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Spanish Startup Focuses on Passive RFID Sensors for Manufacturing and Other Industries

Farsens is offering a wide range of batteryless sensor tags—designed to measure such things as humidity, temperature, magnetic field, pressure or physical orientation—that are powered and accessed by ordinary UHF RFID readers.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 19, 2014

Farsens, a technology startup founded by a group of scientists from the CEIT research center, is offering a portfolio of sensors integrated with passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags that enable the collection of sensor-based data via a standard UHF reader.

Farsens currently has nine RFID sensor tags that it offers commercially. Each tag features a passive EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID inlay that supplies operational power to the sensor with which it is integrated. The types of tags that the company offers include those that measure humidity, temperature, magnetic field, pressure or physical orientation, or that perform some other action, such as illuminating a LED indicator light. All Farsens tags can be read via any EPC Gen 2 RFID reader. To do so, a user must first input specific memory access commands into the device in order to download the raw sensor data, and then perform certain mathematical calculations to convert that information into the appropriate units (such as converting the data into degrees Celsius, for Farsens' Fenix temperature-sensing tag, or into gauss, for the firm's Magneto magnetic-field sensor).

Farsens' Titan tag—which features a passive EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID tag that powers an integrated relay switch—is available with a variety of antennas, including a wideband dipole version (shown here) approximately 135 millimeters (5.3 inches) in width.
The latest tag in the company's portfolio, being tested this year, is known as the Titan. The tag, which has an integrated relay switch, enables users to send instructions to the tag in order to open or close the switch's electrical contacts. The tag is being trialed by several electronic-equipment manufacturers, including another RFID company, Premo Group, which uses the tag to wirelessly shut down power to a piece of equipment when necessary.

Farsens was launched in San Sebastian, Spain, in 2008, by Mikel Choperena, the firm's product development manager, and an electrical engineer with a background in RFID technology; along with Daniel Pardo, the company's general manager, whose Ph.D. thesis at CEIT was linked to sensor-based RFID; and Ibon Zalbide, Farsens' research and development manager, another Ph.D. candidate from CEIT.

The nine-employee company develops technology that it intends to sell through systems integrators and distributors. Although it has multiple products now commercially available, they are currently only being trialed by a variety of end users—primarily manufacturers of electronic equipment. "System integrators use our [tags] to offer complete solutions," Choperena states. In addition to the sensors, Farsens has developed and continuously updates sample software enabling RFID readers to download sensor data from Farsens' tags and convert that raw data into units of measurement—such as millibars, for example, when reading the Vortex pressure-sensor tag—though most customers are expected to develop their own software.

"We provide the software for free for users to test the technology," Choperena explains. "When users want to go further and develop solutions with our tags, we can provide them support with reader software development for their specific solution."

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