RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is automatic identification technology which uses radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to identify objects carrying tags when they come close to a reader.
RFID was first used during World War II to distinguish between ally and enemy airplanes (IFF: Identify Friendly Foe) and later was instrumental in producing anti-theft devices for retail stores.
In the modern Internet of Things (IoT), this technology is being utilized by many commercial operations to track and monitor equipment and fleet vehicles.
Mikel Choperena, of Farsens.com, is a technology writer who specializes in autonomous sensors and RFID. We recently checked in with Mikel to learn how RFID sensors work and how they're being used in service equipment and elsewhere. Here's what he had to say:
How do wireless battery-free sensors work? What are the benefits?
Our wireless battery free sensors are based on RFID technology. There are two main components in an RFID system: the reader (active) and the tag (can be passive).
In battery free sensor solutions, the reader transmits power and signal to the tag. The RFID IC in the sensor tag collects part of this wireless power and passes it to the sensor. The sensor then takes the measurement and passes it to the RFID IC, which then transmits the data back to the reader.
The main limitation of battery free RFID sensor systems is the read range. Since RFID tags cannot work by themselves, a reader needs to be close to them whenever you want to have a measurement.
How can these sensors be used for service equipment like tractors or construction vehicles?
There are many ways the battery free sensor technology can be applied to service equipment. For example, tires of service equipment such as heavy duty trucks can be expensive. Using a battery free approach to tire pressure monitoring can be interesting, especially when the fleet manager also wants to monitor temperature of the tire (not the ambient but the tire material).
What are best practices for using this technology in service equipment? What are the dos and don'ts?
The best advice or recommendation I can give is to always run preliminary tests with an open mind. Unluckily, working with battery free sensors can be complex in the beginning as your specific application may require lots of customization. A good preliminary test guided by experts will give you a good feeling of whether the technology fits for your ideas or solutions.
Tell us the story behind Farsens. What types of products do you offer? Who should be using them?
Farsens is all about wireless sensors with special focus on battery-free RFID sensors. Our proprietary RFID ICs have been designed not just for identification purposes but also to supply and communication with external devices.
These "external devices" can be sensors, actuators or any other kind of components, the main limitation being the power consumption.
What are the most exciting or innovative ways you've seen your customers use your product?
We have worked with very innovative customers. A clear example are customers who did not see UHF RFID read range as a limitation. Battery free sensors need to be close to a reader in order to work. However, many customers have decided to use drones with embedded RFID readers so they basically have a fully mobile RFID reader. A very good example is monitoring large agriculture areas for smart irrigation systems using battery free sensors to monitor soil moisture, ambient humidity and temperature among others.
What industry trends or innovations are you especially excited about right now?
Even though our core activity is RFID battery free sensors, we also use Bluetooth low energy, battery assisted passive sensors or even proprietary solutions in the 2.4GHz frequency band. We have noticed that the most innovative - and advantageous! - solutions come from the union of diverse technologies. The idea of using RFID embedded drones to monitor areas with battery free RFID sensors is a good example of this.
What are your favorite resources for individuals who want to learn more about how this technology can be used in their business?
For individuals interested in learning more about RFID in general I would definitely recommend visiting www.rfidjournal.com. They have lots of use cases of RFID technology in very different industries.
For those interested in RFID solutions including sensors, blog.farsens.com is a great source of information on both how to work with the technology and how to implement it on applications.