16 Aug RFID Journal Applauds MASS Group’s Development with Alien Multiplexor
Aug 04, 2022 – Companies as diverse as correctional facilities, schools and an entertainment firm are all employing a solution that provides real-time updates regarding assets, inventory or individuals via passive UHF RFID tags. MASS Group has offered its commercial, off-the-shelf software known as Traceability Made Easy (TME) for years, and the company recently expanded that platform to include Alien Technology‘s Nexus Multiplexor, so that as many as 16 antennas can capture RFID data with a single reader. This, according to Gamal Balady, MASS Group’s president, enables read data across zones without the high infrastructure cost of active RFID or numerous readers.
MASS Group is an acronym for Manufacturing Automation & Software Systems. The privately owned company, located in Las Vegas, Nev., serves customers in aerospace, defense, automotive, electronics, semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, entertainment, metal fabrication and the public sector, as well as food and beverage and supply chain management. One challenge that businesses in all these sectors face is the need for real-time data across wide areas at a relatively low cost. Thus, MASS Group integrated the Nexus Multiplexor with its solution, along with Alien F800 readers, as part of its advancements in RFID solutions for supply chain traceability, inventory and warehouse management, asset management and work-in-process monitoring.
Providing Uninterrupted Data Flow
Alien produces RFID chips, labels, readers and antennas, and it was among the earliest companies to provide UHF RFID hardware. By offering a multiplexor with its portfolio of reading products, says Terrel Pruett, Alien’s global VP of sales and marketing, the company is taking what he calls a necessary step toward ubiquitous RFID. “The IoT [Internet of Things] relies on an uninterrupted flow of data,” he points out.
The mechanics of delivering data to an IoT system can be costly when battery-powered sensors are used in active RFID systems, while passive RFID captures data only in places where an RFID reader is installed. In the latter scenario, real-time location capture can only be accomplished in a passive system with a large deployment of RFID readers, which comes at a high price as well. “The cost per read point makes an initial installation large enough to make a difference prohibitive,” Balady explains, “and that has been a barrier to adoption.”
Multiplexors offer an alternative, however. With the Nexus multiplexor, a single RFID reader can be connected to up to 16 separate antennas, which can broaden the read range accordingly. Whereas a single reader with several antennas around a dock door can accomplish data capture as goods enter or leave through an egress, the use of a multiplexor enables many dock doors to be RFID-enabled with a single reader. In another option, a multiplexor allows users to create numerous, relatively small zones in a space such as a warehouse or manufacturing facility, so that a passive UHF RFID-tagged item could be located within a particular zone.
MASS Group has been providing its customers and solution provider partners with its traceability software platform for approximately 20 years. “Our delivery point is less expensive than other software,” Balady says, “because it’s already tightly integrated with Alien’s developer technology.” Some customers already employ multiplexor technology to expand their coverage area, though in some cases, this required integration and additional configuration on the part of the solution providers or end users.
Addressing Labor Shortages with Automation
According to Balady, the demand for such wide read-range solutions has been growing. There are several trends underway that have been accelerating demand for what the company calls real-time inventory capture or real-time asset management. With regard to logistics and manufacturing, understanding where things are located, and thus the status of tools or goods, is becoming more important, yet it’s difficult to capture. A shortage of manual labor means there are fewer workers available to physically check what is available at a specific site, such as goods flowing through a warehouse.
In manufacturing or healthcare environments, the availability of tools is harder to track with a limited workforce. “In the past, a company could have hired a few more people” to count inventory or manage assets, Balady says, “but that’s often not an option anymore.” The COVID-19 pandemic and the onshoring of factories in the United States has served to further exacerbate the situation by putting more demand on the limited workforce available for hire. With the integrated solution, he says, users can typically select and deploy a solution using multiplexors, within about 30 days.
Read the full release from RFID Journal here.