Patent Says How To Improve RFID Read Rates: Turn Off Those Scanners!

It's hard enough to track inventory using RFID tags; read rates are low enough that tags are often misread the first time. It's even worse in a warehouse, where multiple RFID readers can interfere with each other. The Patent Office is offering one of those good news/bad news scenarios. Good News: A university patent claims to dramatically improve RFID read rates, which sounds like a huge advantage for retailers trying to manage inventory. Bad News: The patented technique cuts interference by automatically shutting down all RFID readers in the area except one.

That makes this approach useless if inventory employees are using handheld scanners. On the other hand, it could still work for warehouse areas with fixed RFID scanners that automatically check inventory. Rapidly turning all those scanners on and off could especially help with frozen or liquid items, where signals are particularly hard to detect, according to inventor Jagannathan Sarangapani of the Missouri University of Science and Technology. But how well the technique actually works in the real world is unknown; no RFID vendor has yet licensed the patent.