Why Wiclax does not interface directly with raw RFID readers from the industrial market.

Jun 18 2022

We are often asked if Wiclax can interface with RFID readers present on the industrial market.

Indeed, it can be tempting, to start sports timing, to order directly online an industrial RFID reader, manufactured by Impinj, Zebra, ThingMagic, Alien or another less known brand.

But at Génialp, we consider that working directly with an RFID reader by controlling it from a PC is not a professional way to time a race.

There are several reasons for this:

First of all, we believe that a timing device should be self-contained and should not rely on a PC to be set up and to start reading the electronic chips.

Secondly, we believe that timing equipment should be able to store all the chip readings it takes during timing and should be easily interrogated after timing. This is essential if there is a computer or network problem during the event, which can always happen. It is better to have rankings with a little delay than no rankings at all.

To be well designed, a timing box must therefore integrate a micro-controller which will allow the reader(s) to be set up (reading power, antennas activated/deactivated, box time, etc). It is this micro-controller that will dialogue directly with the RFID reader. Depending on the reader, it may use a standard communication language (LLRP), or a proprietary communication protocol.

The second role of the micro-controller will be to communicate with your computer and more particularly with the timing software. This is where Wiclax comes in.
Each manufacturer of RFID timing equipment has its own communication protocol for the software. But there are always at least frames that send the chip number and the time of the box at the time of reading. In general, it is also possible to read the time from the box and set it from the PC. And of course, it is possible to request all the chips read by the box afterwards, in case for example any problem has occurred during the race.

These are the main reasons for not using a reader directly. But there are several others. A modern timing box integrates a number of other elements that make timing reliable and easy.

First of all, there is energy management, with the integration of batteries and a display of the remaining charge.
There will also often be an integrated modem router to send data directly to a cloud (either Genialp's or the manufacturer's). This is an essential element for remote pointing.
Or a GPS module to automatically set the time on the box.
And of course, on most equipment, you will find a man/machine interface consisting of a screen and a few buttons for displaying and modifying the box's information.


 Example of a fully integrated UHF RFID timing system (URTime - but there are many others).


On the one hand, we have the RFID timing hardware, whose role is to dialogue with the reader(s), to record all the readings in an internal memory and to send them in real time or deferred to the software.
On the other hand, we have the software (Wiclax), whose role is to retrieve in real time (or deferred in degraded mode) the raw information from the box and to process it to establish a ranking and broadcast it in real time on different media.

These are two different missions.

And that's why we don't develop direct connections with readers coming directly from the industrial market. It is not Wiclax's job to manage the setup and start-up of the RFID reader.
Nevertheless, for those who would like to try the adventure, we have integrated a dll allowing to establish an LLRP connection with RFID readers. You will find a dedicated acquisition type in the software.
In conclusion, we invite you to discover the offers of the major integrators in the market.
They bring years of experience and will probably not cost more than your own R&D.
We are talking about experience. We developed our own low frequency system with Texas Instruments drives many years ago. We were happy to use fully integrated systems afterwards!