What’s New With the Zebra FX9600
The Zebra FX9600 is a fixed RFID reader that is offered with both a 4 and 8 antenna port configuration. The product is positioned under the Industrial – Rugged RFID portfolio. Although the FX9600 is a mature product with a wide variety of accessories and features available today, there are quite a few new offerings as RFID continues to be an essential component of many businesses operations.
Network Connect: EtherNet/IP
In manufacturing and supply chain environments, RFID is often times used in conjunction with PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers). Imagine a simple use case of a conveyor belt system that is verifying outgoing shipment orders. A diverter may be used to separate boxes that need additional verification. An RFID tag on the box can be used to identify the item and its associated information. When the RFID tag is read by an RFID reader, such as the Zebra FX9600, it can trigger the diverter based on configured business logic. In this example, the communication between the RFID reader and the diverter could be handled by a PLC.
A new software license (similar to the FX Connect) enables connectivity to Rockwell Allen-Bradley PLC’s and can be used for use cases such as the previous example.
Cellular Modem and GPS
Fixed RFID readers can be networked in a wide variety of ways. Some common examples include using a RJ-45 Ethernet cable and connecting using TCP/IP, using a serial cable and even using Bluetooth. However, as RFID continues to expand to new uses cases, there are a wide variety of applications where it is advantageous to be able to directly connect to a 3G or 4G LTE connection and use that to feed RFID data. A couple of examples include:
- Proof of concepts or pilots for projects where from a security and ease of deployment perspective, it is easier to collect and capture data without connecting directly into the premise’s network.
- Events where permanent networks aren’t setup – tracking participants in a race or attendees at a concert.
- RFID readers that may be mounted in a mobile environment – for example, an RFID reader collecting inventory on the back of a service truck autonomously .
- New enhancements allow to connect the FX9600 to a cellular network using a Sierra Wireless Airlink RV50X: Industrial LTE Gateway.
Using RFID on the Forklift
Traditionally, RFID has been used in the warehouse and distribution centers for many applications including receiving, picking, staging and shipping. Additional new hardware accessories for the FX9600 make it even easier to attach an RFID reader to your forklifts. These new accessories include a mounting bracket as well as a DC power supply.
In addition to obviously providing a simple method to attach the FX9600 to your forklift, the mounting bracket provides protection from shock and vibration for the reader.
The DC power supply allows the FX9600 fixed RFID reader to be powered through the forklift or other vehicle battery. The DC power supply is supported on all 4-port configurations of the FX9600.
900 MHz ETSI Support
UHF (Ultra High Frequency) RFID frequency ranges depend on where you are geographically in the world. The reason being that this frequency range has historically had other technologies in an overlapping range so different world areas have allocated different bands. The two most common bands have been 902-928 MHz and 856-868 MHz. (For more information on RFID Frequencies, check out this resource)
As RFID global deployments have increased, users traditionally had a trade off when having RFID tags deployed across various geographies. The first being having an RFID tag that is globally tuned so that only single tag could be used across various world regions. The benefit to this approach is that only a single tag needs to be used but the downside is that in certain areas, depending on the frequency tuning of the RFID reader and antennas, the range of the tag may be decreased. The other option was to have region specific tags. This allows for the most optimized read ranges but is sometimes difficult to manage as assets and items may move across geographic regions.
To address this, CEPT passed Recommendation 70-03 which allows for the 900MHZ bands to be used for UHF RFID in certain European countries. The latest enhancements allows for the use of the FX9600 in these approved regions.
RAIN Communication Interface (RCI)
The RAIN Communication Interface (RCI) is a common interface for software applications to communication with supported readers and devices. The RCI is a ratified standard by the RAIN RFID Alliance. With a simple firmware update, the both the FX9600 as well as the FX7500 have support for communication via RCI.
Latest firmware updates also add support for enhanced security, additional encryption as well as ease of use of the device. As an industry best practice, it is always a great idea to be on the latest firmware after doing the appropriate internal testing.
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