.

"Conventional passive UHF RFID systems typically offer a lower useful read range than this new solution, as well as lower detection reliability," says Sithamparanathan Sabesan, one of the report's authors, in a Jan. 23 statement.

"Tag detection accuracy usually degrades at a distance of about two to three metres, and interrogating signals can be cancelled due to reflections, leading to dead spots within the radio environment," he adds.

Dead spots, a common issue with RFID detection, were mitigated by multicasting the RFID signals over four transmitting antennas--still less than the antennas required by current technologies.

The business implications of such technology are compelling, whether they are used for warehouse processes or airline baggage operations. The researchers behind the technology are working to advance this initial study. They hope to add location functionality to the RFID DAS system, which would allow users to see not only which zone a tagged item was located in, but also approximately where it was within that zone, says the university.

For more:
- read the announcement from the University of Cambridge
- go to the academic paper

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