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RFID Locates Pipes and Secures Meter Collection for Utilities

A South American water company is piloting IDMeters' passive UHF solution designed to locate pipes above or below ground.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 05, 2014

Uruguay-based technology company IDMeters is releasing an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID solution for use by water, gas, electricity and petroleum companies. The system is designed to identify meters and pipes (in the latter case, both below and above ground), as well as help utility personnel to conduct maintenance services via a handheld reader, and to identify and report any tampering or other problems regarding pipes or meters in the field.

IDMeters developed the solution—consisting of software, pipe and meter tags, and handheld readers—for a South American utility company over the course of four years, and the company is currently testing the system. In the meantime, says Enrique D'Amato, IDMeters' president and CEO, the solution is available for other government and private companies as well, to help them more efficiently pinpoint pipes' locations, identify meters and collect their data. The system also protects businesses against fraud, by determining if a meter has been tampered with, and by requiring employees to be onsite to collect the read data, thereby ensuring that the information is not fraudulent.

The utility company uses IDMeters' passive UHF solution to locate pipes above or below ground.
IDMeters and its sister company, Identis RFid Systems, provide a variety of low-frequency (LF), high-frequency (HF) and UHF RFID solutions in South America for government use, such as animal tracking and industrial applications. For instance, Identis RFid has designed and manufactured a handheld reader used in Uruguay to read LF tags attached to cattle and pets. Since the reader's development, the company has also created a dual-frequency tag, known as the Urutag, intended to enable the faster reading of cattle IDs via UHF rather than LF readers. The Urutag contains both LF and UHF chips and antennas built in, enabling an operator to interrogate the LF inlay at close range, move cattle through a portal or carry a handheld through an open area and read the Urutag's built-in UHF inlay, in order to obtain the same unique ID.

According to D'Amato—who is also the president and CEO of Identis RFid Systems—the Urutag was developed in response to farmers' requests for such a tag, to enable the use of a longer range read while still complying with the Uruguayan government's requirements that an LF 125 KHz identification tag be attached to every cow. "The UHF system, inside the ear tag, brings much faster and [more] accurate readings, offering the possibility to count many cattle on the run," D'Amato states. "This operational benefit is very important for the owner of the farm, allowing them to know, in a few minutes, all that happens with their cattle—something that LF ear tags cannot do." The Urutag is not yet is use, he explains, because the current government contract for tag use does not permit the use of UHF technology. Therefore, IDMeters is waiting for the existing contract to end, and for the next contract to be issued that would allow the Urutag's deployment in Uruguay.

Enrique D'Amato, IDMeters' president and CEO
Identis RFid had also developed a solution, known as Pegasus, which is used by government agencies to track weapons and other items that require a high level of security. This system includes custom-made software, Identis-designed RFID tags and Pegasus readers to interrogate those tags in the field.

Approximately four years ago, a utility company approached Identis RFid Systems, seeking the firm's help in managing its infrastructure of pipes and meters using a variation on the Pegasus system. The company sought to ensure that meters located throughout a wide geographical area (either indoors or outdoors) were not tampered with and were read properly, and that no mistakes were made related to the recording of meter data, such as misidentifying a given meter. It also wanted to be able to easily locate a pipe underground if such access was deemed necessary.

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