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Nordic ID Merlin - Simply the best mobile computer on the market

It may be mere technological prowess, but the new Nordic ID Merlin performs like magic.

It may be mere technological prowess, but the new Nordic ID Merlin performs like magic. Our new flagship handset, Nordic ID Merlin took its place in our lineup of handheld computers in late 2010. It's faster, more powerful, more rugged and has 30% more battery life than its predecessor, the Nordic ID PL3000. Giving customers so much of what they asked for in one device comes close to actual wizardry.

 

Nordic ID Merlin is the result of extensive research and development based on customer demands. Every year Nordic ID conducts a selective partner survey to understand what customers and partners like about the devices that they are using, and what they would like to see more of.

 

"Customers are generally very pleased with our products, but of course there's always room for improvement," says Miia Kivelä, Partner Manager, Product Sales with Nordic ID. "What partners want with this kind of handset designed for intensive use is more power, more processor speed and memory," Kivelä continues. "They also wanted a brighter display, all in a super-rugged package."

 

It appears that customers got what they wanted. Processor speed and memory have both been given a significant boost to meet the increasing demands of applications that users run on handheld scanners. Java-based applications, for example, need to run a separate virtual machine on units, taxing processor speed and generally slowing the device down.

 

"The overall user experience is better with Nordic ID Merlin because the unit responds more quickly," explains Janne Mäkeläinen, a technical support engineer and RFID specialist with Nordic ID. "The way that applications are designed will impact speed, but regardless everything is much faster with Nordic ID Merlin, no matter what. The screen is also brighter, for easier use in full daylight."

 

Nordic ID Merlin is meant to gradually replace the tried, tested and very popular Nordic ID PL3000 series of mobile computers. Its capabilities are similar, but it's been totally redesigned according to customer demands. Like the PL3000, Nordic ID Merlin is a rugged barcode and/or RFID handheld scanner compatible with virtually all software solutions and capable of intensive use in the warehouse or stock room. Nordic ID Merlin is also based on a Microsoft Windows CE platform and is available in many configurations, depending on customer requirements for data collection and transmission. All Nordic ID devices are built to be backwards compatible, so Nordic ID Merlin units can operate simultaneously right alongside the PL3000.

 

"In the Nordic ID Merlin series, we have combined the best features of our top performing mobile computers, says Jorma Lalla CEO at Nordic ID. "The PL3000 mobile RFID reader achieved the highest ratings in all performance categories for an RFID reader in the European EPC Competence Center (EECC's) tests, and in fact the Cross Dipole version achieved the best value ever measured in an EECC test procedure for 'receiver sensitivity'," Lalla continues. "Now we have topped even that by packing all the best industry features into the Nordic ID Merlin."

 

The Nordic ID Cross Dipole antenna, unique in the industry, is the basis of one of the great advantages that the company enjoys over competitors. "It's a big selling point," admits Hannu Heino, Technical Director at Nordic ID.

 

Having 2 antennas in close proximity usually results in impedance, or wasted energy, as each antenna cancels out the other's power to a degree. In some geometrical settings, however, the mutual impedance between antennas can be zero. This is the case for crossed dipoles used in circular polarization antennas. The Nordic ID Merlin UHF RFID Cross Dipole antenna allows it to read further and faster than any other RFID handset available today, with less energy expenditure, but with high antenna gain and transmission power, excellent directivity and receiver sensitivity.

 

"Our cross-polarizing antenna allows Nordic ID Merlin to handle distances of up to five meters, extending all the way up to eight meters in the case of large tags," says Anna Nummi, R&D Project Manager at Nordic ID. The cross dipole design also enables the device to read tags horizontally and vertically-functionality that is particularly useful when you're processing garments or pallet logistics.

 

Feedback from clients has been highly encouraging. New products require a lot of testing, starting internally with R&D, then with product support teams and finally customers that have a passion for the latest and the greatest. To test Nordic ID Merlin prototypes, Nordic ID worked closely with several customers. "Everyone found that the processing speed was what really set this handheld scanner apart," says Kivelä. "Our customers have some pretty demanding applications running on their handsets and Nordic ID Merlin was markedly faster." Customers are moving to Nordic ID Merlin from the PL3000 for various reasons: the need for more powerful tools, a brighter display for indoor/outdoor environments, longer battery life and more. Applications running on the PL3000 are easily switched over without any changes required.

Nordic ID Merlin has been rigorously tested and developed to the point where engineers are confident of its ability to perform under even the most demanding conditions. It's also quick and easy to develop applications for the unit, no matter what programming language you choose. "There is no need to know how the hardware drivers actually work," says Mäkeläinen. "Programmers control them via MHL, the Nordic ID abstraction layer, which supports C and C++, HTML, .NET and other languages." The Windows CE 6.0 operating system is also highly customizable and does not require the use of a standard interface.

Nordic ID Merlin configurations include the Nordic ID Merlin UHF RFID, Nordic ID Merlin Cross Dipole UHF RFID, Nordic ID Merlin HF and the Nordic ID Merlin Barcode. But as our manufacturing facility is located only 30 kilometers away from the Nordic ID head office in Salo, Finland, we are able to turn out custom versions of the device in short order. In fact, our ability to respond quickly to customer demands is another advantage we have over competitors, most of whom outsource manufacturing to Asia.

 

A custom version of Nordic ID Merlin has, case in point, just been delivered. This space-aged device, the Nordic ID Merlin RFID Blade, has a specially designed external (removable) antenna that makes it ideal for use in libraries and laundries, where it can read small passive tags from a variety of angles with ease. For example, the Blade is capable of reading a 16-millimeter diameter epoxy potted laundry tag as far as 17 centimeters away.

 

Competing ISO15693 handsets are limited to a reading range of about 10 centimeters or less for most tags. For the Nordic ID Merlin, the average reading range is 20 centimeters, with a range of over 50 centimeters for some common tags.

 


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