Siemens: A new UHF-reader generation with various self-optimizing functions is born

Articles | By Siemens | 12 January 2015
Reader with optimization function Reader with optimization function Photo: Siemens

New UHF-reading devices featuring special tools speed up integration and reduce project costs

RFID-systems in the ultra-high frequency range have been revolutionizing the management of production- and logistics chains for about ten years. However, apart from the benefits which include cheap labels and high reading ranges, UHF-systems have a number of technical challenges. A new device generation that integrates helpful tools enables a quick realization of UHF-projects while minimizing downtimes.

By Ingo Hecker, product manager RFID-systems, Siemens

What are the substantial cost drivers at RFID-projects? Apart from the hardware, such as readers and transponders, above all, the efforts for integration and commissioning are playing a big role. According to a study conducted by the ARC Advisory Group for industry consulting, the costs of software and integration are twice as high as the expenses for reading technology.

This is the initial point for Siemens’ new generation of UHF-readers from the product line SimaticRF600. Three new devices of different function- and performance classes offer numerous possibilities to reduce costs for project realization and downtimes. Thus, the integrated software consists of extensive commissioning- and diagnosis tools that can be launched without software installation via web browser. This is particularly convenient, since the maintenance- and service technicians’ laptops don’t need special setup and preparation. Using web technology brings important benefits: Firstly, for example, maintenance engineers can connect to a device via remote connection and perform respective tasks without laboriously travelling to the site. As well as this, system integrators using their own device management software can simply integrate Siemens readers – as long as a web-/browser component is included in that software.

Ingo HeckerIngo Hecker„Apart from the project costs, efforts for maintenance, troubleshooting and outages play an important role. To reduce downtimes, a meaningful diagnosis is of high importance.“



Special software tools facilitate and accelerate commissioning

When commissioning UHF-RFID-systems, some important parameters, such as what transmitting power is needed to ensure a safe capture must be determined. Setting the transmitting power too low and the tag capture is not assured. However, if the power is set too high, overshooting respectively interferences with neighboring reading stations are caused. With the function “determine response performance”, the new UHF-readers offer an easy but effective tool that allows the application to determine the lowest transmitting power possible for every transponder in the capturing area with a touch of a button. This function also provides information regarding tags in the overshooting range that were not supposed to be captured, so-called “false-positive reads”, to optimize the integrated filter algorithms. Therefore, practical challenges regarding the setup of individual reading stations can be quickly identified and solved.

Also, the aligning of the antennas is done within A few minutes with the help of the respective menu. The RFID-system is giving the user direct feedback about the effect of the antenna adjustment respectively to its positioning: Both the current as well as the best- achieved signal strength are displayed in the web browser as a bar chart. Thus, showing what positioning/aligning provides the best results. The reader displays the same information in a bright LED-row placed on its housing so that the setup can also be done under unfavorable conditions.

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A root and branch review: The RF685R is subject to a rigorous final inspection at the Siemens factory in Karlsruhe.

Low downtimes thanks to meaningful diagnosis

Besides project costs, expenditures for maintenance, troubleshooting, and outages play an important role. Meaningful diagnosis is of high importance in order to reduce downtimes. In the menu “Tag Monitor”, all information required regarding the quality of reading results is displayed during operation, such as the signal strength (RSSI), the capture rate, the transmission power effectively used, and many more. The most important data is also plotted to see relevant contexts at a glance and to identify changes happening over time. Moreover, tags are shown that were filtered out according to the used UHF-for-Industry algorithms. Therefore, the effect of the filter function can easily be analyzed, and its parameters CAN quickly be optimized. At the Simatic-RF600-readers, an integrated diagnostics logbook records events such as reading- and writing errors or changes of the reader’s parameters. Thus, one can take a look into the past and analyze sporadically happening errors in retrospect.

Also, the excellent mechanical and electrical quality grants a trouble-free operation FOR the readers. Several measures such as a demanding device design regarding protection class, shock/vibration, or ambient temperatures guarantee a failure-free usage even in challenging applications. The fabrication in the Siemens electronics factory at Karlsruhe that also produces other automation products such as various Simatic S7 assemblies or the IWLAN-series Scalance W in high quantities, assures a consistent quality on the highest level. Just in November, the site Karlsruhe won the renowned MX-award as the whole winner of this year’s Manufacturing-Excellence-Competition.

Reader itself is choosing the best antenna setup

A comprehensive and easy-to-use diagnosis is very important, but it is even better when the readers deliver the correct results in the first place. Combining a high-value radio module, an extensive evaluation algorithm and the adaptive antenna of the Simatic RF685R, optimal reading results are achieved. The antenna is, because of its modified polarization, the reason for a dynamization of the radio field, so that the transponder can be captured even in an environment which is difficult with regards to the radio circumstances. The particular strength of the adaptive antenna lies, however, in the automated control of the reader. The user doesn’t have to do the setup but the reader automatically choses the best antenna configuration for every single reading act according to special algorithms. This does not only save time at commissioning but also makes reading results much better, especially when the environmental conditions are changing constantly, respectively when the transponders to be captured move. Another benefit: One device can be used for different use cases. This is not only making the commissioning easier but also the planning and spare part stocking.

Other algorithms like, for example, the automated control of the transmitting power not only lead to the benefit that higher reading rates are obtained, but also enable the energy emission to be as is low as possible. This is to prevent interferences with neighboring readers. At the same time, overshooting is reliably prevented. Many functions there are designed so that they automatically adapt to changing environmental conditions such as moving objects or tolerances regarding the sensitivity of transponders.

Other functions serve the logical filtering of reading results such as to only report transponders of a certain number spectrum to the super ordinated systems or to automatically filter-out tags that were already read.

The built in „tool box“ does not only help to capture better, but also offers the user the possibility to separate the wheat from the chaff. That implies tags that can be captured with radio but those which don’t match the required criteria can be filtered so that the “correct” object can be identified.

Knowing more leads to lower costs and less risks

With the new UHF-RFID-reader designed by Siemens, high-value reading results are achievable – without RFID-specialists having to optimize every reading station. Since the cause for erroneous readings can be seen at first glance, problems can be identified and solved quicker. Thus, an important milestone to realize RFID-projects safely and quickly is achieved.

Last modified on Thursday, 02 July 2015 14:02
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