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Past Newsletters (prior to December 2008)

Newsletters after December 2008

31st October 2008

1) Productivity challenges
2) Sports timing
3) Dabbling with hydrogen for motor vehicles
4) A portfolio of RFID technologies

Productivity challenges
Many companies phone Trolley Scan daily with details of potential problems that need solutions. As Trolley Scan manufacture advanced reader and radar systems, a wide variety of low power UHF transponders in different shapes, and now are delivering standardised software packages to provide a "solution in a box" - we are approached by innovative clients wanting a solution that is different from the classical applications of RFID.

RFID hardware systems form part of information gathering technology. The systems will capture the identities of items to which transponders are attached. - some at distances up to 10 metres, with up to 800 tags in a zone at a time and at read rates up to 70 per second. Data from the reader, which is arriving much faster than can be processed by the human mind, is usually interpreted by a computer attached to the reader.

What is becoming clear is that the secret to productivity with these systems is the need to marry the UHF reader with some database and to report on descrepancies. Say for instance you are a farmer with a large number of cattle. UHF readers at waterholes and feedpoints can continually gather the identity and time recorded of animals passing the readers. By linking that to a database of all the animals you own that are known to be in the pasture, you can remotely check to see that all your animals are still in the pasture and quickly identify if a particular animal has not been near the water hole in the past 8 hours. Hence you are able to do a slow continuous stock count of your herd with no personal involvement.

A similar situation could be for hire companies of TV equipment where they want to check on despatch and return that all the equipment is correct, that nothing is missing, and that nothing extra is bundled in the shipment. This would involve automatically matching the invoice for the shipment to the codes read at exit.

Sports timing
Because Trolley Scan equipment offers long read ranges, multiple transponders in a zone at a time, read speeds up to 300kph, and at read rates up to 70 per second; many companies worldwide are using our systems as the sensor part of sports timing systems.

Trolley Scan have developed a software package to manage the timing, the results and other administration tasks involved in timing sports events. This is part of the "systems in a box" concept aimed at sport events organisers who want to just buy a complete system and not develop their own software.

Dabbling with hydrogen for motor vehicles
As the oil price soared, an interest developed in alternative sources of energy. Although we are an electronic systems manufacturing company, we developed an interest to experiment with the generation of hydrogen gas and using that gas as an additive to the fuel/air mixture of automobiles.

The addition of hydrogen seems to increase the efficiency of the burn resulting in fuel savings. This works particularly well with diesel engines where savings of up to 30% seem to be achievable in some cases.

The hydrogen is generated in the engine compartment of the car by breaking down normal tap water. Our gas generator has been through a number of revisions and we now generate nine fold as much gas as when we started. We have been running a petrol BMW325i for the past four months on the system and covered about 10000 kilometers.

This has been a fun project and we would be interested to interact with others who might have experience.

A portfolio of RFID technologies
RFID is a new technology that is rapidly evolving as new developments are brought to the market. Range performance of passive transponders is increasing, reader energies are dropping, and more compact packaging of reader systems are being developed.

Currently there are three separate lines of products for UHF readers from companies like Trolley Scan.

a) Fixed readers which are often mains operated and can monitor transponders entering a zone up to 13 metres in front of the antennas with up to 800 transponders in a zone and travelling up to 300kph.

b) Portable readers that are linked by Bluetooth type technologies to laptop computers forming a mobile data capture and processing system. Due to the low power abilities of Ecotag type transponders, battery operated reader equipment is viable and can read tags up to 8 metres range for long periods.

c) RFID-radar systems which can measure the identity, and accurately the range and position of multiple transponders in a zone at a time. Despite these measurements being accurate, they use very little bandwidth allowing many RFID systems to operate in close proximity. Used in conjunction with battery operated transponders, useful ranges of up to 40 metres are achievable.

In addition there are a variety of different forms of passive and active transponders packaged in different forms for different applications. These might be credit card sized, thin wire types, tags for notebook computers, or long range battery-assisted types where the plastic of the housing forms a focussing lens.

More information is available from Trolley Scan at http://www.trolleyscan.com

Getting your own complete RFID/radar system
You can order RFID systems from Trolleyscan.com

Trolley Scan provide small RFID reader systems which give new users the ability to evaluate UHF RFID and their applications without needing specialised skills. The systems comprise a reader, antennas and 100 transponders based on the EcoTag technology. The user just connects the reader to a computer and provides mains power to have a fully operational system.

These systems are already operating in 50 countries.

To find out details of the systems and to order see http://trolleyscan.com/isosys.html

9th September 2008

1) Future advancements in RFID applications
2) A laptop tracking software/hardware system in a box

Future advancements in RFID applications
RFID hardware systems form part of information gathering technology. The systems will capture the identities of items to which transponders are attached. - some at distances up to 10 metres, with up to 800 tags in a zone at a time and at read rates up to 70 per second. Data from the reader, which is arriving much faster than can be processed by the human mind, is usually interpreted by a computer attached to the reader.

Large improvements in productivity are going to be realised when databases that are resident in computer systems are linked to the received RFID data and interpreted correctly. An example of linking databases to RFID would be in the tracking by tour operators of their clients' luggage on a bus trip - where the guide would want to be able to check that all the luggage is present and ready for loading when the bus departs from the hotel, and knowing what luggage should be delivered to which hotel room in the evening at the next stop.

RFID applications usually require a simple program running on a computer, a program that in the past could typically be written by a high-school student. Unfortunately the computer "program-creating" skills of the world seem no longer to be a skill that resides in every home, even although most homes have numerous computer systems.

Basically most applications for RFID in small businesses are the same. Whether you are running an asset management system, a security system to control the removal of your assets from your premises, a program to track deliveries from your vehicles or an access control system - they have remarkable similarity in structure of the computer software. This is not a widely published fact as there is a strong industry writing middleware, bloatware, and "you_will_forever_be_poor-ware"!!

Trolley Scan have been developing a suite of pseudo object orientated application software that integrate with their RFID hardware systems to provide the solutions to most common RFID applications. Basically most productivity applications involve interacting with the RFID hardware, interacting with a series of databases, fitting the information to a set of rules, and generating reports, alarms and notifications. These programs receive data from readers, look up and maintain databases, generate reports and alarms, and email warnings if needed.

Below you will read about the latest of these "systems in a box" hardware and software solutions. Because it is modular object orientated code - the software is low cost, costing a few hundred dollars for the entire solution in most cases.

About 4500 companies get this newsletter globally. If any have applications that they feel are RFID orientated and would have a solutions that would be common for many users, let us know and we can see if the new software solutions can be fine tuned.

More information is available from Trolley Scan at http://www.trolleyscan.com

A laptop tracking software/hardware system in a box
Trolley Scan have developed a software package to manage laptop computers that are required to enter and leave premises with their assigned operators.

Thanks to the availability of Trolley Scan's long range passive technology for both laptop transponder and personal ID tag formats, a fixed reader at a checkpoint can read the identity of both the notebook and its operator passing without hindrance.

The purpose of the new software is to process ID codes from the reader at the checkpoint, to match the laptops to their authorised operators, and to report any discrepancies.

This software had a special challenge as decision could only be made when both ID codes were received, and if a certain time had expired since a laptop had been read and it had not found a matching user code, then an alarm had to be quickly sounded.

This is another in the new low cost series of "system in a box" software with the software costing just a few hundred dollars.

* * * * * *

Trolley Scan also provide a starter RFID-radar system.

RFID-radar is the next generation of RFID equipment combining identity with position information using the same low-cost transponders.

The systems comprise a reader, antennas and 20 transponders.

To find out details of the system and to order see http://rfid-radar.com/

5th August 2008

1) Find-a-tag feature added to asset tracking software
2) Basic antenna theory

Find-a-tag feature added to asset tracking software
When you have a room full of 300 computer servers, that all look the same physically, and are all networked, - how do you find the exact computer that needs to be changed or repaired? This was the challenge brought to Trolley Scan recently by a client.

In our past newsletter we informed readers about a new development in asset tracking, called RFIDasset(tm). With all items being tagged, a portable reader with Bluetooth interfacing, and a neat software package - one can have a very effective asset tracking system to monitor large quantities of assets in a corporation, making sure none have gone missing and that their current location is correctly recorded in a database.

This can be effectively implemented with the Trolley Scan portable RFID reader technology and the long range passive Ecotag transponder technology - including the new passive tags for notebook and laptop computers. With read ranges up to 8 metres, it is not necessary to get close to each asset as its identity can usually be checked from the middle of a room, up to 8 metres away.

FIND-A-TAG is a new feature that has been added to the software where one can search for a specific tag identity in a large tag population. When the software detects a match between the incoming data and the requested number, it lets the computer make a noise and flashes the 'found' message once per second as long as that tag is in front of the reader antenna. By turning away from the transponder, the noise and flashing will stop as soon as the tag is no longer in front of the antenna and so its physical location can be quickly identified.

As the reader can process up to 800 transponders in a zone at 70 per second, this use of Find-a-tag can allow large volumes of assets to be checked very quickly.

This same software can be used to find specific books in a pile of library books, or specific personal files in a stack of documents.

Basic antenna theory
Designing antenna systems is a specialised engineering field which uses extensive software modelling to try to achieve the best results. However an understanding of the issues by those not connected to the industry can be useful.

    The function of the antenna is two fold -
  1. to direct or focus the available energy in the desired direction
  2. to change the impedance of the medium in a controlled manner to allow maximum energy transfer.
The basic unit of measure of an antenna is the half-wavelength of the operating frequency of the signal which it is transferring. At UHF frequencies typically used by RFID, the half wavelength is approximately 15cms. This distance is inversely proportional to the operating frequency, meaning that smaller antennas need higher operating frequencies.

In the same way that one can use a reflector in a torch to direct light from a small globe into a beam, so an antenna directs radio energy. The general rule is that the bigger the antenna structure, the more concentrated the beam. This is why an antenna for radio astronomy or sending data to satellites is so large, while a cell phone antenna where energy is being spread in all directions is so small.

At UHF frequencies, hard surfaces such as walls, floors and road surfaces reflect incident energy, meaning that the energy will be scattered when it hits that surface. This provides a practical limit to the requirement for focussing energy by reader antennas as there is no point in making a large reader antenna structure to make a defined beam which is then scattered by objects in close proximity.

In a later newsletter we will address the impedance matching features of antennas.

17 July 2008

1) Implementing asset tracking systems
2) New RFID-Radar applications

Implementing asset tracking systems

"We need to stop criminals stealing hospital equipment from our wards"

"We need to stop people stealing our laptops from our buildings"

"We suspect the cleaners are stealing the laptops by taking them out with the rubbish bins"

These are typical requests received daily at Trolley Scan as business owners look for an affordable technological solutions to manage their business problems.

The solution to many of these problems is going to be a combination of sensor systems, software and the business system.

The sensor systems that are needed are the easy part. Long range passive UHF transponders such as those produced by Trolley Scan, can easily be purchased. With long range features(read ranges up to 10 meters), and with innovative tags such as the new notebook tag, the sensors can monitor exit points from a building and can detect and identify any tagged item passing through the exit point. These systems are freely available and can be ordered off a pricelist when needed.

Recent developments in software packages for RFID systems have meant that the challenge of managing the large amount of data coming from the UHF RFID systems has been dramatically simplified. It has not quite reached the stage of one solution fits all, such as has happened with the hardware RFID systems, but it is very close.

The real challenge in implimenting an asset tracking system is now evolving around the business systems and processes. The challenge is to simplify the application to get the maximum benefits with the least disruption.

For example on preventing equipment being removed from a hospital.

  1. A simple solution might be to tag the equipment and make sure that equipment removed from the hospital, will only happen via one exit where there is a guard. All other exits will have readers that will sound a loud audible alarm should some of the equipment pass through their zones.
  2. A more complex solution might be to have readers situated throughout the hospital, and to monitor the movement of all equipment between the different wards. This means that complex tracking software is needed as well as operators to determine when equipment is moving outside of its normal zone of operation.

The simple solution above is easy and cheap to implement provided that the business systems can be adjusted to this mode of operation.

Another key issue in looking after your assets in a large corporation, is to know what is in the building and what is now missing. This means that instead of auditing the assets once per year for accounting purposes, a more frequent scan is needed. Here the recently released RFIDasset(tm) software and RFID systems can be used to allow very quick and efficient monitoring and record updating of the current position of your assets.

More information is available from Trolley Scan at http://www.trolleyscan.com

New RFID-Radar applications
RFID-radar is an advanced RFID system that is not only able to report the identity of the transponders in the zone, but is able to measure their exact position at the same time.

Recent novel applications where we have supplied systems are for positioning railtrucks in a metal foundry, monitoring operations in medical research, positioning robots in a warehouse, and to monitor the exact location of the actors in movie/stage applications.

29 May 2008

1) RFIDasset - a merging of hardware and software to solve a significant problem
2) Bluetooth kit for portables
3) US Military take delivery of Trolley Scan systems
4) Trolley Scan now accept credit cards

RFIDasset - a merging of hardware and software to solve a significant problem
Trolley Scan have developed a unique asset management system for companies with thousands of assets who need to know where these are or if they are missing.

The package comprises a customised software program that runs on a laptop computer, a long range portable UHF RFID scanner, and low power passive transponders that are attached to the items to be tracked. The system is simple to operate, easy to install, and is aimed at those who are confident to buy "systems in a box"

The software provides a database of all the items to be tracked, the current location of those items, identifiers such as description, manufacturer and serial numbers, who is responsible for the item, and the date when the item was last scanned.

The reader is portable and is moved around the building that is being checked from room to room. Transponders are attrached to items to be tracked from expensive scientific equipment to tables and chairs if these are on the asset register. As the read range of the portable reader is up to ten meters, the operator can scan from the middle of the room and by rotating scan all the tags in the room in a matter of seconds.

The software in the laptop knows what should be in the room, and can immediately inform the operator what has been missed providing descriptions and the contact person details who might know where the item currently is located. It will also report what extra items have now moved to the room, and will update the database to show current location and date of scanning.

This package combines the advantages of RFID with a customised software package to manage the data. RFID has the advantage of being able to read tags at long distances without the need for them to be in line of sight. The RFID reader can read at rates up to 70 items per second which would outstrip the abilities of a human operator, but as the system is linked into a computer program which can manage the high speed data, the operator can be presented just with the salient issues relating to managing large quantites of items.

The software is compatible with spread sheet programs allowing manipulation of the asset register easily for large amounts of data. The package is low cost making an affordable productive solution.

More details can be found at http://trolleyscan.com

Bluetooth kit for portables
Bluetooth technology is a system of transferring data via radio over a short distance, replacing a piece of copper wire.

A portable reader needs a display to communicate with the operator, so that it can give immediate feedback to the user in the actual situation - for example - this item of equipment has not been found here!!

In the past the Trolley Scan portable readers were usually connected via a short cable to some display device, such as a PDA that was carried by the operator. The idea of using a small device with limited display features such as a PDA with a fast reading scientific instrument like the RFID reader, was not attractive as the display on the PDA was so small and the data handling abilities of the reader so large (able to transfer 70 readings per second and 800 tags in the zone at a time) that it was difficult to convey to the operator the actual situation - a little like watching a soccer match on a cell phone!

Another issue was that the RFID reader, WANs, Wireless Bridges, cellphones and the Bluetooth devices are all using radio spectrum and operating in close proximity to each other, meaning great care was needed in the design of the RF systems so as not to cause interference between systems.

A third problem was that it was not sufficient to deliver the data to the host computer via Bluetooth, it had to be delivered in a form that could be interfaced to application programs so that they could use the data - a number of challenges to replace a simple piece of copper wire!

Trolley Scan have introduced a Bluetooth option on their portable readers which allow the portable to communicate with a laptop that is within 10 meters of the reader. The option also includes a dongle for the laptop and software for the laptop that handles the transfer of the data from the dongle to the application software.

As a result of the Bluetooth technology link, applications can now be run on a laptop placed on a desk near the mobile reader, giving the conventional large display features associated with laptops/notebooks, and allowing applications that run on the same operating system platform used in the company to be used rather than converting to a small opewrating system as used by PDAs.

The Bluetooth option must be fitted when ordering a portable system.

US Military take delivery of Trolley Scan systems
RFID readers and transponders have been bought by the US Military for their campaign in the Middle East.

Trolley Scan is an African company which is a world leader in long range passive transponder technology, exporting their systems to users in 50 countries. Equipment made by Trolley Scan focusses on long range low power technology which means that portable systems with read ranges up to 10 meters on passive tags are practical.

It is these features which make the Trolley Scan systems attractive to the US Military as well as the low pricing, and the provision of hardware and software as a package to solve common applications.

Trolley Scan now accept credit cards
Trolley Scan has been registered as a Credit card Merchant and can now accept Visa and Mastercard credit card payments for their systems from clients worldwide.

In the past payment had to be via an Interbank Swift transfer but from now on credit cards can also be used.

5 April 2008

1) New development - passive transponder for tagging laptop and notebook computers
2) White paper on setting up asset tracking system for laptop computers

New development - passive transponder for tagging laptop and notebook computers
Laptop and notebook computers are expensive items, often containing important confidential data. They are often stolen from business premises as they are easy to disconnect from their environment and easy to hide. A strong interest in RFID comes from applications that wish to monitor the unauthorised removal of such devices from premises.

Trolley Scan (Pty) Ltd (Johannesburg),SOUTH AFRICA have developed a new passive transponder that is specially designed to be attached to laptop and notebook computers. These transponders work in all orientations of the computer and will be detected by a Trolleyponder fixed reader at distances between 13 meter and 5 meters. Since the system works on radio principles, it will be detected even if it is inside a briefcase, laptop carrying bag or under a jacket.

The Trolley Scan RFID transponder is a rubber based tag that is glued onto the outside of the computer case. The tag can be attached anywhere to the outside of the computer case. It will be detected when it passes the reader even if it is screened from direct radio path with the reader by the computer itself. The rubber tag has a high resistance to chemicals and solvents. It is a passive tag with a very long expected lifetime.

White paper on setting up asset tracking system for laptop computers
As one of the leading suppliers to the world of low power UHF RFID technology, currently exporting to users in 50 countries - Trolley Scan are frequently approached by heads of corporations to supply systems to stop laptops and other assets being removed from their offices.

Asset tracking systems are a combination of sensors to detect passage of items and software to classify the signal and decide on whether the passage is authorised or an alarm.

As the software forms the man-machine interface by which effectiveness of the system is judged, it is critical that the executives have a clear understanding of what they want to achieve.

In order to clarify the choices, Trolley Scan have prepared a white paper on setting up an asset tracking system.

Getting your own complete RFID/radar system
You can order RFID systems from Trolleyscan.com

Trolley Scan provide small RFID reader systems which give new users the ability to evaluate UHF RFID and their applications without needing specialised skills. The systems comprise a reader, antennas and 100 transponders based on the EcoTag technology. The user just connects the reader to a computer and provides mains power to have a fully operational system.

These systems are already operating in 50 countries.

To find out details of the systems and to order see http://trolleyscan.com/isosys.html

* * * * * *

Trolley Scan also provide a starter RFID-radar system.

RFID-radar is the next generation of RFID equipment combining identity with position information using the same low-cost transponders.

The systems comprise a reader, antennas and 20 transponders.

To find out details of the system and to order see http://rfid-radar.com/

6 March 2008

1) Different types of UHF RFID

Different types of UHF RFID
Anyone can buy an RFID system these days. In the past you would have been a specialist that either understood radio or computer issues, but nowadays you click on the order button, submit your payment details and the system arrives in the post. That does not mean that you are going to understand its operation or make it part of a successful application!!!

Anyone buying computer equipment in a computer store, will realise that the end user is being treated as an idiot and that the specifications he is given about the equipment he is buying seldom goes beyond the mains voltage needed to operate. All those specifications that it is deemed necessary to inform him of the product, need to fit on the side of a small box and sometimes in nine languages. This is a far cry from buying computer equipment in the past when the pricelist alone with the options, ran into 76 pages.

However the equipment is not getting simpler with options, the users are just being told less!!

UHF RFID is a technology that also has many of options that effect its performance, and it is important that end users understand these choices so that they can get the right equipment for their application.

One of the most used choices, with all the hype about very low cost transponders, is price. Not understanding the issues, users buy the cheapest transponders with the worst performance and end up with applications that will not work.

RFID performance is dominated by the choice of the operating frequency, and RFID operating in the UHF frequency band offers the best of most worlds with long range performance and potentially the lowest manufacturing costs.

There are two major classes of UHF RFID, namely those where the tag-talks-first(TTF) and the other where the reader-talks-first(RTF).

If you have an application for measuring slow moving items passing a control, where you want very short operating range and you are labelling items that need to be sold in a retail store, - then you want RTF such as EPC Gen2 type tags. The tags are relatively cheap, but the protocol causes the reader to generate a lot of radio interference for other users in the vicinity and so very few readers can operate in close proximity. Usually these readers will be switched off most of the time and will only be activated when a pallet is passing so that other readers can use the spectrum. You cannot use these types of transponders for high speed situations - or for sports timing situations - or for theft control, as the time when the reader will successfully communicate with a transponder is uncertain as a result of the RTF protocol.

The other protocol (TTF) allows critical situations to be continually monitored, allows fast moving tags to be measured and can give repeatable time accurate measurements even in situations where multiple readers are in use at the same time. The reader puts out a continous energy field which provides power to the tags and a frequency reference for them to use for communication. As the energy field is constant, little interference is caused and many readers can operate simultaneously and continuously in close proximity. The tag responds when entering this energy field and receiving enough energy to operate. This response can come within thousandths of a second of it receiving enough power which means it is suitable for sports timing in many situations, can handle transponders attached to speeding items (up to 300kph) - and can be used to monitor access points for antitheft, asset and monitoring purposes as the energising field is continuously active and goods will not be able to pass through undetected. TTF tags also usually have longer operating ranges providing a larger coverage field in front of readers.

Trolley Scan use TTF technology for its UHF RFID reader and UHF RFID-radar systems which are supplied to users in 50 countries.

5 February 2008

1) Amazing measurements from RFID-Radar tests - a new class on instrument

Amazing measurements from RFID-Radar tests - a new class on instrument
Imagime measuring the distance between a wall and a reader 40 meters apart - and getting 1200 readings that all measure the distance correct to a millimeter!!! - and the standard deviation over 3500 measurements of just 2 millimeters!!!. This gives a measurement ability of 1 in 40000 parts to this method of measurement. Before RFID-radar, the concept of measuring distance between RFID tags and a reader were limited to trying to determine range by reverse calculation of the drop off in Rf power, or trying to triangulate position from measurements made from many readers scattered around the objects being located - both very crude approaches.

The amazing issue around the RFID-radar results are that they are achieved
1) using cheap readers and transponders.
2) just 10 kilohertz of RF bandwidth is used.
3) many transponders can be measured at the same time by one reader and the same transponder can be measured by many readers at the same time.
4) many measurements per second can be made all from a single point.
5) that passive or battery assisted transponders can be used - depending on range needed.

Trolley Scan have produced a white paper on the 24500 measurements made to a variety of different types of transponders complete with graphs. This paper can be downloaded from


16 January 2008

1) What are the success factors for RFID
2) New data terminal

What are the success factors for RFID
Trolley Scan have been asked by some companies and even governments about what it understands to be the key issues that are holding back the rapid deployment of RFID as a productivity tool in the economy. These organisations are wanting to make large scale investments to release the potential of this technology.

I started writing this item in the newsletter and found that there are a number of complex issues, which were so difficult to define, that possibly they deserve their own white paper. Hence I am just going to highlight one issue this month.

RFID systems have become consumer devices, where one can order the system via a mail order catalogue and it arrives in a box. Previously you had to be an electronic engineer with RF experience before you would become involved in a project with RFID. Now you plug the RFID system into your computer, run some sample applications, and have a working RFID/computer system. Now comes the difficult bit -

What do you do with all this data???

Nowadays most users have low computer skills, yet walk into a computer store and believe they should be able to buy high technology computer, RFID and printer systems which should solve all their problems even though they have not defined the problem and definitely are not going to be able to customise software to their needs.

RFID systems are very versatile - in a similar manner to printers being versatile. The manufacturer of the printer does not know when he makes his printer, what application will be solved when the client connects the printer to a computer and runs some software.

RFID systems are data capture devices that can be used in thousands of different applications - for example asset control, access control, logistics, sports timing and even the labelling of trees in a forest. All these applications are going to need a different software package to solve their specific application and that package needs to fit into the current software realm of the client.

Invariably the RFID system will be a productivity add-on to an existing accounting-, asset-, dairy herd management-, or logistics- application that is already in operation and needs the data from the RFID system tailored to that application. No two clients have the same environment and application which is not a problem if the client has software skills and can tailor the software - but makes it very difficult if you wish to provide a standard solution in a box, being an RFID system, computer, printer and software.

The challenge for the RFID manufacturers now lies in software development - possibly creating some package that can solve every application in the world and which the client can then customise by a simple click of a mouse button and a web browser.

The challenge is to meet the needs of the lower technically skilled users who have been empowered by the computer store!!

New data terminal
During December holidays Trolley Scan investigated the issues of data terminals and the like, that can display data from portable readers directly to the operator as the information is collected.

The problem is that the current data terminals are expensive, costing about the same as an RFID system, and some come fitted with a pathetic RFID reader that has the operating range comparable only with a barcode scanner.

Trolley Scan sell a mean portable RFID reader, offering ranges up to 10 metres, which means you can scan all items in a room just by standing in the middle of a room and spinning around. The problem has been that the reader outputs all the codes it finds at up to 70 per second, and with that amount of data you do not know what is missed or the description of the specific items.

Trolley Scan have developed a portable data terminal that can be used with an RFID reader in the field, does not cost an arm and a leg, captures the readings from the reader, time stamps all the readings to within 0.5 seconds, and can provide descriptions of the items to which the transponders are attached if these have been pre-loaded from the host computer.

Data is shown to the user on an LCD display which can be scrolled through current and historical readings. The terminal interfaces simply with a host computer and data from the terminal is compatible with most common software packages on the host computer system.

Watch the next newsletters for details.

24 November 2007

1) New antenna systems
2) Beginning of the end of RFID in retail

New antenna systems
Trolley Scan manufacture UHF RFID reader systems and RFID Radar systems.

These are supplied to users in 50 countries. For the past few years the RFID reader technology has been stable with little improvement in performance or change in design.

Trolley Scan have launched an updated patch antenna for its portable and fixed readers. The new antenna is an improvement mechanically on the antennas that we have been supplying in the past, but has identical electrical and radio performance to the earlier versions.

The new antennas are being supplied with all new orders.

It is not necessary for existing owners of our readers to change antennas.

Beginning of the end of RFID in retail
This paragraph might cause a storm of protest, but as a company that is deeply involved in this technology, with a detailed technical and commercial understanding of the issues, our interpretation might help you understand the bigger picture!!!

In this paragraph, by "RFID in retail" we are addressing the FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) market, that is the low cost items sold in very high volumes which are very sensitive to pricing.

The recent EPC-Global meeting in Chicago in Sept 2007 will most probably be seen as the turning point in the project of fitting RFID to retail. At this meeting, a Walmart Vice President announced a change in direction of the Walmart strategy, which takes RFID in retail from a barely successful venture towards an outright failure.

Those who understand the issues and watch the press and industry organisations, will have seen a major cooling off in the past year. Publications that were being published twice a week a few months ago, have dropped off in frequency to once every few weeks, and writing stories of small test projects rather than industries on the change. Even today a market study crossed our desk by a Market Research Organisation where growth is now forecast at 20% per annum rather than the 100s and 1000s of percents a few years ago.

Although techically, RFID in retail is practical and if applied at the correct points it could be successful, commercially it is not. The issues for the retail industry are that they want very large volumes at very low prices. Their price demand leaves so little margin for serious manufacturers that they are not interested in taking up the challenge.

Generally the retail industry is well organised from an information systems point of view. Because they move large volumes of merchandise, they have large IT systems and work in close communication with their suppliers. It is very difficult in this situation to find a role for RFID where it can make a major contribution to the ROI of the company.

RFID is up against the efficiency of the IT systems and it is always cheaper to improive the IT systems than install a whole new layer of monitoring technology. As an eaampe - a couple of years ago a retail executive claimed that the use of RFID had reduced out of stock events on the retail shelf by 20%! Since the store computer records everything that is sold via the checkout, and what is delivered to the store via invoicing for the store, the stock in the store is easily monitored. Software can also be developed to give a count of the items on the shelves based on the transfer of items from the storage area to the display area. To spend a fortune on getting the same result with an RFID technology layer, is a waste of funds.

The volumes needed for the retail industry to really get the benefits of RFID, are beyond the comprehension of the human mind, not to mention the manufacturing capacity for a very long time.

If you could tag all items at unit level, then you could have automated checkouts and readers in homes that would know stock level and order new stocks automatically. To do so would need about 100 million million transponders per annum(10 power 14), which is about 1 million fold larger than the world's current production.

The challenge is complicated as the transponders need to be assembled, which is a mechanical process. Here the limitation to what a single assembly machine can produce, is limited to about 7 per second at which point the inertia of moving items in the assembly process becomes so large that it becomes impractical. Seven per second translates to 100 million parts per annum, meaning that 1 million such machines would be needed to meet the estimated global demand,an impractical solution!!!

Because of the vast volumes of transponders that would be needed for a solution to the retail problem, no matter who develops the solution, it is going to have to be produced by those who specialiose in mass manufacture and have the logistics systems to supply those lines.

There are very few companies that are vast volume manufacturers in the world today, and an excellent way of monitoring progress on RFID in retail, is to watch the financial press when their Executives report. As soon as they announce the large scale increase in manufacturing for RFID projects, then the ball is starting to roll. At present they are always announcing the closing of plants and the laying off of staff as there is no margin in the pricing offered by the market for the manufacturer to invest in super large scale production.

The above analysis relates to RFID in retail. The future for RFID in almost every other sector is fantastic, particulalrly where RFID is used with high value items and margins for transponder manufacturers can exist.

RFID gives vision to IT systems!!!

1 September 2007

1) The global reach of Trolley Scan equipment widens
2) Monitoring the integrity of bridges and large structures
3) New uses where RFID technologies are being applied

The global reach of Trolley Scan equipment widens
Colombia in South America has become the fiftieth country where clients are using Trolley Scan's RFID equipment.

Monitoring the integrity of bridges and large structures
The tragic collapse of the motorway bridge over the Mississippi River at Minneapolis/St Paul highlights a need for continuous electronic monitoring of key structures.

RFID-radar measures the radio path a signal travels from a transponder back to the reader. It is able to continuously monitor the distance from up to 50 transponders and the reader simultaneously. The RFID-radar has two modes of operation, the absolute mode which measures actual distances to an accuracy of 0.5 meters, and a RELATIVE mode which can detect movements about a reference in MILLIMETER precision.

It is the RELATIVE mode with the millimeter precision which is particularly of relevance in this application.

A reading station established forty meters to the side of the structure could continuously monitor the movement of a number of transponders that are stuck to the side of the bridge deck measuring the movement of all transponders relative to the reader 24 hours a day in all weather and traffic conditions.

As the radar uses just 10kHz of RF bandwidth, a number of systems can be used at the same structure with no interference between systems. As the transponders are simple and cheap, the cost of the monitoring system would be relatively inexpensive.

By monitoring the movement of the transponders in all weather and traffic patterns, a pattern could be established for normal safe operation, and warnings sent if the movements happen beyond the safety envelope.

New uses where RFID technologies are being applied.
RFID-radar represents the most advanced form of RFID available at present, giving both the identity and the location of multiple cheap transponders in its reader zone, while using only a small amount of radio spectrum.

New clients are many Universities that have been setting up RFID research laboratories and have bought systems to allow their students and post graduates access to the next generation of RFID equipment. This includes the supercomputer research centre of one University who have bought their second Trolley Scan supplied system. Companies developing logistic systems for warehousing and vehicle location in loading yards, monitoring the exact location of people in an office or building for safety issues, and monitoring in 3D space the position of monitoring equipment to profile fields. Other applications where interest has been shown is in monitoring the movement patterns of bed clothes of patients in a hospital to determine when nursing intervention is needed.

The RFID readers provided by Trolley Scan offer long operating range, high speed transponder movement and large numbers of transponders in a zone. New clients include a bank and a medical research facility who are using the technology to stop assets like books and computers being removed from their premises, and another company using it for asset control throughout their operation.

A unique application is that Trolley Scan RFID tags and readers are to be used with some Formula One Grand Prix cars in testing shortly. Trolley Scan have supplied equipment to monitor the immediate zone around dangerous equipment to ensure that no unauthorised person is close to the machine when it is operating.

We will shortly be supplying a further large order of readers for the expansion of existing large vehicle access control systems in parking garages.

An interesting new application is using the RFID reader to identify transponders buried underground that are marking location points of utilities below the ground.

Currently Trolley Scan RFID equipment is used by clients in 50 countries in a variety of applications where "computers need vision".

7 June 2007

1) Major technical achievement - a small form tag with a long range
2) Software package to monitor RFID tagged items passing through a production line
3) The direction of development of RFID

Major technical achievement - a small form tag with a long range
Every once in a while a major technical achievement is realised and another milestone has now been reached.

Trolley Scan announce the develpment of a slightly larger-than-credit-card sized tag that is compatible with both the RFID reader and the RFID-radar products, and which is 600 times more sensitive than the standard 200uW credit card sized tag that they supply. This additional sensitivity translates into increased operating range with a smaller sized tag.

Trolley Scan have developed a 0,3uW Rf power transponder that is housed in a 90mm by 60 mm by 8mm block of polypropylene plastic and which is covered by a strong rubber covering. The tag is a backscatter transponder that will respond to signals over an 860Mhz to 960MHz bandwidth, giving an operating range of up to 40 meters when illuminated with a 2 watt energising signal.

To achieve this performance was a significant technical challenge that took approximately six months. It is a complex device. When used with Trolley Scan RFID readers it will give its identity over the range from 1 cm to 40 meters, and with the RFID-radar it will give the identity and the exact position.

Information for the technically orientated
For radio systems the unit of dimension relating to performance is the length of a half wavelength of the radio frequency wave, which at UHF RFID frequencies is approximately 16cms.

Antennas that have a dimension of half wavelength are efficient and RFID is about optimising efficiency. When you shorten antennas to less than half wavelength, the efficiecy drops off dramatically (for example halving the dimensions can lose 97% of the performance).

A second factor is that the antennas are influenced electrically by items that are within the half wavelength zone of the transponder. These items influence the waves arriving at the antenna and usually degrade the performance of the transponder when it is attached to different items such as concrete blocks or metal items.

When designers leave the half wave length dimensions, a property called the impedance of the antenna changes dramatically which influences the transfer of power between the chip and the antenna and hence the efficiency of the transponder system. In some cases these changes can be compensated for in a simple manner, and in other cases the fix is very complex.

The challenge was to develop a transponder that would be very sensitive, would have a form factor similar to a credit card, and would not be strongly influenced by items to which the transponder was attached.

The new transponder is about half the physical size of the already successful Claymore tag used with the RFID-radar, and yet gives nearly the same range performance

Software package to monitor RFID tagged items passing through a production line
In our earlier newsletters we announced a series of low cost software products that manipulated the data from RFID readers to effect simple applications.

The first was a general purpose package to look up RFID tag data from a database and display that data on remote screens.

We have just completed a software package for production line monitoring which is in the same series. Data from up to four readers is combined at a central database to provide tracking information to show the progress of an item to which a tag has been fixed as it passes various reader stations. The package can be queried as to the current location of items and it can generate management reports. This could be used in applications like tracking diamonds through a polishing plant, the flow of items through a laundry, the servicing of vehicles in a workshop, or the manufacturing of items in a factory.

This is the first in a series of software products that Trolley Scan are developing aimed at Small Businesses, allowing companies that have some computer knowledge to impliment complete RFID applications themselves using simple software packages.

Details of the package are at

Other standard packages to be provided will cover RFID applications for library operation,laptop computer tracking,asset tracking,access control (person), access control (vehicle),hospital patient tracking,sports timing and management and farm management.

The direction of development of RFID
Readers of this and other newsletters relating to RFID will realise that RFID is a rapidly developing technology where concepts that were not possible yesterday are now possible. Today we announce a small form transponder with massive performance. A short while ago we announced the development of RFID-radar, where the same tag that in the past could only be used for identity, can now be used in real time locating systems for identity and position information.

The Trolley Scan staff have been involved in the development of RFID since the first supermarket scanning system 17 years ago, have systems in operation in 49 countries, are in contact with 4500 companies monthly; and as a result have been asked for input on almost every concept of using RFID going on in the world today.

In this time, many competitors have come and many have gone, misreading what the market wanted, what was commercially viable, and what changes technology would cause. The Press and Market Research companies have hyped the potential of RFID way beyond what could be delivered,not realising that market pull is not a solution alone to the problem of producing an item in large volume, that there have to be factories and there has to be an attractive market price.

RFID is primarily a data input device into a computer system for a software application. When an item comes within range of a reader, the reader tells the computer system about the presence of the item.

RFID systems compete with barcoding systems technology and handwritten/keyboard capture systems. The advantage RFID systems have over its competitors, is the range at which it can operate to retrieve data, the accuracy, and the speed of collecting data.

If only one item is moving past a monitoring point an hour, then there is little benefit to using RFID over say a keyboard entered data. If a thousand items are passing, then RFID is essential for accuracy, speed and simplicity.

There is also a lot of confusion about the role of RFID and the role of software in an application. Tracking is a function of software while RFID is a function of data capture. There is a recent press report about RFID tracking of a ship bringing goods from the Far East to Europe. Unless there is a large RFID tag on the side of the ship, this is actually a story about a software package that takes data from many sensors (for example the ship's location from its GPS receiver) and condenses the data into an understandable form.

Recently a retailer in the USA said that RFID had reduced out of stock items on its shelf by 25%. Since the retailer knows what is entering its store via delivery notes, and what is sold via the checkouts, it is their poor use of the abilities of software that has kept them in the dark rather than the use of RFID that is the solving their problems.

RFID trends in the future that stand out are:
1) Conservation of radio spectrum and the efficient use of that spectrum is going to be the most important success factor for the industry. RFID implementation is about increased operating efficiency, and like computers it is going to become more and more the equipment of the workplace. It is therefore critical that the use of spectrum by any individual reader is kept to a minimum so that it can work in harmony with other readers in the vicinity. This requirement is going to mean the demise of high interference protocols such as EPC Global Gen 2 and the need to switch to tag-talks-first type protocols. (A white paper of spectrum use by different protocols is availalble on the website - this paper has already been requested todate by 450 companiies and government regulators).

2) That the RF power requirements for transponders will continue to fall with developments. Low RF power means a well designed antenna system for the transponder that can couple energy to the RF chip. Low power requirements mean that portable readers can give good operating range, that battery life of such equipment can be reasonable, and that transponders can operate well in a physical situation where they are screened from the reader such as when attached to individual bottles in a crate. To show improvement, a normal dipole attached to a 5 volt circuit needs 54,000 uW of RF power to operate. We now get transponders that use just 200uW of RF power to do the same job, and today we announce a special purpose device that can cut this to 0.3uW

3)That transponder size will continuously reduce to fit into the requirements of the users to have very sensitive transponders with small form factors. Credit card size is still too big even though it is 50% less than the ideal radio size already.

4)That RFID will not fit into the major retail applications and that these type of applications cannot become a commercial success for any party. The idea of a very low cost transponder in very high volumes is attractive for the financial press and for the hopes of the end user, but unless the people who are going to put up manufacturing plant to make these items can get a fair price, factories are not going to be built. The scale of the problem to put low cost transponders into retail is so vast that the human mind almost cannot comprehend such a problem. The manufacturing capacity of the world would need to expand 1 million fold and mechanical assembly would become a bottleneck. A state of the art machine for assembling transponders at present can produce about 7 transponders per second, and the market needs one million such machines to meet their requirements for this sector. This lack of enthusiasm by the owners of the factories where such products would have to be produced is reflected in their annual reports where they are regularly closing existing factories and laying off staff.
It is unfortunate for the RFID industry that the biggest retailer in the world gets an appetite for the product, and that the industry was not given an opportunity to grow in a controlled manner dealing first with high value applications and then move onto the high volume applications.

5) That the lack of companies with RF and software expertise to customise RFID hardware to the needs of the end user is a major impediment to the realisation of the productivity improvements that this technbology can release. RFID technology is becoming a consumer technology, in the same way that computers or printers have become, being sold off the shelf. They work well in a structured software environment that does not exist in most industries or applications. IT companies that can bring order to the logistics, manufacturing, and service industries are needed so that the productivity benefits of computer techhnologies can be released.

RFID is here to stay!! Companies that want to advance and stay competitive need to play with this technology to understand the issues and how it will be applied to their needs.

6 May 2007

1) Merging of RFID hardware and software to make solutions for applications
2) RFID Software database solutions for LAN based networks
3) Expanding software into applications
4) 24 volt DC kit for readers and radar

Merging of RFID hardware and software to make a solution for applications
RFID hardware equipment has evolved into an off-the-shelf technology that anyone can buy in a box and install on their systems. However getting the hardware is only part of the problem to having a successful application. The hardware generates data about items passing in front of readers and it is how that data is handled that determines in most cases whether an application will be successful or not.

To date the interfacing and software skills required for converting RFID hardware into successful applications was provided by system houses and IT companies that used skilled engineers and scientists. In fact a whole industry has grown around writing Middleware software, software for just converting data from RFID readers into compatible forms for enterprise software - software that often costs more than the total spend on RFID hardware.

It is time for there to be a revolution in the availability of suitable software for RFID applications!!!

In the same way that RFID hardware can be bought by any user in a box, the relevant software needs to be similarly provided at low cost so that any user can install systems with minimum technical skills.

Trolley Scan are delivering on a project to meet all your requirements from a single source as detailed below.

RFID software database solutions for LAN based networks
RFID systems identify items by reading a unique number from the transponder attached to that item and retrieving the description of the item from a database. Trolley Scan has developed a new product to meet this function.

Trolley Scan has already started delivering copies of a new LAN based database system that will retrieve description data from a database and display it on remote computers.

The system takes data from one or more readers which interface their RS232 data streams onto the LAN via a personal computer on the LAN, or via a new RS232/LAN adapter available from Trolley Scan. This data is retrieved by a LOOKUP program which retrieves that description data from the database and which creates log files. The description is broadcast on the LAN such that any other computer on the LAN can retrieve the data using a DISPLAY program and show the description on its screen.

As applications grow in size, many RFID readers are likely to be working in unison with the same transponders, for example a production line setup with goods passing reading stations. The above software caters for many readers operating in parallel and for then consolidating all the measurements into a single data stream and database.

The software provided in the standardised version is in the form of RUNTIME files - just install and use - while the advanced versions also provide source code.

The software is available immediately from Trolley Scan. Further details are at http://trolleyscan.com/software.html

Expanding software into applications
Trolley Scan will be delivering software packages for managing standardised applications using RFID and RFID-radar readers. The intention will be to have low cost packages that fit 90% of the requirements of most applications. The interface files will be standardised and simple to use meaning that the applications can be customised if needed.

Applications that are on the short list are:
Access control
Conference management
Production line monitoring
Farm herd management
Asset management
Sports timing

The software will be provided in the standardised version (which is in the form of RUNTIME files - just install and use) or the advanced versions where source code will be provided.

24 volt DC adapter kit available for RFID readers and RFID-radars
In order to generate very pure radio frequency signals that will stay within 10kHz of spectrum at approximately 900MHz operating frequency and yet give sufficient power to operate at good ranges, Trolley Scan reader and RFID-radar products operate on 24 volt DC power. This is provided by a mains power supply delivering 24 volts.

As a result of requests from researchers who wish to use RFID reader and RFID-radar products for research in locations far from mains power, Trolley Scan have introduced a 24 volt kit that can be fitted to reader and RFID-radar products in manufacture.

The kit allows the equipment to operate either from mains or from 24 volt DC such as from batteries. The kit includes polarity sensing and will not cause any damage to the equipment even if the batteries are incorrectly connected.

2 April 2007

Making RFID into a productive technology
A long time ago printers in computer rooms were specialised items of equipment that needed teams of technicians to service and keep running with regular maintenance shutdowns. Nowadays you buy them off the shelf in the local computer store, plug in to your computer, and even throw away and replace rather than getting them fixed if they ever breakdown. The impact of this progression in printer technology has been that the level of technical skill of the user has fallen so far that when my mother buys a printer for her computer, she does not know even if it is laser or inkjet technology.

RFID systems capture information from transponders attached to items and relay this information to a computer system for further processing and decision making in a similar manner to the printer receiving information from the computer and printing it on paper. In fact the fitting of RFID equipment to computer systems is very similar to the fitting of printers to computer systems, just at the opposite end of the computer data stream. In the same way that the technical skill of the printer user dropped, so it is happening with the user of RFID systems.

At the same time there is massive advancement in the performance available from RFID systems with increased range and features, including the ability to locate a transponder exactly as well as read its identity in large spaces. These developments start to strain the abilities of the group in the middle, the software developers who have to take the RFID data and make it into a useful image for the application user.

The challenge is to simplify the use of RFID such that any farmer, home owner, small business owner, hospital, or the like could use the technology. To achieve this the challenges lie in the software manipulation of the data. Although programming at this level itself is a subject that is taught in most high schools and can be handled by scholars, the challenge is to adapt to the existing software systems of the user and their particular needs.

Take for example the farmer with a herd of cows. Computer systems can monitor the amount of milk the cow delivers at each milking, its weight and using programs such as that from Cedara, the vitamins and additional salts can be dispensed into the feed for that particular animal depending on its stage in the milk cycle.(I used to manage a herd of 100 cows a long time ago!!).

With a portable UHF reader, the farmer can, when inspecting the animals in the field, read the identity of any particular animal at a distance of about 10 metres. What one wants to do is present to the farmer immediately on his display attached to the mobile reader, the name of the animal, its date of purchase/birth, its cost, its current weight and how much milk was given at its last milking. To do this the farmer already has all the information needed in many of his databases of the farm, but software is needed to assemble all the required information in a format needed for his decision making.

The answer does not lie in trying to standardise all farmers on the same software. This would condemn him to the worst of bad choices. The answer lies in simpler interfacing modules and in simpler routines for standardising access to databases so that if there is a new development, say a method of measuring cattle skin texture, it can also be added to the overall software management of the farm even for the smallest users.

The same problem applies to companies wanting to monitor assets, to stop laptops being removed from buildings, to provide access control systems, to run centralised laundries, to deliver courier parcels and the like. Possibly this software is going to come from the RFID manufacturers rather than the software houses.

As an example consider interfacing of the hardware. Trolley Scan have in the past (and still do) delivered systems with RS232 interfacing, a standardised 35 year old technology that was available on every PC sold. More recently RS232 has disappeared from the computer and now a USB/RS232 adapter is needed. The advantages of RS232 is that it is an industrial preferred standard, can be used over distances up to 1 kilometre, and can be monitored with very simple equipment. Currently we are preparing an interface box that will convert RS232 to TCPIP so that the readers can be attached to any office internet network, and we are looking at RS232 to Bluetooth for the link from the mobile reader to the PDA display. Besides the hardware challenges of such a move, it brings major software challenges as the data can be delivered anywhere in the world in a fraction of a second(even to your cellphone), but how is it going to travel that last centimetre from the datafile delivered by internet to the input of the application that is going to process the data? Each application has its own challenges and the number and variety of applications that use this data is infinite.

With TCPIP and the like, destinations are specified by unique IP addresses and Port numbers - how am I going to get my mother to understand how to set those numbers so that she can hook the RFID reader onto her computer? How am I going to tell her how to find the IP address of her own computer? These are not insurmountable problems but illustrate the challenges to moving to simpler interfacing, application software and making RFID a technology that can be used in every home, farm, and small business.

5 March 2007

Forthcoming development - credit card sized 35 meter range tag.
RF power to energise transponders is generally limited to between 0,5 and 2 Watts in most countries by the national regulators. At the same time as RFID reader technology merges into Real Time Locating System(RTLS) technology, the user would like to have longer and longer operating ranges so that they can monitor larger areas with fewer readers.

UHF frequencies, by the laws of nature, allow long operating ranges with practical antenna sizes. Operating range is a function of efficiency of the antennas which means antenna sizes that will have a dimension of about 16 centimeters at these frequencies which is the half wavelength dimension.

Trolley Scan are currently testing a new design for a battery assisted credit card sized tag that will operate at 35 meters.

The new tag is similar to the Claymore tag provided to RFID-radar users in that it contains a fair volume of polypropelene plastic to try to make the transponder more neutral to the influence of being attached to items that they are tagging. Generally items that are in the near field zone of a transponder will influence the performance of the radio waves in the vicinity of the tag and the challenge is to neutralise these effects, while keeping very low operating energy requirements and small size.

These tags are not active tags in the sense that they do not transmit any signal from the tag. They reflect some of the energy arriving from the energiser of the reader back to the reader at the same frequency. This means that the tags will respond to multiple readers simultaneously and correctly if the readers are operating on slightly different frequencies and are in close proximity to each other.

This frequency agility property allows many reader systems to monitor correctly the same zone with overlapping fields, and it allows for goods to be tagged in one country and read correctly in another country at a very different operating frequency.

These tags are still being tested, and will not be supplied with current systems till all hurdles are sorted out. They will be compatible with all existing RFID readers and RFID-radars supplied by Trolley Scan.

Because Trolley Scan products have a wide range of packaging options and operating sensitivities, they are found in a wide range of applications by users in 49 countries. They operate at long ranges; large numbers of transponders are allowed in a zone; are very fast to respond and allow maximum speeds up to 300kph; and the readers are simple to interface to software. The same transponders will operate with Trolleyponder RFID reader systems if just identification is needed,or with the RFID-radar system if real time locating is needed.

Users of the technology typically are farmers managing a herd, a vehicle garage managing access for regular clients, a company managing the movement of its laptop computers, a library managing its books and lenders, access control systems for staff, a trucking company monitoring usage of its vehicles, a car hire company checking to see the tyres supplied on its vehicles have correctly been returned, an industrial laundry managing the washing of gowns and overalls for a factory, or even a logistics company managing parcels passing through its warehouse.

6 February 2007

1) White paper on RFID usage of the radio spectrum achieves widespread readership.
2) Trying to fit many users into a small slice of the radio spectrum
3) Mixing and matching

White paper on RFID usage of the radio spectrum with different air protocols.
In our previous newsletter we announced the availability of a white paper on the usage of the UHF radio spectrum by different air protocols. This is an important issue as, like cell phones, it is expected that there will be an explosion in the number of RFID reader systems in small geographical areas. It is necessary to optimally utilise the minimal radio spectrum allocated for this application efficiently to allow for wide spread usage of RFID and minimal interference between closely located systems.

More than 200 companies asked for copies of the white paper as a result of the last newsletter. Organisations such as NASA, Boeing, Govt Departments, University Research groups specialising in RFID, Spectrum Regulatory bodies of the various Governments, virtually every competitor of Trolley Scan who manufactures UHF readers and numerous individuals who wanted to understand the issues. In addition three publications asked to publish the full text in their forthcoming editions.

The document has been written such that novices with little understanding of radio issues can follow the arguments as well as those well-versed in these matters.

To get a copy in PDF format -(450kbytes)


Trying to fit many users into a small slice of the radio spectrum
During the past month, Trolley Scan has been carrying out tests for some of the regulators to measure the impact of RFID on spectrum usage. The issue is that a narrow slice of spectrum is being allocated in most countries for RFID which has to fit between other important users such as GSM cell phones. Unfortunately the ideal UHF frequency for RFID is in the 860MHz to 960MHz band which also is the ideal frequency for other communication applications, meaning a crowded spectrum at these frequencies. If one can find 2MHz of spectrum available in this region in most countries one is very lucky.

In one case, the regulator has the requirement that the spill-over of energy out of the RFID band into the adjacent band, must be less than 110dBc, that is, one hundred thousand million (1 with 11 zeroes) times less than the peak energy of the RFID reader. With low modulation rates of the reader energising signal this is practical, but EPC readers will find it very challenging.

Mixing and matching
Historically there has been little interest in pushing the operating range of passive RFID beyond 15 meters. One does not want to be scanning the contents of one room and end up documenting the contents of the next room unbeknown as the radio signals pass through physical barriers such as walls. The arrival of RFID-radar encouraged the development of longer operating ranges as both the identity and the location of items were reported. From Trolley Scan came stick tags and claymore tags that could be read from more than 40 meters away even with just 0.5 watts of RF power. These tags reflect the energy from the energiser back to the reader, so it is possible by defining the energising beam to define a reading zone and not activate the tags if they were not in that area. (This is similar to the problem of RFID charge cards at petrol stations where control is needed on the operating zone so that the right card gets charged for the added petrol, and not the card that has the strongest signal!)

Recently Trolley Scan have been asked to deliver an RFID system to monitor the identity of trucks being loaded by an operator working a loader who is 40 meters away from the trucks. This application requires that only the truck being loaded is identified as against other trucks in the facility or waiting in the queue. This is not a problem that can be solved with the conventional active tag, as although the active tags have good range, there is no discrimination with physical location.

The components between Trolley Scan's RFID reader and RFID-radar systems are interchangeable. By using the standard RFID reader module with the high gain antennas from the RFID-radar system and the very sensititive Claymore tags, Trolley Scan can define the reading zone to just be around the truck that is being loaded 40 meters away and ignore all others in the facility.

2 January 2007

A prosperous and successful 2007 to all our readers!

During the Christmas holidays an important research project was completed on looking at the use of the very limited radio spectrum by RFID applications. Unless something is done, RFID will strangle itself by being wasteful with the precious spectrum resource.

1) White paper on RFID usage of the radio spectrum with different air protocols.

White paper on RFID usage of the radio spectrum with different air protocols.
Radio Frequency Identification uses part of the radio spectrum for its operation. This is a precious resource as the available spectrum is limited, in some countries more than in others. As more and more users will want to use this technology as it increases in popularity, so the demands on the spectrum will escalate.

By careful selection of the optimal air protocols between the reader and the transponders in the RFID system, many users can share the available spectrum.

This paper shows measured results of the different spectra of the different protocols using advanced spectrum analysers and signal generators.

These results allow an understanding of the issues involved and indicate why a change from certain protocols that are currently promoted needs to be made as the industry matures.

The document has been written such that novices with little understanding of radio issues can follow the arguments as well as those well versed about these matters.

To get a copy in PDF format -(450kbytes)


21 November 2006

1) Going underground
2) Zimbabwe University gets RFID equipment
3) Standardising the manufacture of readers and radars
4) How does RFID-radar measure the distance so accurately?

Apologies for sending out this newsletter so late. We have so much news about ongoing developments that we aim to produce a newsletter each month. However we received so many orders for our Readers and RFID-radar systems that we did not dare write a newsletter in case others also placed orders. Now three months later, we have had so many clients ask why they have not received their newsletter that we feel compelled to bring you up to date.

Going underground
UHF transponder systems such as our Ecochip technology, offer long reading ranges and form an ideal input system to a computer network. Trolley Scan have recently supplied a third consignment of readers and tags to our clients for use in mining operations underground, particularly in the control of heavy machinery in situations where the machinery must not be operated when people are close by. Other uses are to computer control the progress of moving machines in close environments and make sure the movement happens safely. As the transponders are passive - offering 100 year type lifecycle - low maintenance systems can be installed. With their very narrow spectrum bandwidth, their low power and their low interference technology for the readers, many readers can operate in close proximity without causing interference. At present this is an adaptation of equipment used above the surface and is not suitable for use in coal mines and those that need intrinsically safety due to our use of materials such as aluminium in the antennas of the reader.

Zimbabwe University gets RFID equipment
RFID technology is becoming a basic technology that is an important part of information technology and of computer networks. Although many universities can afford such equipment to train their students, particularly in the third world the technology is seen as expensive. With the generous contribution from the United Nations UNESCO organisation, the University in Harare has received RFID reader equipment from Trolley Scan so that they can also develop skills in using RFID systems in the future. Zimbabwe is the 49th country to use Trolley Scan's equipment.

Standardising the manufacture of readers and radars
As a technology finds acceptance, the challenge moves from making something work to producing it in volume at lower costs. Currently Trolley Scan provide RFID reader systems to users in 49 countries and RFID-radar systems to users in 20 countries.

Due to similarities in the design of our standard reader (which just gives identity), and the RFID-radar which gives (identity and accurate position) - while both working with the same series of passive low power transponders and battery assisted long range tags; Trolley Scan have developed a new processor module that is very suitable for use in both projects and which can be assembled at speed with modern pick-and-place equipment. This development allows more of the systems to be built by sub-contractors at higher volumes. Both systems also use the same RF power amplifiers as they both are very narrow band, low interference systems allowing many readers to operate continuously in close proximity.

Recently Trolley Scan had an opportunity to compare how advanced is its technology compared to many of the UHF RFID systems that are being used in the retail systems. These retail systems have such poor RF performance that their antennas need to be mounted very close to the doorways restricting the traffic through the opening. This is because their read distances are so small that they are just about competitors for conventional barcoding systems. These systems also have a poor air protocol that uses a lot of bandwidth and stops other users operating similar equipment in the vicinity - having to resort to a sharing of the spectrum by listening for others before being able to operate.

If you want to have a successful system for the retail type project, then you are going to have to

  1. have systems that use very little operating power for their transponders as this power has to come from the reader,
  2. that give good read range,
  3. that give good penetration of the goods being scanned so that you can read transponders on the inside of the pallet,
  4. that use very little radio spectrum so that many users can operate in a close space without interference,
  5. whose readers can operate continuously on their narrow spectrum at doorways so that goods cannot slip past while the reader is off air,
  6. that it is able to detect fast moving items,
  7. whose readers are able to process close and far transponders at the same time catering for their large difference in signal levels.
These unfortunately are not typical of the characteristics available from many of the retail systems currently under test and highlight the difficulty of showing large improvement over their much cheaper barcode technology equivalents.

How does RFID-radar measure the distance so accurately?
The radar makes two measurements on each signal received from each transponder in its receiving zone - namely a range measurement and an angle of arrival. It is the ability to measure range with narrow bandwidth that make this an outstanding unique RFID instrument. The system uses the same transponders that are used by conventional RFID readers allowing RFID-radars and RFID readers to monitor the same transponder simultaneously.

Light and radio waves travel at the speed of light, namely 300 000 000 meters per second. RFID systems need to operate in a crowded RF spectrum, where other RFID systems, cell phones, radio stations and other communication users have to share the available radio spectrum. RFID-radar uses just 10 kilohertz of bandwidth to operate, meaning it can detect time differences only as small as 0.1 milliseconds, or 0.0001 seconds. In this time the radio wave will travel 30 kilometers, or 30 000 meters or 3 000 000 centimeters. Yet the radar is able to determine the range of the transponder based on its received transmission to an accuracy of a few centimeters, or nearly 1 million times better than its basic time measuring properties. If we used a conventional military radar approach and wanted to get centimeter precision, then we would have to measure the time of flight to 0.3pico seconds (.3*10-12) which would use 300GHz of radio spectrum and ensure that no other radio users can operate in the vicinity.

RFID-radar pays for this million times improvement in the timing accuracy of the basic system by taking a longer time to determine the exact position. As a result it is well suited to a static situations where transponders are relatively stationary. However developments are in progress to address the accurate tracking of movement by adapting some of the principles of operation.

The angle of arrival measurement is virtually instantaneous and used in conjunction with range gives a 2D positioning system from a single measuring location.

24 August 2006

1) Ruggedised version of laundry tag developed
2) Vehicle depot monitoring solution
3) Speed kit for Radar

Ruggedised version of laundry tag developed
After months of testing and improvement, our licensee Autoscanning Systems and their associate, Bushmantech, have developed a modified version of our laundry tag that is ideally suited for the rigors of continuous washing cycles with inbetween challenges such as autoclaves and ironing machines. Besides obvious factors such as temperature, mechanical stress and chemical attack, the team had to sort out unexpected challenges such as the tendency of the transponder to coil its antennas into a small ball with the mechanical agitation.

The tags can be read in single situations or when packed in boxes for shipping. They are attached to uniforms that are repeatedly returned to the laundry for cleaning and have passed through the process already hundreds of times.

Due to the narrow band low interference technology of the RFID reader system from Trolley Scan, multiple readers are able to operate in the laundry continuously monitoring the progress through the plant.

Bushmantech have developed a software system that processes data from the readers to track the individual items through the process, and to monitor their usage and garment life.

Autoscanning Systems and Bushmantech will be expanding this system to other industrial laundries.

Vehicle depot monitoring solution
RTLS Solutions have provided a vehicle depot monitoring system for tracking haulage vehicles operating from a central depot in the Dominican Republic. The system is suitable for operating where little infrastructure is available as it uses GRPS-modem technology to communicate the passage of vehicles back to the head office.

RTLS-Solutions have packaged Trolley Scan reader technology into a heavy portable bollard structure, that can be placed at the exit points of the depot to monitor trucks arriving and leaving the facility. All trucks are fitted with a 200uW credit card-sized transponder which communicates the vehicle identity to the reader as it enters or exits the facility. This data is relayed via a GPRS modem to head office, allowing the bollard to be easily moved to new locations without the need for modifications to the cabling for data transfer. Due to the low interference, low bandwidth features of Trolley Scan technology, many readers can operate in close proximity allowing multiple entrances and exits to be monitored.

The bollard concept allows similar type solutions to be provided for temporary facilities, such as monitoring agricultural produce leaving farms during the harvesting season.

RTLS Solutions will be expanding their solution to further facilities in the short term.

Speed kit for Radar
The examples above describe applications of Trolley Scan's RFID reader technology. Trolley Scan have also developed an RFID-radar technology which gives the identity and the location of many transponders in a reader zone at one time. RFID-radar is a new technology that uses the same transponder technology as the older RFID reader systems, but which encourages new challenges due to its greater performance, challenges such as increased operating range (40 to 100 meters), more accurate position information (already millimeter precisions are possible) and accurate tracking of fast moving items. RFID-radar is now in use by clients in 13 countries, clients who are typically University research organisations, motor vehicle manufacturers, mining companies wanting monitoring of positioning of heavy equipment, logistic companies, bioscience research groups studying the interaction of a population of animals, military research organisations and IT companies that want access to the latest technologies. As with all Trolley Scan products, the systems are low bandwidth low interference systems that allow many systems to operate in close proximity.

RFID-radar was initially developed to accurately position tags in a static situation. Users have requested that we expand this to track fast moving items accurately. As a result of a study of this situation, we have found that the challenge lies in the overloading of the RF protocol between the transponders and the reader, rather than issues inside the reader.

Trolley Scan are providing three speed transponders in their kit with current purchases. These speed transponders fully utilise the capacity of the RF protocol available with this system. Software is still being developed for the speed applications, but these additional transponders will allow existing owners to fully test the capabilities of their systems when updated with later versions of the software.

1 July 2006

1) The next issue is tracking accurately items moving at speed
2) Low weight transponders for animal tracking
3) Upgrading systems

The next issue is tracking accurately items moving at speed
Just over six months ago, an invention that allowed the measurement of the distance a signal travelled accurately from a low cost transponder to the reader was discovered. This invention changed the potential that users could expect from low cost RFID systems as position information could now also be reported with identity information. In this time, the invention has been packaged into a form for commercial use and supplied to users in many countries.

RFID-radar was initially developed to monitor static situations where there is no movement between the transponders and the readers during measurement. Although initial versions were specified for 0.5 meter accuracy, the system has been refined to provide centimeter and millimeter accuracy.

Clients have requested that the abilities of the system be improved to monitor moving transponders also with the same precision and this is the direction of the current research.

The conventional RFID readers that are supplied by Trolley Scan to users wanting fast movement - such as sports timing, can handle speeds up to 300kph. However the radar needs to lock onto the signal from each transponder in order to measure location and has a completely different challenge for speed.

At present the radar uses a measuring stick of approximately 7.1 centimetres. To measure the speed correctly, the reader needs to receive valid codes from transponders at time intervals such that at least two valid measurements are received during the travel of 7.1 centimetres. This restriction limits the number of transponders that can be in the field at the time the speed measurements are made, as each uses up some of the capacity of the single communications channel between the reader and the multiple transponders for sending its data.

At present a single transponder (special type) can be tracked at 51kph, if there are two then the speed drops to 8kph, four at 3kph etc.

Trolley Scan have a project to look at this limitation by introducing time as a dimension to the reader and applying curve fitting techniques. Other routes might be to shorten the data stream from the transponders.

When the version that can handle many transponders at higher speeds is ready, software updates will be available to all RFID-radar owners.

Low weight transponders for animal tracking
RFID-reader and RFID-radar systems comprise transponders and readers. The readers radiate a low power, typically 0.5 to 2 watts which provide an energising field and set the carrier frequency for communication data between the reader and the transponders.

Trolley Scan provide a range of transponders, from 200uW credit card sized Ecochiptags, Ecowoodtags, Ecosportags, and laundry tags to stick tags and top of the range Claymore tags. The sensitivity of these tags varies from 1000uWs to 0.3uWatts depending on construction and sophistication. The Claymore tags use a large block of plastic (118cu cms) to focus the energy onto the sensor and give a tag that is independent of influence from the goods to which they are attached. Depending on which tag one chooses, one gets different operating ranges from the low power energy of the Reader.

All these transponders operate in a mode where they reflect received energy from the reader back to the reader. This means that the tags themselves do not radiate any energy, and that they will respond in situations where they are in overlapping coverage zones to many readers/radars simultaneously, with the correct information allowing them to be positioned and identified without being influenced by more than one reader/radar covering a zone. They also will respond to radars/readers over the whole 100MHz UHF RFID spectrum needed for international compatibility.

The radar has stimulated interest from a University project where they would like to locate accurately the current location of small mammals. Here we need long range, but a small light weight transponder. Unfortunately the antenna length is set by the operating frequency which means the need for a thin wire antenna but the transponder needs to be small and yet lightweight so as not to overload the mammal. Trolley Scan have developed a very small transponder that can be used in this application and yet is very lightweight, having just three small chips on the transponder to provide all communication features over long ranges.

In order to keep at the fore-front of the RFID UHF technology, Trolley Scan continually develop and improve their products, sensitive to the needs of their clients that they want their equipment always to be up to date with the latest performance.

Trolley Scan have just upgraded some of the very first RADARs that were bought to the latest DSP versions of the technology, to bring the equipment on par with the current generation. This upgrade now allows the clients to receive future upgrades in the pipeline via software modules without the equipment needing to be returned.

13 June 2006

1) Newly developed special patch antenna for RFID-radar
2) RFID-radar achieves millimeter precision
3) One family of equipment

Newly developed special patch antenna for RFID-radar
Once again, technical advancement with RFID-radar in the past month has been rapid!! As with all new technologies, the first stage in development is to get the system working and proven, and then comes the fine tuning and the manufacturing issues.

In developing the RFID-radar, Trolley Scan had hoped to use the same patch antennas that are used in our very successful UHF RFID reader which is used in 46 countries. Unfortunately the results achievable with the standard patch antenna was not encouraging, and the antenna system was changed to be one based on a 6 element Yagi design.

The reason for the change was not one of getting a high gain to get a long range, but rather the need to have a well defined phase centre for the antenna so that it could be used for precise measurement. RFID-radar measures the distance the signal travels from the transponder to the reader and to achieve this measurement accurately delays in the reader system need to be known accurately.

The Yagi antennas were bulky, being about 0.8 meters long and were cumbersome to mount. However their phase definition is vastly superior to that of the conventional patch design. The first RFID-radar systems were therefore supplied with Yagi antennas designed and built by Trolley Scan.

Trolley Scan's search for a replacement for the Yagi antennas achived success a few months ago when an antenna with reduced size and which improved the professional appearance was discovered.

A very special patch-like antenna, measuring just 30 cm by 30 cm by 3cms was found that has a well defined phase centre. Initially these patch-like antennas were only available for US frequencies, but recently a special version has been produced to operate at the EU frequencies. This was a major hurdle as Trolley Scan clients are distributed across the different frequency bands and we did not want to get into the situation of supplying some with the new patch-like antennas and others with Yagi antennas due to the different operating frequencies.

From the beginning of June, all clients have been receiving their RFID-radars with the new patchlike antennas. These antennas are tested on positioning multiple Claymore type transponders at ranges up to 40 meters and are suitable for indoor/outdoor use, being suitable for mounting on any flat structure, such as a wall.

More details can be found at http://www.rfid-radar.com

Millimeter precision achieved with RFID-radar
RFID-radar has the ability to measure the radio path length a signal from the tranponsders has to travel to the reader. It does this measurement using just 10 kilohertz of bandwidth.

Recent focus at the request of clients has been to improve the accuracy of the system from the approx 0.5 meters error in 100 meter range for specific applications.

For applications like the auto focussing of cameras in movie set applications, Trolley Scan have developed a high precision mode for detecting relative movement of objects, achieving precision approaching one millimeter accuracy in movement for targets up to 40 meters from the reader. The radar is able to track the relative movement of multiple targets at one time, and the reporting mode has been adjusted to report on millimeter changes rather than the centimeter reporting used for the normal mode.

The rate at which the reader reports current positions has also been increased by option to report up to 100 transponder positions per second to the host computer.

One family of equipment
Trolley Scan provide a range of compatible readers,radars and transponders.

This family of equipment has a characteristic of very low power efficient UHF transponder technology , which means long operating ranges, fast responses and low power RFID readers and RADARs.

Transponders are available in different forms depending on range needed and pricing.

Different types of transponsders are 200uW credit card sized Ecochiptags, laundrytags, Ecowoodtags, Ecosportags, stick tags and Claymore type transponders. All of these will operate over a 100MHz operating spectrum if needed (frequency agility), use backscatter modulation and low interference Tag-Talks-First technology.

Trolley Scan provide UHF fixed readers, UHF portable readers, UHF OEM readers, UHF RFID-radar readers and OEM RFID-radar readers that are compatible with the above transponders depending on the clients needs. These readers use just 10 Khz of bandwidth, can be set to operate at any of the global UHF RFID frequencies from 860-960 MHz (actual frequency depends on country), and source between 0.5watts and 2 watts of RF power depending on needs of the client.

RFID-readers can handle up to 800 transponders in a zone at a time with speeds up to 300kph, while the RADARs will give accurate location information for up to 50 transponders in a zone at a time at low speeds. Due to low spectrum utilisation, multiple readers and radars can operate in close proximity with minimal interaction.

These are truely the RFID technologies of the future!!!

Getting your own complete RFID/radar system
Like Amazon.com, you can order RFID systems from Trolleyscan.com!!

Trolley Scan provide small RFID reader systems which give new users the ability to evaluate UHF RFID and their applications without needing specialised skills. The systems comprise a reader, antennas and 100 transponders based on the EcoTag technology. The user just connects the reader to a computer and provides mains power to have a fully operational system.

These systems are already operating in 46 countries.

To find out details of the systems and to order see http://trolleyscan.com/isosys.html

10th May 2006

1) RFID-radar morphs from experimental to commercial status
2) Information presentation
3) Interesting uses of RFID-radar
4) Merging of RFID and RFID-radar technologies to become the future reader technology?
5) Finding a partner to supply high volumes of cheap RFID-radar systems

RFID-radar morphs from experimental to commercial status
Once again, technical advancement with RFID-radar in the past month has been rapid!! As with all new technologies, the first stage in development is to get the system working and proven, and then comes the fine tuning and the manufacturing issues.

A bottle neck in the number of targets that could be ranged and accurately tracked at one time had been caused by the computer doing the final number crunching stage, although it was done in an efficient compiled language code running on a fast Pentium processor with a minimal operating system.

The past month has seen this part replaced by the very latest in Digital Signal Processing technology running an Assembler code that has been optimised for the architecture of the new processor.

The result is that the radar now can make more than ten thousand (10 000!!) range calculations on transponders in its zone EVERY SECOND - a 500-fold increase in processing capacity over its predecessor. The position accuracy of the radar has also shown a ten fold improvement, with accuracies of a few centimeters and pointing accuracies of small fractions of a degree over the 100 meter operating range of the radar. Further there have been cost reductions and the change has resulted in a much simpler system to manufacture.

The end result is that we have a very impressive, accurate measuring and data capture sensor for connecting to an IT system front-end for sophisticated applications.

Trolley Scan are now supplying this as a commercial version that can be used in everyday applications. We also have an OEM version that can be incorporated into clients' projects. Systems can be ordered directly from Trolley Scan - more info at


Information presentation
The RFID radar reports the identity, the range and the bearing from the reader, for every transponder, once per second. This generates a large amount of data and we have developed some novel filtering algorithms to reduce the data.

The first is a version called SLICE. Here the radar only reports transponders that are within a band of values of the range from the reader - for example between 35 meters and 45 meters. A typical application here might be monitoring a herd of cows where you are only interested in those cows that are wandering near the boundary fence. A similar situation might be monitoring supermarket trolleys usage in a parking lot and not wanting them to be removed from the lot.

The second data filtering is called WHERE. Here an individual transponder identity can be tracked from the multiple transponders that are in the reader zone, and just its location will be passed onto the host computer at regular intervals.

The third is called DUMPRATE and allows the reporting rate for all modes to be set at any time interval between one and twenty seconds.

In all cases, the radar measures the range up to 10 000 times per second, but passes the latest value when the display criteria are met.

Interesting uses of RFID-radar
When RFID-radar was first proposed as a viable technology, Trolley Scan believed that an accuracy in range measurement of 0.5 meters would be achievable. Later developments have now improved this to about 2 centimeters.

Trolley Scan have been asked to investigate if the range accuracy can be improved further to millimeter precision. Driving applications for such accuracy are the automatic focusing of cameras on movie sets where the radar can continuously monitor the distance to a transponder on the actors person providing accurate focussing commands to all participants in the film scene.

Another possible application of millimeter accuracy RFID-radar technology is in the monitoring of the position of storage boxes in a specialised storage location where robots can be instructed to fetch the correct box based on its current location.

It would appear that special versions would allow the extension of the RFID-radar accuracy to millimeter precision, even over the 100 meter range, in future applications.

Merging of RFID and RFID-radar technologies to become the future reader technology
On analysing the structure of an RFID-radar system and a conventional RFID system, one notices many similarities and it is clear that the technologies are very close, despite the one only giving identity and the other giving exact position and identity.

This similarity is so strong, that we have provided a software setting on the Radar that can switch the system into RFID mode as against the normal RADAR mode.

In RFID mode, the reader will report the arrival of any new transponder into its scan zone, even if that transponder is moving at 300kph. It will not again report the identity of that transponder, until such time as it has left the reader zone and returned. Depending on the transponder type, this can be a zone currently as deep as 40 meters from the reader. By switching back to the RADAR mode the location of all the transponders is once again reported repeatedly.

Although the radar is more complex than a conventional reader, with increased volumes and manufacturting advances, the price of the reader should fall to close to that of conventional readers in the medium term. Then the situation will be reached where one would wonder why conventional RFID readers are still being produced. Would the market still want to purchase a reader if it could only read identity compared to one that could read identity and exact location for the same price?

Finding a partner to supply high volumes of cheap RFID-radar systems
Trolley Scan is a small innovative company based in South Africa. It is a world leader in UHF RFID technology with a proven track record currently providing systems to users in 46 countries.

Together with its RFID-radar and other innovative products such as long range low power transponder technology (Ecotag), it has stimulated exponentially increasing demand for its products.

The time might be right for Trolley Scan to partner with a large scale high volume manufacturer of RF products with an established distribution network, who would be interested in supplying the needs of this high volume, insatiable market.

17 April 2006

1) Interesting uses of RFID-radar
2) Better than a tape measure!
3) Claymore tags
4) Free paper on the choice of frequency

Interesting uses of RFID-radar
Trolley Scan provide very advanced transponders and reader systems. The focus has been on getting long range, multiple transponders, fast response, low noise, multiple readers in close proximity and simple technology to use. Now Trolley Scan have started delivering their latest world leading development - RFID-radar(tm) - a technology which not only gives identity, but also very accurate position measurement of all transponders in a very large zone. This invention has led to the need to extend the range of operation from a reader, and operating distances of 40 meters are now achievable.

Since delivering the first few RFID-radar systems to clients in Europe, Trolley Scan are getting interesting feedback from potential users of this new technology.

Some interesting potential applications of this technology in the past few weeks have been:

  1. Tracking continuously the location of 20000 people in a skyscraper using multiple RFID readers and RFID-radars, wanting position accuracy at any time to a few meters.
  2. Monitoring the use and location in an open air parking and loading bay of a public utility by tracking the instantaneous location of 500 vehicles, using a cascade of up to nine RFID-radar systems.
  3. Monitoring the location of a number of participants at close range as part of a work study.
  4. Monitoring multiple works of art in a museum in an open space by measuring the exact range between the RFID-radar and the transponder once per second to great accuracy.

It will be interesting to see the growth of applicatons of this technology in the future.

"Better than a tape measure!"
The accuracy of the range measurement ability of the RFID-radar continues to amaze!

The RFID-radar system has been designed to operate with the same series of transponders as the RFID readers, to operate with the same spectrum requirements, to operate such that many RFID-radars and Readers could work in close proximity at one time - and generally be 100% compatible with the existing UHF reader technology.

Despite these physical restrictions, the measuring ability of this new technology has continued to cause surprise.

RFID-radar measures directly the distance the signal travels from the transponder to the reader. It does not use issues of how energy decays as it travels; it does not use a mapping system to show power levels available in the zone from multiple transmitters; it does not use local hotspots of energy such as Wi-Fi systems; it does not use any form of triangulation; and it does not use African witchcraft! It measures the actual distance travelled - be it in a line of sight or even if the energy has to pass through an obstruction, such as a wall.

When Trolley Scan launched the concept and built the initial system, our tests indicated that a target of 0.5 meter accuracy would be achievable out to 100 meters. We continue to improve the technology with ongoing developments, and tests over Easter have shown we will be able to offer centimeter-precision shortly, with possible millimeter accuracy later this year. This precision will be on transponders operating at distances up to 100 meters.

Based on this high degree of precision from a simple RFID based system, Trolley Scan have trademarked the phrase

"Better than a tape measure!"

to describe this excellent potential. Measuring accurately with a tape measure over 100 meters is a challenge, but the RFID-radar can do the same task once per second for many transponders in a zone at the same time.

We regularly update results on our website and if you refer to the page "White paper on measurement results" at


it will show recent developments. In this paper we provide a panoramic image of the placement of transponders together with the data displayed on a map as measured. We have mounted a cluster of transponders nearly 40 meters away and show results on how the RFID-radar is able to resolve their individual positions.

Claymore tags
When RFID transponders are attached to an item, the presence of that item close to the transponder can have an influence of the performance of the transponder and thereby on the performance of the RFID system. Generally range measurement for development is made in perfect conditions, and this performance has to be downgraded when the transponder is applied in real life. Trolley Scan have addressed that situation in the past with products such as Ecowoodtag, a transponder that gives excellent range when attached to a wooden item, but poor range if it is measured just in air.

The transponder has to collect energy from the energising field of the reader and reflect some of that energy back to the reader. Generally the transponder's radiation pattern is uniform in all directions around its axis.

When a tag is attached to a major object - like a railway container - then no energy can pass through the object, meaning that one does not need the transponder radiation pattern to be uniform around the axis as half of it is screened by the container.

Trolley Scan have developed a new series of transponders called Claymore Tags. These are directional transponders, made to be attached to large objects and where they will always be read from one side. They comprise a specially designed plastic block with appropriate air spaces, which acts in a similar manner to that of a lens for an optical system, focussing the incoming radio energy onto the transponder, and then directing the reflected energy back towards the reader.

The use of this design means that much greater transponder sensitivities can be achieved with much greater ranges, and the transponder's performance will be the same no matter to which item it is attached.

Free white paper on choice of frequency
RFID systems from all manufacturters around the world operate in one of a number of predefined frequency bands. The choice of the frequency band impacts the operation of the RFID system due to the laws of physics. The choice of operating frequency is the most important choice a user of RFID technology needs to make.

Trolley Scan have recently written a white paper on the subject discussing these choices. A free copy will be sent to you by following the request below.


The paper does not just cover Trolley Scan products, but covers the 125kHz, 13.56Mhz, UHF and microwave bands.

19 March 2006

There has been another major milestone achieved in the technology of RFID, with the delivery to clients in Europe of their first RFID-radar systems.

Although this newsletter focuses on RFID developments we are providing information on the RFID-radar just to keep perspective on current developments.

1) RFID-radar systems on their way to IT clients in Europe
2) Radar versus RFID

RFID-radar systems on their way to IT clients in Europe
Readers of this newsletter will have followed progress of this new RFID technology, since the discovery of a method to accurately measure the range of transponders just 6 months ago in August 2005. A few months later we reported on early testing of the concept while developing an Evalution model, to a major 14000 measurement test last month.

We can now report that the first IT companies in Europe that asked for the technology are being supplied with systems operating at low power on 869.5Mhz

This has been a major achievement, in that in a very short time, we have had to build repeatable production modules for the hardware, to write programs for the four parallel computer modules in the radar, write demonstration programs for the user to use on the display of data, and write handbooks for the users.

RFID-radar changes the RFID landscape as it encourages the development of longer range RFID systems. As the Radar gives the exact position of the low cost transponder, you can have one RFID-radar system scanning much bigger areas than with the conventional RFID system as you will be given the coordinates of the parcel/package/container/cow.

The challenge is to measure the location of transponders at a distance from a reader - i.e how far did the signal travel from the transponder to the reader and what was the angle of arrival. All this needs to be done in an environment when many RFID and RFID-radar systems are going to be sharing the same spectrum, where the radio energy path is confused by reflections (multipath), where there are many transponders in a zone at one time, and where one would like to use very low cost transponders at distances up to 100 metres.

RFID-radar has now evolved to the stage that systems can be ordered and delivered.

Information on the RFID-radar is at


Have a look particularly at the page on "How does it work" where we have tried to consolidate an overview into one page - including showing a map of multiple transponders as seen by the radar and how these were physically placed. In RFID-radar, fifty meters is a short distance!

The road ahead for RFID-radar is going to be long. The current version provides a vehicle to which many features will still be added over the next few years, thereby increasing the functionality of this new technology.

Comparing conventional RFID with RFID-radar
RFID-radar and RFID systems are very different, but this milestone marks a slight overlap in the two technologies.

The key impact of RFID-radar on conventional RFID, is going to be range. For example if you had a conventional RFID system with a range of 100 meters, you would only know that somewhere in the area in front of me, the size of a soccer or rugby field - lies my parcel. With RFID-radar you know its location to 0.5 meters. That difference means that RFID systems will most probably only max out in range at 10 meters while RFID-radar systems will max out at 100 meters - separating the functionality in applications of the two systems. This is going to encourage the development of lower power transponders, and more sophisticated transponders that can be detected over greater distances.

The radar gives the location of all transponders in the zone at one second intervals. In many applications this is an information overload, such as access control, toll roads, asset identification, sports timing, and even the contents of a supermarket trolley. Here all that is needed is the identity of the tranponder only once when it enters the reading zone, which is usually going to be only a few meters deep. This means that every time there is a reading, a new item has arrived for processing making these type of applications the forte of conventional RFID systems.

The Trolley Scan transponders and readers for the conventional RFID reader and RFID-radar are compatible and interchangable. Owners and users of either systems will benefit from the new developments that will follow the new development targets for operating range needed by the RFID-radar.

10 February 2006

1) 14000 Test results can't be wrong!
2) Gee! was it cold in Europe!

14000 Test results confirm accuracy of RFID-radar
Every once in a while, some single graphic/image sums up progress with a technology in one concise statement. Such a graphic is in the brochure listed below.

RFID-radar is a spin off technology invented by Trolley Scan whereby the position of the ID tag together with its identity can be measured. This addition of accurate position information has the effect of creating a demand for longer range reader/transponder systems - out to 100 meters from a single reader.

To measure range, Trolley Scan had to overcome immense technical problems as they use minimal bandwidth, low cost transponders, a speed of propagation of radio waves of 300 000 km/sec, a time piece with a resolution of only 0.1 milliseconds (during which time the radio waves travel 30 kilometers!), and low energiser RF power. However they did not know how accurate and repeatable those measurements would be?

On the 23rd January Trolley Scan measured the location of two transponders, one at 10 meters and one at 43 meters. The range was measured once per second for four hours, or fourteen thousand independant measurements - and were plotted on the display!!

These tests showed a variation of an amazingly small 1 meter (at 43 meters) in range over those fourteen thousand measurements - really quantifying how well this system of measurement can work and how RFID-radar will in the future be able to provide the core component of the next generation of UHF RFID systems.

A PDF document with the results of the tests, showing the amazing graphic and discussing increasing the range towards 100 meters is at


Gee! was it cold in Europe this winter!
Trolleyponder technology was developed in sunny South Africa, a warm friendly climate where the summers have a day time temperature of 30 deg Centigrade, and in the middle of winter it is still plus 16 deg C. Very seldom does the night time temperature get down to freezing, although we once had snow for one day FORTY years ago!

Despite this our equipment works in very cold temperatures.

In January this year, we had an urgent call from a client in Europe who had installed a major automated parking garage system for more than 1000 cars last year. He was finding in the exceptionally cold winter days, when the temperature got to minus 25 deg C, that cars arriving at the garage were being read accurately, but for cars that had been parked a long time and just started, reading of transponders was starting to become intermittent.

Investigations showed that the oscillator in the transponder was slowing down in the very cold temperatures, and was getting beyond the capturing range of the digital signal processing algorithms that are used in the receiver to detect very weak signals coming from very low power transponders at a long distance. This became a problem once the temperature of the transponder dropped below -20 deg C, a temperature never experienced in Africa.

Trolley Scan quickly developed a fix for the digital signal processor which can be loaded in situ by the users to extend the temperature range to minus 40 degrees Centigrade. This software can be requested by owners of our RFID readers if they are experiencing any unreliabilities in very cold temperature.

20 January 2006

Usually we do not issue newsletters more frequently than once per month, but another major development in this technology has been achieved and we decided not to wait till next month.

1) Trolley Scan develop a 30 meter range tag

Trolley Scan develop a 30 meter range tag
In December-January, manufacturing in the Southern Hemisphere is usually interupted which allows the staff of Trolley Scan focus on new product development. In our past newsletter, we announced that we had doubled the operating range of the portables to 10 meters and that deliveries of the RFID-radar would commence at the end of January. We also in this time have developed a very low power transponder that can be read at 30 meter range by the RFID readers.

How much range does one need for an RFID system?

Trolley Scan have in the past supplied their 200uW Ecochiptag with a 13 meter operating range. The key distance for RFID readers seem to be about 6 meters as since the RFID energy penetrates walls and floors you do not want to read the contents of the adjacent room when scanning assets; a ceiling mounted reader can read all goods passing through the doorway/passageway; and goods that you are reading are directly in front of the reader. As we have increased the range with technology inprovements, so we have reduced the energising power (down to between 0.5 and 3 watts) and we have widened the coverage field of the antennas.

The arrival of the RFID-radar, with its ability to measure range and location change the requirements and pushes developments in low power transponder technology. There seems to be interest in having working ranges as far as 100 meters for each radar as the goods are located by their position data rather than just knowing the goods are somewhere inside the field of coverage.

Trolley Scan announce the development of a 5 microwatt transponder that is compatible with its readers and the RFID-radar. With an improved antenna system this tag has been measured at a distance of 49 meters from the reader. With conventional antennas, it operates at 25 to 30 meter range. The tag is compatible with all the other tags and both portable and fixed readers provided by Trolley Scan. It can also be used with the RFID-radar. The tag is frequency agile, and will operate at all frequencies between 860Mhz and 960Mhz, needing just 5uW of RF power in its 134 to 149 sq cm aperture. The tag is a backscatter tag, using just 10 kilohertz of bandwidth, is a tag talks first protocol - generating no interference, and operating with the Trolleyponder(RIST) protocol.

In order to get this superior performance,this tag is no longer a single chip solution meaning that it is at a higher cost that the standard 200uW credit card versions.

As this range is so large we do not see this as a standard item for normal RFID readers wanted by most users. Hence the tag is listed in the new pricelist and can be ordered as an additional item from Trolley Scan with small systems. A data sheet is available at


5 January 2006

1) RFID-radar on track to start delivering systems this month
2) Trolley Scan doubles performance range of portable to 10 meters
3) Interesting projects

RFID-radar on track to start delivering systems this month
RFID-radar(TM) is a new technology that was developed by Trolley Scan (Pty Ltd in South Africa at the beginning of August 2005. It allows a computer network to identify and locate continuously many cheap transponders in a zone with high accuracy.

In our past newsletter we announced that we had tested the principles of accurate range measurement and were targeting the delivery of the first systems in January 2006. Having worked flat out through the past months and the festive season, we have now developed a package of an RFID-radar system with supporting transponders and software that we will be able to start supplying in late January 2006. This is our "prototype" version. This version has the performance of the future versions but uses more expensive parts than we expect to use in the commercial versions, and has computing capabilities only for a limited number of transponders being processed simultaneously.

Trolley Scan have created a web page which describes the system and performance that will be delivered starting this month at


There is also a monthly newsletter available detailing progress and new developments in RFID-radar for companies wanting to track its progress. RFID-radar newsletter can be requested via the website


RFID-radar, with its accurate location and tracking ability, brings about a new class of applications. We strongly recommend that before new users try the RFID-radar, they first become familiar with long range UHF RFID such as the standard small system below.

Trolley Scan doubles performance range of portable to 10 meters
Major technical advancements seem to happen in pairs, just when you are at your busiest!

A significant technical improvement in receiver performance has resulted in a four fold improvement in reader sensitivity of the portable reader, now giving read ranges up to 10 meters for a small portable reader.

This improvement has been achieved with no increase in energising field power and has no impact on battery life (up to 11 hours) for the portable. This 10 meter performance for a portable needs to be judged against competitive handheld systems which seldom have read ranges of 1 meter, let alone a few centimeters - often being direct competitors in performance with portable barcode scanners.

As per Trolley Scan policy, existing owners of portable readers are offered an upgrade to 10 meter performance for a nominal charge.

The portable reader now has performance more in line with that of the fixed reader where 13 meters is the norm.

The new long range reader is already a product listed in the pricelist and has been supplied to users over the past couple of months.

Interesting projects
Over the past month, Trolley Scan have supplied systems to integrators for interesting projects where low power passive technology, multiple transponder, good read ranges, and low interference with multiple readers operating in a close zone were requirements.

In one case, 15 readers are operating continuously in one structure in close proximity to each other, each controlling the zone in their immediate vicinity.

Projects that used our technology in the past month were industrial laundries, factory automation and logisitics control, tagging trees in a nursery/forest, vehicle access and control, and sports timing applications.

3 November 2005

1) RFID-radar deliveries to start in early 2006
2) Trolley Scan granted another important patent
3) 16% improvement in out-of-stock merchandise due to RFID!!
4) Can UHF RFID ever be reliable in a read/write format?
5) South African Supertag patents sold for US$5.5 million

RFID-radar deliveries to start in early 2006
In our last newsletter Trolley Scan announced the invention of a method of measuring how far a signal had travelled from the transponder to the reader, to an accuracy of 0.5 meters, for distances as far as 100 meters, using very cheap transponders, and using just 10kHz of bandwidth.

This invention had been built into a new RFID-instrument which has been called RFID-radar(TM), an instrument that could identify - locate accurately - and track with great precision - up to 100 transponders in the reader zone at the same time. Although it initially was working with the Trolleyponder/EcoTag range of passive transponders, it could be adapted in time to work with other transponders from other manufacturers.

The response to the announcement has been overwheming, with nearly 100 companies globaly asking to buy the initial prototype models for evaluation.

Trolley Scan are finished with the concept development and testing, holding many demonstrations in Johannesburg, South Africa. We are now in the process of reducing the packaging size such that the RFID-radar will be no bigger than the current version of the reader. We expect to start deliveries of the first prototype models in early 2006.

Details of the latest developments are on the website


There is also a monthly newsletter available detailing progress and new developments. Readers of this newsletter who have already registered for the RFID-radar newsletter have received their first edition. Others who are not yet receiving the RFID-radar newsletter can register on the website.

RFID-radar, with its accurate location and tracking ability, brings about a new class of applications. We strongly recommend that before new users try the RFID-radar, they first become familiar with long range UHF RFID such as the standard small system below.

Trolley Scan granted another important patent
The US Patent Office has granted Trolley Scan a patent around its important 3D scanning principles needed for scanning supermarket trolleys. The effective date of protection of the granted patent dates back 7 years to 1998. This brings to 27 patents that Trolley Scan have already been granted for their leading edge UHF RFID technology.

When Mike Marsh developed Supertag at the CSIR in 1990, to scan a trolley in 3D and to avoid interaction between the scanners operating in the X, Y and Z direction, three seperate operating frequencies were used.

The technology of this granted patent allows full 3 axis scanning of a supermarket trolley using just a single frequency, an important development when the radio spectrum allocated for RFID applications has become so crowded. The invention also has application in overcoming the "RF holes" caused in the energy field due to the multipath effects.

16% improvement in out-of-stock merchandise due to RFID!!
A US retailer who has been championing the cause of RFID in retail, compelling top suppliers to convert, reported to market analysts that the use of RFID tags had reduced out-of-stock merchandise by 16 per cent at the company's stores that had begun to use the technology over the past 12 months!!!!

There seems to be a large measure of confusion between what RFID can achieve and what an IT system can achieve. That there can be a 16% improvement in out-of-stock reports reflects on the poor IT systems that must be in use with this retailer.

When goods arrive at a retail store, the IT system for the store takes the goods into stock and invoices are received. When the goods are sold to the consumer and pass through the till, they are once again identified and the store IT system knows what stock still remains in the store. It is this information that should be fed to the buyer to ensure that there are no out-of-stock merchandise reports, IT information that has nothing to do with whether or not RFID systems are used. RFID systems add nothing to the information stream that was needed to reduce the out-of-stock merchandise problem.

The secret to improving retail systems, lies not in RFID technology, but in modernising the IT systems that drive the stores.

Can UHF RFID ever be reliable in a read/write format?
In past newsletters we have pointed out that in the short term, there are going to be major problems with the reliability of systems that use read/write transponders in UHF RFID systems.

The problem lies in that a higher energy is needed for the write cycle than that needed for the read cycle. As the energy available for collection in a passive transponder system drops off as the square of the distance, the read zone for a transponder is much bigger than the write zone. The issue is further complicated due to the reflections of the energising field off hard objects which cause multipath effects and zones of low energy in the energising field.

As it is not possible to determine the location of the transponder, whether it is in the "read only" or the "read/write" zone (a fact before the arrival of RFID-radar), it is not possible to determine whether an information change with a write cycle will be accurately implimented.

Recent tests on an EPC Gen 2 tag shows that the area of the read/write zone is only 44% of the area in which a tag can be accurately read - a fact that is going to cause major system reliabitity problems.

South African Supertag patents sold for US$5.5 million
The famous Supertag protocol was invented during a management meeting at CSIR in South Africa by Mike Marsh. This happened in 1990, when by chance Mike discovered a method to allow many transponders to talk on a single frequency at the same time. Mike scribbled the method down on a piece of paper and this method grew into the famous demonstration of a supermarket trolley being scanned with 38 items at Pick n Pay, Menlo Park, Pretoria, South Africa in 1994.

Supertag technology has since 1994 been marketed by BTG/CSIR and has been taken up by a few licensees. In an announcement to shareholders on the 3rd October 2005, BTG announced that they had sold the entire Supertag package to a US company for US$5.5million. Benefits from the sale of the technology will be shared by CSIR and BTG.

The sale of Supertag has no impact on the developments at Trolley Scan, as Trolley Scan has advanced their technology far beyond the state of Supertag when it was invented, not using any of the Supertag patents. However it is gratifying to know that a ten second thought, written down on a piece of paper, could become a package that is sold for US$5.5 million!!!

15 September 2005

In this newsletter, we announce a HUGE advancement in electronic identification technology with a new development we call RFID-radar. In 1994, when CSIR showed the world Supertag technology with the scanning of supermarket trolley of 38 items, 2000 companies contacted us the following week. RFID-radar has the potential to be a similar giant leap.

1) RFID-radar
2) So what's the big deal?
3) What to do next
Every once in a while, a major advancement occurs in technological developments that redefines the boundaries that are going to be achievable in the long term. From then on incremental improvements happen with time making small advancements, until the next quantum leap. RFID-radar is one of these big leaps.

Trolley Scan are one of the world leaders in the development of UHF RFID. First we developed Trolleyponder protocol, then low power EcoTag technology, then low interference "Tag Talks First" technology and NOW RFID-radar.

At the beginning of August 2005, Trolley Scan discovered a technique for accurately measuring the range of low cost transponders from a reader. This can be applied to basic RFID readers giving a system that can identify and locate the position of multiple transponders in the reading zone, rather than just give the identity of transponders as in the past. Trolley Scan have in the past month built a 2D system to prove the technology and quantify the potential performance. This has now been shown to selected companies who might be able to assist with commercialising the technology.

A website has been created showing photos of the system and results from early demonstrations.

RFID-radar has the potential to be able to locate and track the movements of hundreds of low cost transponders in a zone at one time, positioning the transponders to an accuracy of about 0.5 meters and a pointing accuracy better than one degree in 2D or 3D space, with an operating range of the zone up to 100 meters. The transponders are simple and are the "five cent type" of transponder, and the reader is the "US$100 type" of reader. The reader only needs one antenna system that is mounted next it, and which gives great accuracy despite having no moving parts. The reader is very similar to the standard Ecotag reader, currently in use in 43 countries. It still operates on very low RF power and it still needs just 10kHz of bandwidth, allowing many RFID-radar systems to operate simultaneously very close to each other.

In many cases position information will not be needed in an RFID system. If the read range is short, then the position is known to within a few centimeters(or meters) of the reader. As technology advances and operating powers of transponders shrink, so the operating range increases, as does the uncertainty in the position. Our standard reader at Trolley Scan already provides 13 meters (even 10 meters on metal) and we are testing out to 30 meters range.

IN the same way that if you have a black & white printer on your computer, why would you want a colour printer? The same applies to RFID - if you already have the identity information - why would you also want the position information?

Some applications are going to benefit from this technology very quickly. An example is the tracking of trolleys/carts in a supermarket or airport, where these are continuously being wheeled off the parking lot and stolen. With the positioning and tracking information from the RFID-radar, an electronic line can be created denoting the boundaries of the property. Action can be triggered if a trolley crosses that boundary, up to 100 meters from the reader! Another example is the monitoring of artworks in a museum, where hundreds of artifacts can be continuously monitored triggering an action if any has a position change of a few millimeters.

We have given further examples on the website created for this technology.

So what's the big deal?
For years Hollywood movies have shown identity devices that read out the position on a handheld reader - even back to the original James Bond movies in Goldfinger! However that is Hollywood where one does not have to have a connection to reality.

There are two competing properties of physics. The one is the very high speed that light and radio waves travel through space, namely 300 000 kilometers per second. The other is that the radio spectrum is a limited resource, that has to be shared by billions of users, be it their radio program, their TV program or even their cell phone. This radio spectrum is divided into small slices of frequencies, where users of one type of applicaton need to share with other users of the same application. This means that one can expect to operate on kiloHertz of spectrum, rather than the GigaHertz needed to measure time of travel for short range distances.

Range is measured by measuring the time it takes a radio wave to travel from the object to the reader. If you have a bandwidth for operation of a few kiloHertz, then you have a timepiece that has a measuring accuracy of only a few thousandths of a second. In a thousandth of a second, the radio waves travel 300 kilometers which mean the transponder has to be beyond 300 kilometers just to get to the second tick of the timepiece. The importance of this breakthrough is that despite these limitations Trolley Scan's RFID-radar achieves 0.5 meter accuracy.

RFID-radar is able to track hundreds of targets in the zone at the same time, updating the position of each transponder many times per second. This is a computational problem that is more complex than that delivered by an AWAC aircraft above a battlefield. Yet all this technology should be available in a US$100 reader.

What to do next
Trolley Scan have created a website for RFID-radar where we show the equipment, provide background information and show results from actual measurements of the prototype. Have a look at the website!

Trolley Scan are an SMME that has played a significant role globally in the development of UHF RFID, bringing many of the past breakthroughs and working on those for the future.

Trolley Scan are at a decision point on whether to develop this new technology by themselves and stop doing the advanced research!, or to find a partner that can devote the development resources to bring the future generations of RFID equipment (like the colour printer example) to the global market. If we do not find these forward thinking industrialists in the next few weeks, then Trolley Scan will start delivering these systems for evaluation themselves.

In the meantime, we suggest you get one of the standard RFID systems from Trolley Scan. RFID-radar requires an understanding of the performance of RFID in practical situations gained through hands on experience - both from the mounting of transponders on objects as well as processing the identity codes generated by the reader. RFID-radar is an IT input device like a printer is an output device, and it needs time by users to understand the issues.

Trolley Scan have also set up a response form on the website, where interested parties can join the regular newsletter that we will publish detailing advancements in RFID-radar.

The website is at www.rfid.radar.com

This newsletter is being sent to the approximately 4000 companies and individuals that ask to be kept in touch with developments at Trolley Scan. These recipients are the first to be told about the developments. In the next weeks we will prepare press releases and photographs for the RFID press.

18 August 2005

1) Can read/write UHF transponders work reliably?
2) Testing a 2 microwatt transponder
3) Need for a lowcost RFID system that also gives tag location information?

Can read/write UHF transponders work reliably?
RFID operates partly in the world of reality and partly in the realm of fiction. When a group sits down to write the specification of a new device, hype makes that part virtual reality without it ever having been built or tested in a practical situation. This is partly due to the very long development times needed to develop a new integrated circuit that operates reliably. Such a situation is happening with the concept of a read/write transponder to operate at UHF frequencies.

The true test for a new technology is will the device work reliably in a real world situation. Even the current read only UHF technology that is being tested in supermarkets at present, is finding a problem with its system reliability, with reading errors causing problems in the automated system. These errors are typically caused by transponders not receiving enough power to operate when passing past a reader, caused many times due to the transponder being screened by other goods on the pallet, or being incorrectly attached to an item in such a manner that the item sucks up the available RF energy.

To store information on a passive tag, certain memory structures are needed which can be programmed and which will retain their data even when the energy is removed. This is achieved by storing charge in the semiconductor layers in the chip where the leakage is very low. To achieve this storage, a higher operating voltage and energising power is needed, compared to those needed for just reading or operating the device. For example an EEprom can be built using 2.7 volt architecture, while a read only device can be made at voltages as low as 1.1 volts. In addition the power needed by the transponder is higher for the writing process, compared to the minimal power needed for the reading cycle. There are pumped storage devices that can increase the voltage available for programming, but they require higher powers for operating and starting. The transponder also cannot have any significant energy storage on the chip to cater for these higher energy requirements due to the goal of what is achievable in producing capacitance while wanting a small chip area.

The reader radiates power from its transmit antenna. This energy is spread over the surface area of a sphere whose radius is the time of travel times the speed of light. This results in the energy density available to the transponder decreasing as the inverse square of the distance, - that is everytime the operating range doubles the energy available at the transponder is quartered. This property means that transponders operating at lower powers will have greater operating range than those needing higher powers. This further means that due to a UHF transponder needing higher power for the storing of energy than that needed for reading, the zone in which it can update information (write) is going to be smaller than that at which it can be read (possibly as little as only 30% of the read zone). Further as it is not possible to determine in which zone the transponder lies due to the high speed of light and the small operating bandwidths, the reader is not able to determine accurately if the information it is wanting to update will be successfully implimented.

In last month's newsletter we discussed the issue of reflection of energy off interfaces between objects of different dielectric constant. The reflected energy from these interfaces interacts also with the energising field from the reader, causing RF "holes" even in the read/write zone, meaning that even in the read/write zone there will be areas where updating information on transponders will be unreliable.

The test for the success of this technology is going to be real world testing. This can only be achieved when large numbers of the transponders are in use and when system reliability can be accurately measured.

Possibly the next EPC phase would be to go to a protocol which impliments a number system based on the current barcode systems so that barcoding and RFID devices can be used together allowing the smaller retailers to also benefit from the new wave of automation!

(N.B. It would also be a good time to switch to Tag-Talks-First type protocols so as to minimise the RF interference levels and make the new systems compatible with the limited RF spectrum available in most countries!)

Testing a 2 microwatt transponder
A common accepted measure of performance of a PC is the processor clock speed, starting initially at 4 MHz in the 1970s to 6GHz today. For passive UHF RFID transponders it is the RF power needed to operate the transponder. As described in the above article, the lower the sensitivity of the transponder, the further the operating range. Attaching a 5 volt circuit to a dipole would need 54 milliwatts of RF power in the antenna aperture (134 or 149sq cms EU/US) for the circuit to operate. Trolley Scan currently produce a 200 microwatt (270 times lower power) credit card version in their EcoTag technology.

Some applications need a transponder to be read at distances of 100 meters from the passive reader. To achieve this Trolley Scan have started testing a 2 microwatt (2uW) version which is already operating at distances of more than 30 meters and should achieve distances as far as 130 meters depending on the sensitivity of the receiver in the reader. These transponders are special purpose versions and will be more expensive than the standard Ecotags when available.

Need for a lowcost RFID system that also gives tag location information?
Is there a need for a low cost RFID system that can also give information about the exact location of the transponder in the reading zone - that is range from the reader and directional vector?

14 June 2005

1) The fastest & biggest item to ever go through an RFID supermarket scanner!!
2) The impact of protocols on the speed of passage

The fastest & biggest item to ever go through an RFID supermarket scanner!!
Take a guess what would be the largest and fastest item to be read with a simple, cheap, low cost RFID system that was originally designed to read the contents of a supermarket trolley passing through a checkout? (Hint - it was travelling at 300 kilometres per hour!)

One of our partners was asked to quote for an electronic licensing system for motor vehicles in the Middle East. One of the specifications required the system to detect motor vehicles at over 300 kilometres per hour. With most countries having speed limits restricting vehicles to 120 kph, it is difficult to find a test track that could be used for the speed trials at these speeds.

Attaching the transponder to the undercarriage, and tying the antenna system and the reader to the restrictor loops at the end of the runway, our partner recorded and photographed automatically at time of identification, a 9000kg Lear jet at takeoff speed lifting off from a high altitude runway. To verify that the transponder was correctly identified, the data from the reader was processed by a laptop which triggered a camera once the transponder code was recognised by the software in the laptop.

In theory a Trolleyponder system can detect moving objects up to Mach 2, but as the transponder has to come within metres of the reader at time of reading, this limit is likely to remain untested.
(The passing gust of airstream is likely to need challenging mounting requirements for the reader!!)

Due to this speed characteristic of its Tag Talks first protocol, many companies interested in sports timing have been using the Trolley Scan system as the core identification module of their timing systems. Recently Karts passing at speeds in excess of 130kph have been logged in a prototype timing system being tested in Europe.

All this is achieved with operating bandwidths of only 10kHz!!

The impact of protocols on the speed of passage
For passive UHF transponder systems handling multiple transponders in the zone at one time, there are two classifications of protocols, namely tag-talks-first(TTF) and reader-talks-first(RTF).

In TTF protocols, the reader generates very low interference levels allowing many readers to operate in close proximity and allowing transponders to travel at high speeds. In TTF protocols, the reader emits an energising field which is received by the approaching transponder and converted to operating energy for the transponder. As soon as the transponder has sufficient energy to operate, it initiates communication with the reader, transferring its message and receiving instructions from the reader to close down so as not to occupy the communication channel. This can be achieved with operating bandwidths as narrow as 10 kilohertz.

In RTF type protocols (such as those proposed by EPC), the reader continually calls out the identity of possible transponders that it expects to find in the zone. If a transponder's number is called, it responds affirmative, and the next number is called. (The calling follows a treeing algorithm so that every possible number does not need to be called).

This means :- a)the time of passage of the reader zone has to be long enough for all sequences to be called which means operating speeds of movement are very slow (typically 3 km/h) b)that interference levels are very high as the reader with its high power amplifier is continually calling, c)and that operating bandwidths of the system and its interference zone are very large as messages have to be called very quickly. (Interference zones of 1 kilometre and operating bandwidths as wide as 3.4MHz are quoted).

The Trolleyponder protocols implemented in the Trolley Scan products allow:

  1. TTF protocol to be implemented
  2. Long reading distances up to 13 meters in air and 10 meters on metal
  3. High speed passage through the reading zone (more than 300kph)
  4. Up to 700 transponders can be read in a single reading zone
  5. Narrow operating bandwidths and low interference levels allowing multiple readers to operate within 4 meters of each other
  6. Low cost transponders and readers
  7. Used by users in 43 countries
  8. UHF passive transponder technology
  9. Small transponder footprint, just the size of a credit card.

11 May 2005

In this newsletter we cover an important explanation of the operation of UHF RFID in situations where energy from a reader has to pass through an object before reaching the tag. This explanation has not been available in any RFID publications in the past and is a MUST READ for users wanting to understand RFID.

Your latest copy of our regular newsletter keeping you up to date with developments.

1) Industrial design of motor vehicle access system for 1000 cars via 10 entrances
2) Poland and Croatia become the 42nd and 43rd country to start using Trolley Scan equipment
3) New licensee in production
4) How does energy pass through objects - reflection and transmission
5) New numbering system needed?

Industrial design of motor vehicle access system for 1000 cars via 10 entrances
RFID systems are part of IT systems, similar to the hardware of computers - and without the application software to make them useful to the user, they serve little purpose. Once working, they need to be packaged in a pleasing form for their application, and this is where industrial designers add their value.

Krus Electronics of Sophia, Bulgaria, have provided photographs of the pedestals they have designed and built for a multi reader car parking application for 1000 vehicles.

Photos of the pedestals and contact with Krus Electronics can be found at


Poland and Croatia become the 42nd and 43rd country to start using Trolley Scan equipment
Companies in Poland and Croatia have taken delivery of their Trolley Scan UHF RFID systems increasing the global usage and availability of our advanced passive UHF RFID technology.

Auto Scanning Systems
The demand for UHF passive RFID, especially with the low power advantages enhanced in the Trolley Scan Trolleyponder/EcoTag range of products, is continually growing. To help meet the demand, Trolley Scan licence their technology to other companies to allow them to produce similar systems and provide supplies for users of the technology.

Auto Scanning Systems, are the most recent licensee and have been delivering components for the past two months. They are able to provide Ecochiptags, laundry tags and the readers that are 100% compatible with the Trolley Scan system.

Kevin Engel of Auto Scanning Systems can be contacted at kevin@autoscanning.com, and the website is at


With the ability of Auto Scanning to deliver parts, users now have FOUR sources of supply who are all producing interchangable components in the form of readers and transponders. These are
Trolley Scan - www.trolleyscan.com
Auto Scanning Systems - www.autoscanning.com
Global Auto ID - www.globalautoid.com
RFID Technologies - www.rf-id-systems.com
How does energy pass through objects - reflection and transmission
RFID has the ability to identify tags that are not optically visible from the reader.

Passive tags extract their operating energy from the energising field radiated by the reader, which available energy decreases as it travels away from the reader, placing a limit on the operating range that can be achieved with a specified radiated power and transponder sensitivity.

What happens when the energy has to pass through a ream of paper, or a plank of mahogany wood, before getting to the transponder. The short answer is that only 37% of the energy is going to pass through the paper, or 53% through the wood. This does not matter whether the object is only a couple of centimeters thick or more than 10 centimenters thick.

The reason for this loss of energy transmission relates to a property of the material called dielectric constant. Whereever the energy wave encounters a change in dielectric constant (e.g air to paper, paper to air), part of the energy is reflected at the transition layer and never reaches the tags.

Engineers who have experience in high resolution short range radars, such as ground penetrating radars, use this principle to detect objects buried in the ground.

The reflected energy caused by the transition of dielectric constant, results in a benefit to users of UHF RFID in that the radio signals also reflect off walls and floors allowing tags that might normally be screened via a direct path approach, getting their energy from redirected reflected energy.

A detail presentation of this principle, together with tables showing the reflection and transmission percentages for a variety of materials, can be found at


Time for a new numbering system from EPC?
In RFID the cart has come before the horse for retail applications!!

The retail community would like very cheap transponders in extreme volumes, imposing their ideas by means of edicts.

However the edicts do not take into account practical issues such as

  1. the choice of the correct RF protocols to cater for many readers working in close proximity (TTF vs RTF protocols),
  2. the limited capacities of the electronic manufacturing industry to produce extreme volumes of circuits,
  3. the unwillingness of the electronic manufacturing industry, in the light of the depression in the industry, to invest massively in new capital equipment to produce an untested technology in extreme volumes,
  4. the need for a global solution that would fit the limited radio spectrum available in many countries,
  5. the need for large scale testing site and application testing before starting extreme volume production.

There are numerous other impediments as well, such as:-

  1. that uncertainty exists regarding the patent situations and what actual technology will be needed,
  2. that the EPC operation is effectively a closed shop where you have to buy your membership,
  3. that the EPC is "user" heavy and needs much higher representatives of the "technical" community,
  4. that the standards are coming out before the technology is developed or tested.
  5. that new technology (such as printed antennas) needs to be developed.

In listening to the dream benefits that are promised by many of the proponents of the proposed RFID solution for retail, one realises that much of the benefit relates to improved IT systems for tracking and tracing, ordering and invoicing - which has been packaged with a need for a new RFID system - which meant changing the numbering system.

It must slowly be dawning on the retail industry, that their hope of achieving this new era, requires the ditching of the RFID component of the project at this stage - as that part requires the involvement of much capital and of participants who are unwilling to take the route to bancruptcy on an untested technology.

The solution is to stick to the current barcode implimentation for scanning (What - an RFID company that was one of the founders of RFID in retail proposing barcodes!!!) and to focus on updating the IT systems to achieve the new benefits. The advantage the barcode implementation is that it is a mature industry with a fully installed base of scanners, it is a system that can be machine readable or can be read in a numeric form by humans when no scanner is available, and where the same coding could be used in an RFID system when it becomes economically practical.

This route would allow the retail industry to immediately focus on achieving its goals, would allow the RFID industry to take small steps to maturity - winning the confidence of the major manufacturing giants and allowing them to make safe investments in new capital equipment for extreme volumes, and it would allow all retailers to migrate seamlessly from the one technology to the other - be they retail giants or "mom & pop" stores.

You read it in this newsletter first!!

14 March 2005

1) Trolley Scan delivers motor vehicle access system for 1000 cars via 10 entrances
2) Interference is going to be the key issue in RFID protocols.
3) Trolley Scan presentation at the Inaugural Afritag conference
Trolley Scan delivers motor vehicle access system for 1000 cars via 10 entrances
A major advantage of passive UHF RFID systems is the ability to facilitate automated controlled systems with long range vision for the computer systems.

Trolley Scan have just delivered the RFID component of a 1000 motor vehicle access control system to a partner in Bulgaria. The system will monitor and control ten vehicle access points.

The order for the system was placed after successful testing in situ of the hardware and software development by the partner in Bulgaria for their client.

Trolley Scan equipment can identify windscreen mounted vehicle transponders at distances up to 12 metres. Through its use of narrowband low interference technology, Trolley Scan equipment allows many readers to operate in close proximity such as happens in access control situations in buildings with independent access lanes close to each other.

Radio Interference
RFID systems have to operate in the spectrum allocated for this application by each country. This allocation takes into account other demands on usage of the spectrum for that country. Balancing these demands means that in many countries in the world, the maximum that the RFID industry can hope for is just 200 kHz in the 860-960Mhz band. Some countries have found 500kHz and some hope for 2Mhz (2000Khz). In the US this allocation can be as wide as 26Mhz.

The purpose of the RFID technology for global trade is to have a system that operates in all countries and therefore the minimum allocations need to be used as the guidelines for getting an operating system working.

Recently a partner of Trolley Scan's exhibited the scanner on a show in France. Trolley Scan makes tag-talks-first(TTF) equipment that uses just 10 kHz of bandwidth for operation and can allow multiple readers to operate on spacings as close as 4 meters. Trolley Scan are one of many manufacturers that produce TTF based equipment. The equipment currently embodied in the EPC specifications uses a reader-talks-first protocol (RTF) which results in the reader calling out continuously for any tags in the vicintity to respond - using the full power of the reader. This uses up 200KHz of bandwidth whether or not a transponder is present, and interferes with other readers within a 1 kilometre radius.

At the show we found that the reader produced by one North American supplier was generating such interference in the allocated spectrum, that other RFID reader manufacturers could not operate at the same time. The reader on show by the manufacturer met the requirements for the use of the RFID spectrum and was typical of those specified by EPC in Class 0 and Class 1. Eventually an agreement was reached whereby the offending supplier would switch off for half an hour each hour to allow the other exhibitors to demonstrate their equipment.

The generation of this interference zone is acknowledged by the EPC in that their current specification for Generation 2 readers provides three levels of certification

Level 1 readers will be certified to work only when there are NO OTHER READERS WITHIN A 1KM RADIUS.

Level 2 will be for readers capable of being deployed with SEVERAL READERS WITHIN A 1KM RADIUS.

Level 3 will be certified to work alongside 50 OR MORE READERS WITHIN A 1KM RADIUS.

In a retail environment, one would expect many more than 50 readers to be present in a 1 kilometer radius.

Switching to a TTF type protocol, more than 6200 readers can be made to operate within the 1 kilometer radius.

The requirements of countries with only a limited spectrum available for RFID, and the desire of the EPC to have a system that is accepted internationally especially through ISO recognition, will force the development of a Gen 3 version shortly which will need to be based on TTF principles in order to cater for high reader density.

Inaugural Afritag Conference
Trolley Scan joined the CEO of Pick n Pay and overseas speakers in addressing the Inaugural Afritag conference held near Johannesburg in February attended by 200 delegates.

Trolley Scan's message attempted to cut through the press hype surrounding RFID and bring sensibility to expectations of this industry.

Points of the message were:

1)Nearly 230 million transponders are supplied very successfully annually to users of RFID in the IT industry that are not supporting retail applications.

2)There has to be an estimated 1 million times expansion in the manufacturing industry to cater for the full potential of RFID for the retail sector. No one can imagine how such an expansion will happen.

3)At present, the major manufacturers such as chip foundries, antenna manufacturers and those assembling the components, are not hiring staff wildly, or ordering massive supplies of new production equipment - no, they are sitting on the sidelines with moderate interest watching what is happening. RFID will only take off on an appropriate scale when these groups start rapid expansion.

4)The present EPC specifications are based on a RTF type protocol which is unworkable in the real retail world. There has to be a change to TTF brought on by the expansion in the number of users and the laws of physics. EPC have not had a large scale proof of concept demonstration to show the problems that will arise when their standard gains wide spread acceptance.

5)US Politicians and CEOs of retail groups speculate the benefits of what RFID will achieve in advancing the logistics sector by allowing the industry to know what is happening to each package of goods. We hear comments such that "RFID will revolutionise the security/retail/logistics industry". In reality they are confusing the benefits of updating the IT systems performing "Track and Trace", and the benefits of RFID technology versus the current barcode technology used to capture package information. In reality the benefits lie in the IT system upgrades and could be achieved today with the technology currently available, even if RFID did not succeed in the retail environment.

1) Trolley Scan delivers motor vehicle access system for 2100 cars via 8 entrances
2) Tracking laptops and assets in a building
3) The interference specification
4) Centre of Experts to help users with needs
Trolley Scan delivers motor vehicle access system for 2100 cars via 8 entrances
A major advantage of passive UHF RFID systems is the ability to facilitate automated controlled systems with long range vision for the computer systems.

Trolley Scan have just delivered the RFID component of a 2100 motor vehicle access control system to a client in Turkey. The system will monitor and control eight vehicle access points.

The order for the system was placed after successful testing in situ of the hardware and software development by the client.

Trolley Scan equipment can identify windscreen mounted vehicle transponders at distances up to 12 metres. Through its use of narrowband low interference technology, Trolley Scan equipment allows many readers to operate in close proximity such as happens in access control situations in buildings with independent access lanes close to each other.

More information will follow in later newsletter.

Tracking laptops and assets in a building
Do you have an application which requires laptops to be tagged so that accurate records can be kept of when they leave and arrive in your buildings? Trolley Scan have been approached by numerous companies - from big business, utility suppliers and even accounting firms - to provide hardware that can identify the presence of laptops even when in a closed briefcase.

A partner of Trolley Scan has developed and installed just such equipment and can offer a solution.

Based around Trolley Scan's very low power 200uW Ecotag technology, the company has developed a system that can read the identity of laptops and other assets at distances up to 6 metres for monitoring the flow of persons and equipment through access points in a building.

More details in the next newsletter.

The interference specification
During the festive season, EPC Global approved their new Gen 2 specification for read/write transponders. While some RFID orientated publications have announced the acceptance of the new standard with euphoria, all is not well!

Getting a new standard into large production will take between 1 and 2 years.

The standard approved is still based on a Reader-talks-first type protocol which generates up to 1 million times the interference levels of the Tag-talks-first type protocols. Eventually the most important criteria for an RFID system for a retail environment will be the effective use of the radio spectrum and allowing many readers to operate independently in close proximity. The laws of nature are going to force the change from RTF to TTF as soon as the usage gains widespread acceptance.

The launch of this new specification was an ideal time to make the migration, rather than waiting a couple of years before being compelled to do it to avoid the congestion.

For those who are not too certain about this issue, read the reader section of EPC Globals's own specifications to realise that EPC are aware now of the looming interference issue.

Centre of Experts to help users with needs
There are strong similarities between the commercialisation of the personal computer industry in the 1970's and that of the RFID industry. The readers and transponders are consumer items that end-users can purchase from vendors. However to make a useful application, skills to process the data and produce software will also be needed.

Trolley Scan are going to launch a "Centre of Experts" section which will enable end-users to link directly to companies world wide who have already Trolley Scan's RFID technology in their possession, and whom are prepared to contract their services to supply others with software expertise and hardware to implement the applications.

Owners of Trolley Scan's small systems who want to be listed in this new section should make contact via


14 October 2004

1) Waverider - automatic scanning of baskets in supermarkets
2) New Trolleyponder licensee in production
3) RFID and privacy - mountain or molehill?
4) Trolley Scan to be granted another important patent in the US

Waverider - automatic scanning of baskets in supermarkets
It happened for the first time in the Philippines!!!

Lots has been written and demonstrated about the scanning of supermarket trolleys (carts) using RFID in major retail stores. Initially there was the Supertag demonstration in Pretoria in 1994, and more recently there has been the Branders ("Waves") system, details of which are on the Trolley Scan site.

What happens for the smaller stores, for those like the "mom and pop" store which is too small to allow trolleys to move in the aisles, or whose turnover is too small for a major technology installation?

Saira C. Narajos, an Industrial Design Student at De La Salle University of the Philippines, using Trolleyponder technology, has designed, built and installed for tests an innovative automatic self service scanning system for baskets. The system can be integrated with an anti-shoplifting system, like that integrated in the Trolleyponder protocols, and includes features for bagging the goods after scanning.

Know as "Waverider", it forms part of the studies of technology needed for the eventual automatic scanning of purchases by retail store users, technology that can only be implemented once the massive shortfall in the transponder production can be addressed.

Photos of the design and the test installation can be seen at http://trolleyscan.com/waverider.html

Second source for Trolleyponder equipment - new licensee in production
A Johannesburg, South Africa, based company, "Global Auto ID", has started large scale production of Trolleyponder transponders and readers; and can provide equipment to users immediately.

Six months ago Global Auto ID licenced Trolley Scan's Trolleyponder UHF RFID technology and patents, setting up production facilities for both transponders and readers. The setup phase has now been completed and a fixed mains operating reader, operating at frequencies from 850Mhz to 956Mhz is available, together with credit card sized transponders.

Global Auto ID and Trolley Scan's equipment are compatible, meaning that the readers and transponders can operate with transponders and readers from either supplier.

More information from Mike Williams, the Marketing Director, who can be contacted at mike@globalautoid.com

RFID and privacy - mountain or molehill?
A recent radio phone-in programme in the US (heard in South Africa by the wonders of satelite radio) focused on RFID and Privacy. From the phone-in comments of the participants one realises that this issue is being blown completely out of context, particularly due to the lack of accurate information and understanding provided to the man in the street by the newsmedia, and also due to the hype being created by bodies such as the House of Representatives in the US having hearings on the matter when in fact this is still far from being an issue that can be implemented in the near term.

Between the idea that a chip implanted under the skin will be able to be tracked by satelite, and that one will be positively identified by the transponder in one's underpants, the man in the street is seeing RFID as a major issue on closing down his freedoms and not as a productivity enhancement tool.

The chip under the skin, has a read range of a few centimeters, limited by the operating frequencies and their characteristics needed when in the presence of water (blood). Without external attachments, it cannot be read from a satelite and is a competitive means of identification to biometrics, such as fingerprints, iris scans or facial recognition. It is a twenty year old technology that has been available in animal tagging, particularly developed for race horses to stop fiddling of the handicap bets.

The worry about the transponder in the underpants relates to positive identification of people by the clothing they wear. Currently EPC(Global) want to uniquely identify every item produced in the world uniquely via a 96 bit code. This desire is due to their lack of a protocol that can handle common numbering systems and this is after all the information age. Hence by knowing the identity of the underpants, the listeners feel that this could be linked to their own identity.

There are advantages to having transponders remain active in goods after they have been sold, such as for the future automatic washing machine where you can throw in the clothes you wish to wash and let the machine decide on the preferred washing cycle, - or for centralised laundries where goods when washed could be returned to the owners.

There is no need for each item in the world to be identified uniquely in order to have an operational RFID system!! For the past fifteen years there have been protocols that allow many items of the same type to use the same identity number. In the same way that a barcode number (UCC 8 digit or EAN 13 digit) currently identifies the country of manufacture, producer and product range, a modern RFID protocol can replicate this numbering system with no loss of performance.

EPC(Global) also need to address the issue of reader talks first(RTF) protocols to that of tag talks first(TTF). The RTF protocols generate up to 1 million times more radio interference than the TTF versions for other reader systems in the vicinity. In a situation where many readers are active in a store, the laws of physics dictate that interference requirements will play a big part in having a successful working system.

However at the end of the day, the real restriction to RFID is the lack of supply. The manufacturing capacity of the world needs to be expanded about 1 million times, to that of about 7 million transponders per second!!. While there is this lack of capacity, with no one seriously addressing the situation, making laws on the application of RFID at this time is like deciding on whether driving on the moon should be done on the left or right side of the road.

Trolley Scan to be granted another important patent in the US
The US Patent Office has informed Trolley Scan that it will grant a patent to Trolley Scan covering its 3D scanning technoloy backdated to the ground breaking work done 6 years ago. The technology is relevant to scanning randomly orientated goods in a supermarket cart/trolley as well as dealing with the RF "holes" in the field in normal polarised scanning.

This invention is very important in the eventual use of RFID in retail stores and further emphasises how Trolley Scan keeps well ahead of its technology competitors with its leading edge developments.

More details will follow in a later newsletter.

10 September 2004

1) The manufacturing challenges
2) More troubles with EPC RF protocols
3) Maturity in the RFID Industry
The manufacturing challenges
The greatest challenge to the implementation of RFID in the retail sector is creating a sufficient supply of transponders for the projects. Almost every week, another major retailer or organisation, announces that they expect their suppliers/users to convert to RFID within some short period. Companies such as Walmart, Tesco, Meto, US Defence Department, EU Commission and others all feel this power to cause chaos in the lives of their suppliers, yet no-one is consulting the RFID manufacturing industry to see if their expectations are achievable.

In order to produce sufficient transponders for the retail industry, transponders are going to have to be produced at about 7 million transponders PER SECOND. Nowhere in the world is there any part that is produced in this volume. In fact the estimated entire world's production of transponders in 2003, from all suppliers in an industry that is already twenty years old, would have been produced in just 30 seconds on this production line.

The shortage of transponders is one of those problems that many say someone else will sort out and they tend to ignore - possibly feeling that by clapping their hands the problems will disappear.

Transponders comprise basically three parts - namely a chip, an antenna and some form of packaging.

The semiconductor industry produces the chip and are the most mature in their ability to increase volumes with orders. It is possible currently to buy 100 million chips or possibly 1 billion chips with a bit of planning. However in the first quarter of 2004 the semiconductor industry reported that their used capacity had increased to 94% from a 36% a few years before. This increase is partly due to increased orders and also due to downsizing in the past few years which reduced capacity.

Nobody has yet made 100 million UHF transponder antennas. The current techniques are to etch antennas from copper laminated on a plastic medium, or more recently antennas are being printed using conducting inks. The printing process is not straight forward as after the printing comes an attachment process and if this is to be based on soldering, then some form of bonding the ink particles is needed. If the attachment process is going to use epoxy adhesives, then the curing time becomes a problem when attachment rates of 7 million per second are required. Various companies have projects to develop printed antennas suitable for attachment, but volumes of 5 million are large projects.

The last challenge in producing antennas is to attach the chips to the antennas and provide the protective packaging. Various machinery based on the assembly of smart cards is available with thoughputs of 5000 to 20000 per hour. The reason for this restriction of speed relates to the inertia of moving parts in the machinery and the cooling times of the plastics.

The challenge for the RFID industry lies not in the development of the chips, but in the production and assembly of the antennas and the transponders.

Even producing 100 million chips/antennas or their packaging, only feeds the 7 million per second line for some 14 SECONDS!!!

Massive opportunities exist for companies wanting to specialise in high volume transponder assembly.

More troubles with EPC RF protocols
EPCGlobal has created various standards for the use of RFID in the retail sector, better known as Class 0 and Class 1. A generation 2 was announced earlier this year expecting to be published towards the end of this year.

The principle of the EPCGlobal has been to avoid technology that was protected by patents to allow many companies to compete.

August 2004 saw the announcement by one of the participants in the EPCGlobal program that they owned certain patents that relate to the particular path currently being followed by EPCGlobal, and that they would be requiring licensing fees as high as US$1 million from each manufacturer. Obviously this announcement is going to have a major impact on the route forward for EPCGlobal and on their future choice of technology.

There are two basic forms of RF protocols, namely reader-talks-first (RTF) and tags-talk-first (TTF) which have major differences in the amount of interference they generate for other RFID users in the immediate vicinity, with differences as high as 1 million times. It is critical for the future of EPCGlobal that they now start planning for the future when many readers would be in close proximity, and switch from their current RTF protocol to a TTF environmentally friendly version - as eventually, the laws of physics and the limited radio spectrum available are going to force this change.

Trolleyponder patents, protocols and developments are not affected by the claims of the EPCGlobal member as we are already a TTF protocol and developments at Trolley Scan are based on 14 years of work in this field which predate almost all other work in the world on low cost RFID for retail.

Trolley Scan have produced a document on the compatibility of Trolleyponder products with that of the EPCGlobal. This can be sent via email on request.

Maturity in the RFID Industry
RFID is a manufacturing problem of a scale never seen before in the world. The companies that are likely to become the major players are the huge manufacturing giants with the capital and capacity to produce in very large volumes.

However RFID technology is generally defined in patent portfolios and knowledge in small startup companies, which do not have the capacity to produce in volumes. This disparity means that the commercialisation path is for the small companies to be taken over by the large manufacturers in order to get fast access to their knowledge, experience and the protection of the patents.

August 2004 saw the announcement by Symbol in the USA, one of the largest manufacturers of barcoding equipment, that they had purchased Matrics, an RFID startup that was focussing heavily on EPC compatible RFID systems. This might be the start of the demise of the small startup companies and a new maturity arriving in the RFID industry.

14 July 2004

1) Very important EcoTag patents granted to Trolley Scan by European Patent Office
2) Troubles with EPC RF protocols

Very important EcoTag patents granted to Trolley Scan by European Patent Office
Every once in a while there is a development that has the power to change the basis of competition! When one looks back in a few decades, some patents will stand out as redefining the way forward, and the patent now granted by the European Patent Office for Trolley Scans's EcoTag technology will be up near the top of the list.

Transponders generally comprise a chip with an antenna system. The amount of power needed to operate the transponder is a function of the power needed by the chip, the impedance of the antenna, and the interaction between the antenna and the chip. Trolley Scan's patented technology deals with these three functions as a package to produce transponders that can operate on minimal RF power.

Lowering the power needed for a transponder to operate is like improving the fuel economy for a motor vehicle - you can never have enough! Lower transponder operating powers mean longer operating range, lower energising powers from a reader, smaller readers, portable readers, longer battery life. EcoTag technology also allows smaller transponder antenna sizes and antennas that are more suitable for manufacturing using printing processes available from conventional printing machines used for producing packaging.

Further combined with wide dynamic range characteristics in readers, one can get independance of polarisation issues.

Currently Trolley Scan provide EcoTag based transponders in credit card sized format that need just 200uW to operate, some 260 times more efficient than a conventional 5 volt circuit attached to a dipole antenna.

The European granted patent is back dated to May 1999, five years ago when the inventions were first detailed. The patent has already been granted in many other countries including the USA. The patent forms part of a portfolio of patents filed by Trolley Scan over the past five years recording further improvements to the technology. Currently users in 29 countries make use of EcoTag based technology.

Trolley Scan licence their technology to others who wish to benefit from their inventions.

Troubles with EPC RF protocols
The world at present is desperate for some form of standard with many companies wanting to become RFID producers want to be EPC compliant.

The EPC goals are based around two components, a data standard used in labeling products and a common RFID protocol standard allowing interoperability between all manufacturers.

The data standard has a core around the very successful numbering system used by the EAN/UCC in about 180 countries worldwide. This currently is implemented on the barcodes used in labeling retail products where the number has three components, one for the country of manufacture, one for the producer in that country and one for the product in the producer's catalogue. These components are combined to form a 13 digit number that uniquely identifies each range of products sold in a retail store.

The RFID protocols cover the technical/physical features of the transponder/reader. EPC had tried to steer clear of all existing patents so that they could have a licence free situation. The first versions that were implimented were called Class 0 and Class 1, catering for different stages of technical development in the transponder chip process. Recently the manufacturers who had decided to produce solutions decided to abandon Class 0 and Class 1, and to develop a new version called Class 2. From five initial proposals, two went through to the next round and recently these have been combined into a new single Class 2 proposal.

Introducing a new Class means huge investments on chip design and delays of at least six months while new chips are designed and debugged. It also kills any further developments in Class 0 and Class 1 which are now instantaneously obsolete.

A new complication has now arisen in that a US company is claiming the Class 2 versions will infringe patents it holds on RF Protocols and it is warning everybody that they will have to licence the protocol, hence nullifying all EPC's efforts to bypass patented technology.

In fact Class 2 should never exist as it is still a reader-talks-first protocol that will prove to be unsuitable for an application where many readers are required to operate in close proximity.

To explain the difference between reader-talks-first and tag-talks-first protocols - imagine you were at a picnic in a quiet park trying to whisper to your companion, but close by you have another group of picnickers with a radio playing rock music full blast - that is the situation with reader talks first. Now imagine that back in the radio station the music souce is disconnected or comes to an end of the music track - the radio is still receiving a signal but is quiet - that is tag-talks-first. In both situations the radio is still broadcasting a signal, the difference being the amount of interference it causes.

By the time EPC accept their final protocol, possibly a Class 6? - it will be a tag-talks-first protocol purely on the need to coexist with other readers. However if they will manage to avoid all the patented protocols which take about 5 years to move through the patenting offices before they surface, remains to be seen! It is going to be a long road ahead before there is a practical EPC RF protocol.

12 May 2004

1) New compact fixed reader available
2) Catalogue of RFID components

New compact fixed reader available
The history of the development of low cost high volume RFID is very similar to that of the development of the personal computer.

Initially the key to development was in the integrated circuit used in the transponder, then developments happened in the reader, and now that excellent system performance is being achieved, the focus is now on assembly and packaging methods.

Trolley Scan have repackaged their technologically advanced super sensitive reader in a new lightweight case that is ergonomically pleasing, suitable for mass manufacture, and yet maintains its high standard of performance and electromagnetic compatibility with other users in the RF spectrum.

The new reader has been designated the "compact fixed reader". It

  • weights just 3.5kg
  • the case is made from moulded ABS plastics
  • size is only 29 by 26 by 13cms
  • operates on mains power
  • operates on the UHF frequencies of 860MHz to 930MHz using only 10kHz bandwidth
  • working with the Trolleyponder range of 200uW transponders, the reader is tested to read transponders at up to 11 meters before shipping
  • can read up to 500 transponders in a field at a time
  • using a "tag talks first" protocol, can operate in close proximity to other compact fixed readers operating on the same frequency band
  • uses a bistatic antenna system
  • RS232 data interface
  • specifically designed to provide high electromagnetic compatibility with other users
  • brackets for attaching to a wall can be provided

The advantage of the new compact fixed reader is that by using moulded case parts gives lower manufacturing costs for volume shipments which gives lower selling prices.

The reader is compatible with previous versions of readers and transponders provided by Trolley Scan and their licensees.

A data sheet on the new reader which is at http://trolleyscan.com/datacomp.html

Companies wanting to produce this technology in volume under licence for their applications should contact Trolley Scan. mailto:info@trolleyscan.com?subject=Want_to_produce_compact_RFID_systems

Catalogue of RFID components
Trolley Scan have produced a catalogue of readers and transponders that are available immediately for RFID users.

The catalogue details the

  • small starter system where users can just plug in mains and a computer and operate immediately
  • compact fixed readers and portable readers
  • 200uW credit card sized Ecochiptags, Ecowoodtags, laundry tags
  • OEM reader modules for incorporation into electronic systems
  • patch antenna systems
The catalogue can be downloaded at

Parts can be ordered directly from Trolley Scan and delivered to your door via a courier company. The systems detailed in the catalogue have already been supplied and are operating in 23 countries worldwide.


2 May 2004

1) Long Range Portable monostatic UHF reader developed
2) Monostatic versus Bistatic antenna systems
3) "Tag-talks-first" versus "Reader-talks-first" protocols

Another technical breakthrough - Long Range Portable monostatic reader
As part of leading the way in the development of passive UHF RFID, Trolley Scan have developed a portable UHF reader that can power and read its UHF passive transponders at distances as far as 8 meters!

In many cases, RFID transponders are used on items that are usually far from networked computer infrastructure and cannot be read by a fixed reader - for example trees in a forest, cattle in a field, or goods on a pallet in a warehouse. Passive transponders get their energy to operate from the reader and due to the high powers needed, in the past it was not practical to generate power from batteries in the reader if a long reading range was needed. In addition in order not to interfere with other radio system users such as cellphones, high spectral quality is required from the reader which needs amplifiers which are very energy inefficient requiring even more energy from the reader batteries.

Another issue for portable readers is that one needs a physically small antenna system as it had to be used comfortably by a person. Conventional passive readers for UHF technology use two antennas (called bistatic) to keep the energising signal away from the sensitive receiver,as the energising field is about 1 million times stronger than the received signal, and yet they both are on the same frequency at the same instant.

Partly thanks to the past development of its very efficient 200uW transponders (250 times more efficient than a conventional transponder) and partly due to the development of its new supersensitive receiver technology, Trolley Scan have in the past week being testing a new portable monostatic UHF reader that can operate from its inbuilt batteries for periods as long as 11 hours, yet power up and read transponders up to 8 meters away.

The new reader weighs just 2.5kg complete with its single antenna system (monostatic), can read transponders even when they are attached to metal objects at distances as far as 8 meters, can operate for up to 11 hours from its batteries, can read up to 500 transponders in a reading field at the same time, can read at rates of up to 70 per second and can operate on any UHF frequency in the 860 to 930Mhz band as used in most countries.

The reader supplies data in RS232 format to your PDA or notebook computer for logging of captured data. At present the PDA is not being supplied with ordered systems but variuous demonstration applications showing the benefits of interaction between a portable reader and the operator via the PDA have been developed. For example for a dairy farmer to show the name and identity of a cow as well as purchase date, current weight, current milk yield, etc - while standing near the animal in his fields.

Prior to the development of the new receiver technology announced just a few months ago, using the same antenna for energising and receiving functions was not practical particularly as the signal strengths differ by about 1 million times. Monostatic reading ranges of a few centimeters was all that was achievable. Developments in the past few months now increase this to 8 meters, still less than the 13 meters supplied with the fixed reader systems.

A data sheet on the new reader which is shortly to be supplied in volume is at http://trolleyscan.com/dataport.html

Companies wanting to produce this technology in volume under licence for their applications should contact Trolley Scan.

Monostatic versus Bistatic antenna systems
Passive RFID systems use an energising field that is created by radiating between 0.3 watts and 4 watts of carrier wave energy via an antenna towards the transponders. This energy field dissipates as it travels through space until some of it eventually reaches a transponder. When even only 200 microwatts of energy arrive at the transponder it is powered up and responds with about 1 microwatt of energy which travels back to the reader where it is collected by the receive antenna and processed by the receiver.

The receiver has to be sensitive enough to detect signals that are weaker than 1 microwatt at the same time as up to 4 watts are being radiated from the transmitter on the same frequency.

Bistatic antenna systems use a seperate transmit and receive antenna for the different functions, seperated in space by a small distance so that the transmit energy does not go into the receive antenna and hence overload the receiver.

A Monostatic antenna system uses the same antenna to perform both the transmit and the receive function at the same time on the same frequency, being so designed that the energy on its way out from the transmitter to the antenna, does not reflect back towards the receiver and swamp the received signal which is about 1 million times weaker.

The Monostatic system is not however as sensitive as the Bistatic system due to noise from the transmitted signal coupling back into the receiver, meaning shorter operating ranges. However in applications like portable readers, the benefits of only having one antenna for a reader is important.

"Tag-talks-first" versus "Reader-talks-first" protocols
RFID systems are still in their infancy and the world has yet to deal with the practical problems of operating many readers in a close proximity. A recent article on animal tagging indicated that with older technologies, it was still not possible to operate two readers in the same room due to the interference caused by the one reader on the other. In a superstore, there might be as many as 200 readers having to operate on the same frequencies in close proximity to each other. The problem being that the energising field from one reader overloads the receiver section of another reader preventing it from hearing the weak transponder responses from transponders in its energising zone.

For handling multiple transponder systems for a single reader, there are two basic types of protocols used between the readers and the transponders.

  1. In "tag-talks-first" protocols, the reader puts out a very stable energising field that has virtually no data modulation meaning it takes up minimal RF spectrum. When the transponder receives some of this energising field, it responds either immediately or after some random delay with its weak response which is detected by the receiver of the reader listening on the same frequency as the energising field. Typical bandwidths are just 10kHz at operating frequencies near 1 Gigahertz. Such systems offer minimal interference with other users as all the data modulation happens on signals that are only 1 microwatt in signal strength. Trolleyponder patented protocol is based on this approach and two readers can operate within 3 meters of each other with minimal seperation of operating frequencies.

  2. In "reader-talks-first" protocols, the reader modulates the powerful energising field with a data stream to query all tags in its reading zone. Each transponder has a receiver and interprets the message from the reader to see if it is being saught. The reader data on the energising field might in a simple form query "Is tag number one present?". Should tag "One" be present , then it will reply "Yes" and the reader will record the presence and move on to query tag "two". The query is done via a treeing algorithm so that not every number in the numbering series needs to be checked. The issue about "reader-talks-first" protocols are that the data modulation is happening continuously on the powerful reader energising field which will interfere with other readers that are even kilometers from the reader. The bandwidth used with this high power message is more than 200Khz if not 1 Mhz.

22 March 2004

1) Trolley Scan deliver 200uW transponders as standard production item
2) Ecowoodtag developed for attaching to timber products
Another technical breakthrough - production versions now need only 200uW
As part of leading the way in the development of passive UHF RFID, Trolley Scan have developed new materials that allow for the production of transponders in volume that need just 200uW of RF energy to operate. This represents a 42% improvement in the sensitivity of transponders supplied for the US frequencies and a 33% improvement in the sensitivity of transponders in the EU/GSM market. All credit card sized Ecochiptag(TM) transponders supplied by Trolley Scan will now need only 200uW of power to operate.

Improving transponder sensitivity is like improving fuel consumption for a car - you can never have enough!!!. Every time the sensitivity improves, it means that the transmitted power of the reader can be reduced, or the operating range of the transponder system increases.

The new transponder can be read 8 meters from a reader radiating just 300 milliwatts of power, similar to that radiated from a cell phone. In addition, due to the miniscual amount of power needed to operate the transponder, polarisation becomes less important and transponders can be read on almost any polarisation even with linear polarised antennas. The 8 meter range is achievable even if the transponder is attached to metal.

In 1994 a state of the art transponder used in the original Supertag version developed by a team led by Mike Marsh, and shown to the world with a trolley(cart) of 38 items being scanned at the Pick n Pay hypermarket in Pretoria South Africa, needed 6000uW of RF power to operate. In 2001 Trolley Scan started delivering 1000uW versions with its evaluation systems. In December 2003, Trolley Scan delivered 350uW credit card sized versions, a major technical achievement as the previous systems all needed 160mm dipoles while the credit card sized version was only 80mm long - a size that is inherently inefficient at this operating frequency. Now the norm with the latest developments is 200uW in a credit card sized version.

Comparing the performance to the original Supertag tests, the transmitter power needed now is only 3% of that needed for the original system, meaning smaller transmitters, longer battery life and portable readers. The operating range at the original power used for Supertag is 550% of the ranges then achieved.

Despite the benefits of long operating range and low transmitter power, the Trolley Scan has maintained all its important benefits such as wide operating bandwidth (50MHz for EU/GSM/US compatibility), up to 500 multiple transponders in the reading field, 3D scanning small antenna size and easy to produce.

Users wanting to purchase systems fitted with the new technology can order systems on the http://trolleyscan.com/isosys.html page.

Companies wanting to produce this technology in volume under licence for their applications should contact Trolley Scan. mailto:info@trolleyscan.com?subject=Want_to_produce_200uW_RFID_systems

Research project - developing transponders for attachment to timber.
Trolley Scan have recently developed a new credit card sized transponder that is specifically designed to be attached to timber products, such as furniture, packing cases, and even trees. The transponder is stapled directly onto the timber and uses the properties of the wood as part of the antenna. Initial testing shows reading ranges as far as 9 meters even reading through the wood with the transponder on the far side of the object from the reader.

These developments are as a a result of the patented EcoTag technology developed by Trolley Scan which enables it to develop specialised systems for specialised situations, without losing overal system performance.

The new product will be developed under the Ecowoodtag trademark.

2 February 2004

1) Important RFID development - a new super sensitive receiver
2) Transponders on metal at 11 meters!!!
3) Portable reader with asset tracking software
Important RFID development - a new super sensitive receiver
Trolley Scan have developed and put into production the most sensitive passive single chip UHF RFID system ever developed.

With this system, it is possible to read the credit card Ecochiptag(TM) tag at an amazing 6 meters while only using 0.3 watts (300 milliwatts) of transmitter power!!!!!! On just 1 watt users can read tags at 11 meters.

This development uses 120 times less energy (only 0.8%) than that of the original Supertag version developed by a team led by Mike Marsh and shown to the world in 1994 with a trolley(cart) of 38 items being scanned at the Pick n Pay hypermarket in Pretoria South Africa.

The major advancement achieved in the past month have been the development of a new super sensitive reader that has been required as a result of the developments of the extrememly low power Ecochiptag transponders that are now available. With Ecochiptag RF power requirements dropping to less than 200uW, the reflected backscatter signal from the transponder was becoming so weak that it was not detectable 10 meters away in the presence of the energising signal at the same frequency.

The new receiver is able to detect the transponder signals from the next generation of Ecochiptags which will operate on powers initially as low as 200uW and with developments expect to drop to 50uW in the near future. However it is able to also process the older stronger signals at the same time, with a 55dB dynamic range.

Despite the benefits of long operating range and low transmitter power, the Trolley Scan has maintained all its important benefits such as wide operating bandwidth (50MHz for EU/GSM/US compatibility), multiple transponders in the reading field and 3D scanning.

All new Trolleyponder systems now being shipped will be fitted with the supersensitive receiver.

Users wanting to purchase systems fitted with the new technology can find details at http://trolleyscan.com/isosys.html

Companies wanting to produce this technology in volume under licence for their applications should contact Trolley Scan. mailto:info@trolleyscan.com?subject=Want_to_produce_RFID_systems

Transponders on metal at 11 meters!!!
One of the most frequently asked questions is how does UHF RFID work in the presence of metal?

Trolley Scan can answer that with the correct mounting of their EcochipTag, you can get 11 meters with just 1 watt of transmitted power!!

The secret is to attach the transponders correctly to the object. A research report on the matter is supplied with the systems sold by Trolley Scan.

Portable reader with asset tracking software
The development of the new reader has led to two benefits:- namely lower transmitter power (smaller batteries); and the possibility of making a reader system using only one antenna for both the energising signal and the received signal meaning a smaller reader. The transmitted signal from a passive UHF RFID system is about 1 million times bigger than the received signal back from the transponders. By having seperate transmit and receive antennas for the reader, more sensitive receivers can be used.

With the new receiver development announced above, it is able to operate in much more difficult radio environments, allowing the development of a reader that uses the same antenna for the transmit and receive function, and yet detects EcochipTags 6 meters away with 1 watt of power. This development has become the basis for the new portable reader under development.

One of the issues with a portable reader is what to do with the data?

Trolley Scan are adding a PDA computer to the reader to capture the data while it is away from the base station as well as to provide a human interface.

For asset tracking type of applications, by loading into the PDA before the checking a description of the tag identities being saught and a description, then walking around the location with the reader searching for transponders and updating the records of loaction and date, and showing to the operator a list of what is still being saught, a very useful audit system can be implimented. The PDA data is then downloaded back to the host computer and the asset register updated.

Trolley Scan are expected to announce shortly the availability of the portable system with software.

9 October 2003

1) Research report about mounting transponders on metal,wood,and athletes
2) Transponders for monitoring tampering of packages

Attaching transponders to metal, wood, paper and athletes
Passive UHF RFID systems acquire their operating energy from the field collected by their antenna, the field that has been radiated from the reader.

This antenna system has to be super efficient to give good operating range using the weak reader fields typically allowed. Trolley Scan, as leaders in low power technology, have been supplying for a few years EcoTag(R) transponders that need just 1 milliwatt of RF power in free space.

When a transponder is attached to a large object which has different properties from free space, such as an ingot of metal, block of wood, stack of paper or an athlete in a marathon race, the field in the vicinity of the transponder is disturbed and range performace decreases.

As leaders in researching and developing low power transponder systems, Trolley Scan have developed leading edge equipment for measuring the sensitivity of transponders in different situations. A recent research project looking at different methods of mounting the transponders on these bodies has recently been completed.

Among the results that have come from this project, are guidelines for attaching transponders to these type of objects. In the case of a metal ingot, with the correct mounting the sensitivity of the transponder can increase by 300% over that of the free space situation; that is the 1 milliwatt transponder displays the characteristics of a 333microwatt transponder, giving 170% operating range compared to that of free space.!!!

Copies of the report are included in the handbook for the evaluation system, in the datapack supplied to manufacturers, or are available from Trolley Scan.

Transponders for monitoring tampering of packages
Trolley Scan have developed a variation of their RFIDmodule transponder, that can sense that packages have been tampered with, and report that fact the next time they are scanned by a reader. In this world of heightened security around goods being shipped internationally, the transponder can be used to monitor the integrity of packages in transit.

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