The RFID Application Invasion Marches On

by Michael Liard | 06/28/2013

The potential uses of RFID are limitless. As prices of RFID tags and readers decrease, some RFID applications continue to strengthen this view of boundlessness. Perusing through articles of recent RFID deployments, three stood out for their creativity: Taipei’s use of RFID to rid the streets of manhole covers; Fleye’s use of RFID to capture extreme sports video footage; and Friedrich Dick’s Knifeinspector solution to track and manage knives and other meat cutting equipment while enabling worker accountability and compliance with hygienic standards.

RFID Has Got You Covered

Motorized scooters are a widely used means of transportation in Taipei, Taiwan. In order to protect the riders of motorized scooters, other vehicles and bicycles, Taipei has undergone a massive project to replace all metal manhole covers with driver-friendly concrete slabs. A key component to this project is the ability to locate the concrete slabs when access is needed. To solve this problem Taipei looked to RFID. Using passive Ultra High Frequency (UHF) RFID tags and handheld readers, Taipei has devised a plan to be able to find these slabs when needed and protect the safety of the public.  So far, approximately 35,000 of Taipei's 175,000 manholes now have buried RFID-enabled covers.  The major challenge from a performance perspective has been the weather whereas reading tags on rainy days, when the road surface is wet, has proven difficult. As a result, workers typically do so only on dry days. While much progress has been made since 2009 when the program formally launched, we expect the road ahead for nation-wide deployment of this solution will be long (pun intended)

RFID Puts Sports in Motion

Many ski resorts, and action sports facilities, have mechanisms to take pictures of guests mid activity. Cam Miner, founder of Fleye, was not satisfied with simple still images. Miner established Fleye in order to provide action sports athletes the ability to view footage of their performances. In order to accomplish such a difficult task Miner looked to RFID. Using RFID-enabled wristbands for athletes (the type of RFID used depends on the necessary read range for the sport) the participants can tap wristbands on conveniently located readers to trigger motion activated cameras to begin filming. The footage is then sent, via Wi-Fi or Ethernet connectivity, to Fleye’s database and then is uploaded to Fleye’s website where users can view footage of themselves. Sports are not the only target of this solution as amusement parks, concerts and other participatory events are being targeted.  In a connected world supported by the rise social media and networking, RFID is gaining traction.  Additionally, Fleye is attempting to develop relationships with potential content sponsors, such as energy drink and automotive companies, camera equipment providers or other firms whose brand could be advertised using the video solution.

RFID Cuts through Knife Hygiene and Asset Visibility Issues for Meat Processors  

Many professional kitchens and processing plants have hundreds of knives and dozens of employees. The high throughput of the kitchen area leads to a high possibility of cross-contamination, a potentially life-threatening problem. In addition, the knives and cutting devices must be frequently replaced and sharpened daily. German cutlery manufacturer Friedrich Dick developed a solution, known as Knifeinspector, to solve the hygienic concern as well as asset and process management challenge. Knifeinspector, using passive RFID, assigns each employee to a knife. Each time an employee enters a new area they must scan their knife to readers: the employee is only allowed into the area if the knife is registered clean in the system. The system is scalable and can support multiple applications and value propositions. Dick is integrating RFID tags in a wide range of the company's meat-processing products, including boning knives, sharpening steels, sharpening devices, chain-mail gloves and knife baskets. The system has yet to be fully deployed, but the installation has begun at a large meat processing plant in Germany. 

(A special thank you to Nicholas Reposa for his significant contributions to this posting. Mr. Reposa is currently a Researcher in VDC’s AutoID & Data Capture practice.)

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