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Passive UHF Sensor Tags Will Help Drive RFID Growth

The radio frequency identification industry has moved from technology demonstration to mass implementation, allowing for new breakthrough solutions, such as battery-free sensors, to emerge.
By Mikel Choperena
Jun 23, 2013

Those of us who have been close to the radio frequency identification industry for some time have gotten used to hearing that RFID was booming year after year, only to see adoption fail to grow as initially expected. As is not uncommon for many other technologies, RFID has gone through hypes and has faced criticism. We have all attended many RFID-related conferences and events at which manufacturers' main focus has been to demonstrate technology feasibility to RFID strangers.

A walk around the RFID Journal LIVE! 2013 conference and exhibition provided a clear indication that those days are now over. End users no longer talked about the technical performance of readers or tags, but about how to best use the technology for their businesses. This, of course, has been a gradual change, like that of most successful breakthrough technologies.

The United States has contributed to the current status with high-volume RFID deployments, while Europe has opted for slower adoption in a wider variety of industries and solutions. This growth has resulted in a technology maturity that is slowly transforming into successful business.

Along with technology maturity, the RFID industry has begun providing new solutions to meet technological challenges. As clear examples, passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags that can be attached to metal are already very robust, and new solutions for liquid are also being announced. What's more, new real-time location system (RTLS) technologies are being developed with sharper accuracies, and smaller form-factor antennas are being deployed.

However, there is one idea that started a long time ago, the development of which had completely halted for some time: wireless passive sensors. We have witnessed very interesting solutions involving wireless sensor networks with active tags using such technologies as ZigBee or Bluetooth, and there are some pretty advanced solutions available with battery-assisted passive technology as well. Energy-harvesting systems are also being developed, though they still require some development time before they can be widely used. Passive low-frequency (LF) and high-frequency (HF) RFID sensors are actually being utilized in a number of applications, but these have a big disadvantage: Their communication range is just a few millimeters.

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