FAQ - Systems integration with IT and PLC
1. Why do I need RFID middleware?
RFID is a technology to automate processes. Information is being incurred automatically and randomly (transponder data and other) and must be processed in the very same moment (real time). In addition the information has to be verified and conditioned in a way that conventional business applications (like SAP and other) are able to work with that data. Software that is dedicated to do this is called RFID middleware. It is the interface between RFID infrastructures and IT systems. It is not possible to connect RFID readers directly with e.g. a Warehouse Management System or similar.
2. What are the advantages of RFID Control Units over usual RFID middleware?
RFID middleware is PC based software installed e.g. on a network server. It is no real time system. Server downtimes may occur during e.g. maintenance. Normal PCs are not made for use in e.g. industrial production environments. Also RFID middleware cannot serve for autonomous RFID solutions.
A RFID Control Unit (RCU) is a robust, maintenance free industrial computer with a real time operation system and implemented RFID software. Here are the key advantages:
- The RCU operates independent from servers and operating systems that manage the business operation.
- There is no need to install RFID software.
- RCUs operate on location and allow setting up RFID infrastructures anywhere – independent from servers or similar (provided power supply is available).
3. How many RFID readers (interrogators) can be managed by a RFID Control Unit?
A single RFID Control Unit can manage up to 100 readers or antennas respectively.
4. How are the readers connected to the RFID Control Unit?
The readers are connected via TCP/IP network or serial.
5. How do I operate the RFID Control Unit?
The RCU does not need any operating, nor does it need maintenance. It is supplied with a PC based software tool called identVUE. identVUE is used to centrally set up, configure and commission RFID solutions. The configuration for a RFID project is then loaded up to the respective Control Unit. That’s all.
6. There is a lot of metal around in my application, can I use the RFID Control Unit?
The RFID software embedded in the RFID Control Unit is based on powerful algorithms that e.g. securely blank out unwanted transponder readings caused e.g. by reflections of the radio signal on metal surfaces. The RCU is especially helpful with demanding radio conditions. Another example is separating transponders that are located next to RFID gates – i.e. “static” tags – from transponders passing through the gate and blanking them out without need for expensive shielding efforts.
7. I need to use signal lights, motion sensors etc., can I do this with the RFID Control Unit?
Yes. Via the configuration and commissioning tool identVUE (supplied with the RCU) all sensors and actuators (I/Os) are configured and managed. The I/Os can be connected to suitable readers or to the RCU.
8. I am afraid of false readings as my dock doors are very close next to each other – do I need to build shielding when I use the RFID Control Unit?
No. Via the configuration and commissioning tool identVUE logical read zones are defined that make the RFID Control Unit blank out readings from a wrong dock door without need for shielding.
9. Can I use barcode and RFID together when I deploy the RFID Control Unit?
Yes. The RCU is independent of the auto ID technology used.
10. I don’t want to be chained to one RFID reader supplier; does the RFID Control Unit offer this protection of my investment?
Yes. The RFID Control Unit supports interrogators of renowned manufacturers.
11. In case a RFID reader is broken I want to replace it myself; does the RFID Control Unit supports me?
Yes. Every reader specific configuration is stored in the RCU. You can replace the broken device without need for configuration or programming (hot-swap).
12. Why can I not connect the RFID readers directly to my IT syestem?
Servers, PCs, ERP systems, etc. do not operate in real time and cannot process RFID data in good time. In addition when using more than one reader umbrella intelligence is needed for coordinating the readers and for allocating transponder readings correctly as e.g. metal causes unwanted readings through reflections.
13. Which host interfaces does the RFID Control Unit support?
The RFID Control Unit identIQ is very flexible and links to almost any system via the following interfaces:
- SQL/ODBC via PC besed service or gateway
- TCP/IP, UDP
- Universal C-API for customized software applications
- Optional: SAP via gateway
- Optional: SIMATIC© S7
14. How does the RFID Control Unit transmit the data to my application?
The RCU identIQ is connected to the superior system via Ethernet. Various interfaces are available (see previous question).
15. Can I connect the RFID Control Unit to my SAP system?
Yes, via an optional SAP gateway.
16. I want my PLC to use transponder data; does the RFID Control Unit support this?
Yes. Via optional software the RCU identIQ can communicate directly with SIMATIC© S7 PLC. MPI (Multiple Protocol Interface) and Industrial Ethernet via respective Ethernet CPx43 are supported. A simple project planning defines which RFID data like e.g. the EPC and the time stamp are transmitted to which storage block of the S7 control. During operation the selected information is then automatically transferred to data blocks and markers. No programming in Step 7 is needed.
17. There are “intelligent“ readers available, why would I need the RFID Control Unit?
Some readers have functions integrated for processing transponder data. However an intelligent reader is intelligent only for itself – it does not know of other readers within a RFID installation. This makes it difficult to handle false readings at e.g. adjacent dock doors (RFID gates). Also programming on the reader protocol level is required for installation. The RCU identIQ with its efficient RFID software is the top layer keeping the general view and generating validated data. It also integrates without programming needs.
18. I have only one reader; do I need the RFID Control Unit?
When there is only one reader in your application you may want to use the RFID gateway identIQ.mini. It also avoids programming or handling reader protocols.
19. Are there running charges for licenses when using the RFID Control Unit?
No. Depending on the number of antennas connected to a RCU there is a single charge for a lifetime license.
20. Does the RFID Control Unit need maintenance?
No. There are no moving parts in the device. The RCU identIQ can be installed next to the equipment.
21. Can I run customized application on the RFID Control Unit?
Yes. The RCU identIQ enables execution of individual software.
22. Would my individual applications have access to the reading results?
Yes. The RFID software of the RCU identIQ provides a Application Programming Interface as Windows DLL (C-API).
23. Can I connect the RFID Control Unit with my PLC?
Yes. There is a software option that enables the RFID Control Unit for direct communication with SIMATIC© S7 PLC (see also question 16).
24. Do I need monitor and keyboard for the RFID Control Unit?
No. RFID projects are set up and configured with the identVUE tool and uploaded to the RCU. However identIQ offers ports to connect a monitor and keyboard. This can be helpful with e.g. stand alone RFID applications.
25. What power supply is needed for the RFID Control Unit?
The RCU identIQ runs on 9-36 VDC. It comes with an appropriate power pack to connect to the 220V power supply system.
26. Can I use more than one RFID Control Units in one project?
Yes. You can use several RFID Control Units in one project.
27. Do I have to take care of receiving firmware updates for the RFID Control Unit?
Under a maintenance contract you will receive updates of the firmware free of charge. We inform you when an update would bring advantages for your application.
28. Why should I have a maintenance contract for the RFID Control Unit and my RFID installation?
A maintenance contract entitles you to automatically benefit from hardware and software improvements. You will receive quick on-site troubleshooting when required. Broken devices will be replaced free of charge as the fixed rate includes spare parts. Also any additional cost for travel and mileage can be avoided with a maintenance contract. The maintenance contract protects your budgets from unforeseen repair costs.
29. Is leasing available for the RFID Control Unit?
Yes. IdentPro offers leasing for the entire product and service range. Just ask for your personal offer.
30. What is the payback period for a RFID investment?
That of course depends on the individual situation. Usually the ROI with RFID projects is achieved in approx. one year.