RFID Sparks New Supply Chain Demand

If you have a dynamic information source, secure storage, an efficient means for retrieving that information, and an in-demand use for the information, then you have the backbone structure for businesses of all sorts.

If you can securely transport that information over both short and long distances without worrying about adding equipment or customizing existing infrastructure, then you are increasing the value of your business and potentially increasing your return on investment.

If you combine these core capacities with hardware sales, then you are poised to offer unique products and services based upon your enabling software and specialized hardware functionality.

If you can increase your information source reach and provide an ever-increasing range of services based upon your hardware and software upgradable capacities, then you have just epitomized the technological age in which we live.

Cost Saver

A multifunction RFID-enabled sensor product can be precisely positioned in the infrastructure 'plumbing' that wirelessly sends temperature, resistivity, and other key data indications to the control system 50-100 feet away.

A multifunction RFID-enabled sensor product can be precisely positioned in the infrastructure “plumbing” that wirelessly sends temperature, resistivity, and other key data indications to the control system 50-100 feet away.

Identifying opportunity
Products that do it all are the products that are in the highest demand. Once a technology base has been introduced, then all the startups begin creating products that leap-frog one another as quickly as possible to gain first-to-market status. The Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) technology is a perfect example of this kind of market phenomena.

Currently, I am considering a design that will require eight sensors that can be polled several times a minute. The environment for this application is not conducive to manual reading of fixed or stationed meters throughout the plant.

In addition, the equipment that is already installed and bolted to the floor with dedicated power feeds cannot be moved around to facilitate hard wiring from the control system board to the sensor apparatus. Hence, the need for a wireless application that can translate the polled sensor data into a binary bit stream that can be shuttled onto the Internet for remote, real-time, graphical user interface (GUI) type monitoring.

Enter a multifunction RFID-enabled sensor product (see image above) that can be precisely positioned in the infrastructure “plumbing” that wirelessly sends temperature, resistivity, flow rate, level, on-off, open-closed, and other key data indications to the control system 50 to 100 feet away. The appliance tag sells for about $110, but considering the cost of materials and labor to wire up a facility with multiple harnesses and routing conduits, the $110 price tag seems insignificant by comparison.

Value proposition
How custom is this piece of RFID hardware? This is one of those leap-frog products that uses long-distance, active RFID to meet a specific growing demand in the industrial applications marketplace. A “Universal Sensing Appliance,” made by Axcess International Inc., has a wire terminal block interface that can accept multiple sensor inputs that feed the sensor output to a built-in programmable processor.

When used in conjunction with Axcess’s software, the system can maintain a list of events or alert items, including their location and environmental conditions alerting the operator to movements or change in status. The company provides the application program interface (API) free of charge so a designer can link the RFID device output to a common control interface on the receiving control board. One device can cover up to a 3,000 square-foot area, so routing additional wiring or moving existing equipment to allow for custom wire and cable routing is a thing of the past.

The higher the level of integration that a product can boast, the more likely that product will be in demand. Using RFID as the data transport mechanism and providing the API for rapid design inclusion is making it possible to not only increase the quantity and types of products streaming through the supply chain, but also to enable the building of higher-level products and services that become the instigators of aftermarket sales opportunities and the creation of new businesses and jobs feeding into, and drawing from, the new product’s demand generated for the supply chain.

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9 comments on “RFID Sparks New Supply Chain Demand

  1. t.alex
    April 3, 2013

    This is pretty neat and creative idea of combining RFID with sensors. Huge cost saving, considering the fact that we may need to deploy a few tens of these sensors around an area. Wiring is troublesome and costly and messy topology.

  2. dalexander
    April 3, 2013

    @t.alex…What is your sensor application and what kind of sensors are you going to use?

  3. t.alex
    April 3, 2013

    At the moment I do not working on any sensor-related application yet. However I think this idea should be working well in the smarthome environment. Are you targeting this market?

  4. SP
    April 3, 2013

    RFID if used diligently can also reduce counterfeit components in supply chain.

  5. dalexander
    April 3, 2013

    @SP…Are you referring to Rules Based Management for RFID station check-in?

  6. dalexander
    April 3, 2013

    @t.alex… It is interesting that you mention smartphones. I think they can fall under the category of mobile devices in general. ZigBee radios have layered protocols that can directly connect to the internet and hence the mobile device. When ZigBEE, RFID, and Sensors are included in a mesh network, then the mobile device can be use to monitor any sensor remotely. And if connected in with the IP identifiable coordinator in the mesh, then the phone can issue AT commands via a HyperTerminal interface app and reconfigure the network remotely. Of course this requires permissions as the AES encryption security is in place. But if you wanted to look in on the resistivity of a tank of distilled water, then your smartphone could do the trick.

  7. t.alex
    April 3, 2013

    Douglas, I mean smart-home, not smartphone. But your perspective on smartphone is an interesting one. 

  8. SP
    April 4, 2013

    Yes Douglas.

  9. Daniel
    April 4, 2013

    Alex, I agree with you. Smart Home and ubicomp applications can use such sensors and RFID devices widely for data/signal collection and processing. I think anything with the tag 'Smart' may needs such sensors for data capturing and processing, inorder to automate the system.

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