Mojix extends its wide-area RFID product for enterprises

Mojix has released a new version of its wide-area RFID tag reading product, now capable of reading tags 600 or more feet away.

The Mojix Space Time Array Receiver (STAR) 3000 has a range of tag reading performance improvements, better cost of ownership, a ruggedized radio receiver for use in outdoor and industrial sites, and an option to run the server software as part of VMware virtualization deployment.

BACKGROUND: RFID 'starter kit' is low-cost entry to asset management

Los Angeles-based Mojix was founded in 2004 by a team of NASA scientists and engineers. They adapted deep space communications signal processing algorithms for RFID, enabling a single, separate, highly sensitive receiver to read tags hundreds of feet away. The algorithms were developed based on their experience at NASA in salvaging telemetry data from the Galileo spacecraft mission after Galileo's high-gain antenna failed to deploy upon reaching Jupiter.

By contrast, most RFID systems have a tag reading range of 20 to 30 feet, or with expensive battery-powered tags around 100 feet, requiring portable tag readers or using multiple larger readers at chokepoints such as assembly lines, where product is loaded on pallets, or at shipping docks. The Mojix breakthrough was enough to draw $40 million in venture backing from the likes of Oak Investments Partners, InnoCal Venture Capital, Red Rock Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank.

The first product, STAR 1000, was introduced in Q2 2008. Customers include Airbus, BP, Dole, Kraft, Lufthansa Cargo and the U.S. Department of Defense.

The STAR 3000 has the same basic architecture as its predecessors. Customers deploy onsite one or more eNode Controllers, with a cluster of distributed antennas, now up to 16. The antennas transmit an RF beam to industry-standard passive RFID tags; the 16 antennas now can cover more than 200,000 square feet. The RF energy "wakes up" the tags, which in essence reflect back part of the energy, along with the ID and other data associated with the tag. In the new product, up to just over 65,500 eNodes can be deployed in one system, compared to 512 in the previous version.

Mojix's mojo is in the STAR Array Receiver, which uses a technique called "iterative signal processing" to sense the signal, manipulate it and read it -- consistently accurately -- over very long distances. Mojix has 23 patents related to these algorithms. The tag information is passed via a network connection to the Mojix Master Controller application, dubbed MCON for short, on a LAN appliance or, now, on a VMware virtual machine deployed onsite or as a cloud service.

A byproduct of the STAR's signal processing, is that it can also pinpoint the location of each tag. The Mojix algorithms uses space and RF polarization dimensions, in addition to the frequency and time dimensions used in conventional RFID systems. Adding these dimensions boosts the locational sensitivity, and it's coupled with STAR's all-seeing wall-to-wall or fence-to-fence view of the physical space to show tag locations accurately, according to Mojix founder and CEO Ramin Sadr. STAR 3000 can be used to combine RFID with real-time location services (RTLS) which typically has required a separate system, with relatively expensive battery-powered wireless tags.

Mojix also released native apps for iOS and Android devices. The apps let users access data on the MCON server, create geotags for assets being tracked, and add multimedia information to the tag, such as video, audio, barcode and text.

Mojix STAR 3000 is available now. Pricing varies widely depending on the scale of the tagging project, environmental considerations, and other variables. Mojix has partnerships with a range of integrators and resellers in specific vertical markets for packaged solutions for customers in those segments. The company claims to be "substantially lower" than RFID rivals with conventional systems.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: @johnwcoxnww Email: Blog RSS feed:

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