Tom Ellinwood | Co-Founder, President &
RF Controls has developed a highly innovative, first-to-market radio frequency (RF) system which incorporates patent-pending technologies, to yield a game-changing solution to the complex requirements of item identification, tracking and control.
Our innovative system is called Intelligent Tracking and Control System – ITCS®.
ITCS employs advanced antenna systems, complex mathematical algorithms and signal processing techniques, similar to those which have been applied to military target tracking systems; ITCS greatly enhances the utility of passive UHF RFID systems from nodal (portal) to zonal monitoring, covering a wide area (or volume) using strategically placed integrated antenna arrays, to identify, locate & track a wide range of tagged items concurrently.
Applications for ITCS span the identification and tracking of inventory, capital assets, tools, people, etc., with passive UHF tags attached to items to be identified and tracked. ITCS will also identify and track battery assisted passive (BAP) UHF RFID tags which are compatible with the ISO 18000-6C standard.
ITCS is best classified as a local area real-time location system (RTLS) rather than simply as a high performance RFID reader sub-system, because ITCS provides much more than just tag identification data. By installing ITCS “smart antennas”, you can “illuminate” an area (or volume) in which tagged items move or are stored, and achieve real-time, perpetual monitoring of an area of interest. For example, in a retail setting, you could install ITCS back-of-store and thereby achieve knowledge of what items of inventory you have on hand, and exactly where those items are presently located, leading to improved replenishment process efficiency. Add to this the fact that ITCS keeps a time-sequenced record of the locations of tags (tagged items) as they are read, and you achieve the ability to track the movement of tagged items, automatically. Hence our tag line Identify. Locate. Track.®
An ITCS implementation comprises:
- One or more “smart antennas,” connected via Ethernet back to an edge server – the ITCS Location Processor.
- The ITCS Location Processor, which manages the sub-system of “smart ITCS antennas” which are installed on a site.
Each “smart antenna” is an integrated microelectronics sub-assembly which performs the primary function of Signal Acquisition and Source Location (SASL®), so “SASL” is the name we apply to our smart antennas. A SASL module contains an antenna array, complex RF circuitry, an RFID reader module (transceiver) and a peripheral controller. Each SASL transmits low power RF signals into an area being monitored, and receives signals returned by tags in order to capture tag IDs, etc. The embedded RFID reader module is software programmable to support different air interface protocols. The reader module is compliant with the ISO 18000-6C air interface protocol standard and is certified compliant with EPCglobal’s UHF Gen2 protocol standard for interoperability. This means that ITCS will read any properly coded tag that is compliant with one of the supported protocol standards, and, looking forwards, we are future proofing your investment by ensuring that we can provide updates to protocol drivers via the network connection, as standards evolve.
Data captured from tags – IDs, additional stored data – plus location data is collated in the ITCS Location Processor, which runs proprietary, patent-pending software algorithms, to improve the integrity of tag location data. Every time a tag is read, 3D tag location coordinates are captured and passed back to the Location Processor. Collated and correlated data is presented to the user through a flexible Application Program Interface (API), which is compliant with the ISO/IEC 24730-1 standard. The ITCS API provides sophisticated data capture and reporting functions, as well as a suite of system control functions, such as controlling SASL scan characteristics, and the ability to describe contiguous or non-contiguous zones that the SASLs will scan.
There are currently three formats of ITCS-A-1xx SASLs, and the selection of which units to use for a particular project is determined during a site survey. As depicted in the ITCS Architecture Overview image, SASLs of differing profiles may be used in a “mix and match” fashion, under control of a single Location Processor.
There have been noteworthy, significance of advancements that have been made in tag chip technology in recent years, leading to higher sensitivity passive tags resulting in potentially longer operating range. However, with increasing sensitivity comes the increased risk of spurious or extraneous reads, the term used to describe a situation where tag IDs are read without quality knowledge of the location of those tags. A great example of this is adjacent dock doors in a distribution center, where spurious reads can lead to uncertainty over which tagged items are present at or passing through a particular door; see our applications pages for more details. In short, the more sensitive the tag, the more valuable and important ITCS becomes as a tool for reliably capturing accurate and actionable data. Click on the button below to see ITCS in operation, achieving accurate location of tagged items in 3D using just a single SASL.