The sun is almost up, its above freezing and it’s not raining.  It must be summer here in Liverpool!  Anyway we’re continuing our look at Rugged PDA features by looking at RFID today.  Remember this series of blogs is designed for the layman and it looks at the key elements when deciding on the best Rugged handheld for your solution.  We’ve covered off the main questions we’ve been asked about RFID and Rugged PDA’s the past few months here.

A background of RFID

People have been talking about RFID for years and years and despite it still not quite being a super-mainstream technology, there are definite pockets of users and it has in fact been around for decades as a technology.  It’s a superb ID and data capture technology and the costs have come now to a point where we’re definitely seeing more and more demand for it.

There are loads of different types of RFID which one do I choose?

Well to be honest most rugged PDA’s that have an RFID option, tend to go with the popular and cheapest HF (High Frequency) readers.  Within this there are various standards so you do need to watch out but HF is the one you’ll see most of these days.  LF (Low Frequency is older and more mature technology and still has its uses.  It has longer range and is less susceptible to problems from the environment it is in and UHF (Ultra High Frequency) is the one with the larger ranges.

Does it change the device size at all, I’ve seen RFID devices and they are big and complicated?

You’re probably thinking of UHF devices which give the longest range of all RFID technologies.  LF and HF tend to not change the form factor much in most RUgged PDA’s, either by way of extending them by a cap or a slight bump, but the best ones now don’t change the case at all.

What limitations are there with PDA RFID Readers?

Most of them are decent readers now, not all though so always test first.  Make sure you test a range of tags, or better still consult your reseller who should have a list of known reader/tag tests for you.  Don’t forget the readers are packed into tiny spaces in the cases of rugged PDA’s so despite the reader being great, the antenna can let it down hugely.  Again ask the reseller about this and test.

There are some obvious things to consider too like if you need to scan in tight confined spaces.  A Rugged PDA might be too large for you and a bluetooth option might be better.

What about battery power?

RFID is tough on the battery, so always make sure you test and check to see if the PDA is capable of running the RFID reader.  There are more and more smaller Rugged PDA’s taking onboard RFID readers but the size means there are definite restrictions when it comes to battery.  If you need a good reliable, RFID reader that will be used throughout the day then you need a big battery or a Rugged PDA with better Lithium Polymer batteries.

My tags work, my PDA should work but the solution just doesn’t work right.  What is going on?

This is a classic scenario we see here all the time.  The customer buys some tags, buys a Rugged PDA with RFID reader and expects it to work as per the spec sheet!  Sure if performance is not key then this is often OK, but RFID is empirical and you need to test a number of tags to check the partnership works well.

Do not use cheap nasty tags either.  Good quality ones that we can provide here are always a money saver in the long run making far better solutions in the end.

Lastly be careful of Rugged PDA operating systems, many are -10 degrees which we saw the limits of in the UK last year through the codl snap.

I already have a bunch of Rugged PDA’s can you help!

Yes, there are some decent options for you:

Firstly there are Bluetooth options you can use.  Baracoda for instance have a lovely HF reader that has a strong BT connection technology.

There might also be a snap-on for your device too so if you’re thinking you will be using RFID but not just yet, you could look for a device with a snap on option that allows you to quickly add the functionality later, still using the same SDK’s as the device.

There are a few Rugged PDA’s where the actual chips can be added later on.  We can take them back here and fit them for a small charge.

OK, so that’s the main areas covered.  Remember that RFID is a hugely complex technology and these Q&A’s will help you engage with a reseller but always ask the question and try to understand as much as you can because it will pay dividends later on.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of Raptor, his rants are memorable, his thoughts are stimulating and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things like mobile, Android, ruggedness, 3D printing and IOT simple.

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