OMRON's Electronic Control Antenna Boosts UHF RFID Tag Read Performance

3/27/2006 - OMRON Corporation (TSE: 6645, NYSE: OMRNY), a global leader in automation, sensing and control technologies, announced today that it has developed a new electronic control antenna technology. The technology is the first of its kind(*1) to be embedded in UHF-band RFID reader that can improve RFID tag reading performance. (Patent pending)

UHF offers significantly greater communications range than other frequency bands. As a result, the use of UHF RFID systems for full traceability of products has seen tremendous growth in the retail and logistics industries, mainly in the United States but also in other parts of the world. UHF tags, however, are subject to multipath interference(*2), an inherent problem of electromagnetic signals, which can make an RFID tag unreadable even if it is within the range of the reader.

To solve this problem, OMRON developed a new type of antenna technology that can electronically control the electromagnetic field emitted from the reader. By adopting this technology for UHF RFID systems, OMRON has succeeded in reducing reflections, thus minimizing the degradation of system performance due to multipath interference.

While an electromagnetic wave from a conventional antenna propagates over a wide area as it travels in a given direction, OMRON's new antenna technology allows a wave with directivity to propagate in any specific direction, with the direction of the propagation controllable from the reader. This makes it possible to direct the wave's direction of propagation so as to avoid objects in the vicinity of the beam that may cause signal reflections. The result is reduced multipath interference, leading to significantly improved tag read performance of UHF RFID readers.

End-user benefits delivered by this new technology include faster data transfer and more stable communications between the reader and RFID tag compared to conventional RFID systems. Moreover, it lessens the need for adjustment in varied system installation conditions and minimizes impediments to system performance.

OMRON's development of new antenna technology is intended to solve issues encountered by UHF RFID systems. As such, OMRON plans to conduct experiments for verifying and evaluating the validity of the technology for various potential applications, with the goal of commercializing and implementing the technology into RFID readers by the latter half of fiscal 2006.

Effects of electronic control antenna
With a conventional patch antenna, there are numerous holes in the electromagnetic field. OMRON's new antenna technology proves effective in eliminating these holes, which can disable communications. The charts below show the communications signal distribution patterns perpendicular to the floor for the conventional antenna and the new electronic control antenna installed 1.5 meters above the floor. The directivity of the new antenna was controlled in the vertical direction.

*1. First in the world to be embedded in UHF RFID readers, according to OMRON survey as of March 2006.
*2. Multipath is a type of interference caused by multiple waves taking different paths, which creates spots in which waves attenuate each other within a communications area. When reading UHF RFID tags, multipath interference often occurs when a radio signal from the reader is reflected off of nearby objects, such as the floor and walls, resulting in multiple reflected waves in addition to the wave that directly arrives at the RFID tag (Point "A").

Headquartered in Kyoto, Japan, OMRON Corporation is a global leader in the field of automation. Established in 1933 and headed by President Hisao Sakuta, OMRON has more than 25,000 employees in over 35 countries working to provide products and services to customers in a variety of fields including industrial automation, electronic components industries, and healthcare. The company is divided into five regions and head offices are in Japan (Kyoto), Asia Pacific (Singapore), China (Hong Kong), Europe (Amsterdam) and US (Chicago). The European organisation has its own development and manufacturing facilities, and provides local customer support in all European countries.

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