Impinj announced the full commercial availability of its new xArray reader, designed to track the locations of items or individuals in real time via passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) Gen 2 RFID tags. With its integrated antenna, the xArray reader can enable users to track the locations of tagged items or people within about 1.5 meters (4.9 feet), similarly to a traditional real-time location systems (RTLS)—but at considerably less cost, since passive UHF RFID tags are less expensive than the battery-powered active tags. Impinj calls the xArray device a gateway, because it includes a reader and an antenna, as well as software to identify the location from which a tag is read.
Impinj has established at least 30 certified partners to resell the xArray around the world, in some cases with their own RFID software. Many of these partners have already developed complete solutions that are in trial deployments or in use by customers. This past spring, Impinj embarked on an early limited release of the xArray, providing the units to a select group of systems integrators and end users to test and install.
The xArray reader
Eighteen months ago, Impinj publicly unveiled the xArray (see Impinj Unveils New UHF Readers for RTLS Applications, Embedding in Other Devices), and demonstrated the device at last year's RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibit, where the xArray impressed the RFID Journal Award judges (see Best in Show: RFID Gets xArray Vision). Since then, several retailers, health-care facilities, manufacturers and logistics providers have been testing and using the xArray at their facilities, in conjunction with software from Impinj-certified partners. (None of these users were willing to be named.)
The xArray is an 18-inch-square device with a built-in Impinj reader, which is an enhanced version of the Speedway Revolution R420 reader, with an integrated antenna array, explains Craig Cotton, Impinj's VP of product marketing. Although similar to the R420 reader, he says—including support for a Power-over-—Ethernet connection—the xArray has a more powerful processor and greater memory.
If installed at a 15-foot height, the xArray creates a 40-foot diameter read field, within which it creates eight sectors (each subdivided into six more read zones), as well as another read field layer immediately below the antenna, with a 10-foot diameter, that is also divided into zones—in this case, four. Altogether, the reader captures the locations of tags within 52 horizontal and vertical read zones via beam steering—an RF beam that cycles around the xArray's 52 zones.
Users can then employ a solution that would typically provide an electronic map of their facility, and the xArray location data would indicate where on that map each tagged item is located. The solution could also include an alerting system that would notify users if, for example, a tagged item or person was not where it should be, a specific type of product was depleted on a store shelf, or a component used in manufacturing needed to be replenished in order to ensure that the manufacturing process was not delayed.
The new readers, priced at $3,300 apiece, are available through a subset of Impinj's reseller partners that have completed some Impinj training to become certified xArray channel partners. Many are already developing and offering solutions, including American RFID Solutions and InSync Software.
In addition, Impinj has formed what it calls select partnerships with several companies to further expedite the xArray reader's adoption. Nofilis, one of those select partners, has modified its CrossTalk software to leverage the data generated by an xArray device, according to Martin Dobler, the company's CTO, and is offering CrossTalk to Impinj-certified partners that may then incorporate the software into the xArray solutions they provide to their own customers. The goal is to enable these Impinj-certified partners to go to market with xArray more quickly, instead of having to develop their own software to support the new device.