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Outstanding Products Featured at LIVE! 2015

The exhibit hall was filled with some amazing new products, but Zebra's MotionWorks, Phase IV Engineering’s strain sensor and Smartrac's moisture sensor were standouts.
By Mark Roberti
Apr 27, 2015

As I walked around the exhibit hall at RFID Journal LIVE! in San Diego, I saw a lot of interesting new products—from very tiny on-metal passive ultrahigh-frequency RFID tags to complete real-time location systems (RTLS). Three products, in particular, stood out: Zebra Technologies' MotionWorks sports solution, Phase IV Engineering's passive strain sensor and Smartrac's Sensor DogBone tag.

The fact that I am writing about these three products should not dismiss the importance and impressiveness of other products released at the event. But here’s why these three caught my eye and imagination.

Zebra’s MotionWorks is an active, ultra-wideband (UWB) RTLS that the National Football League (NFL) is using to track the location and movement of every player on the field at every NFL stadium. The system can calculate how far a running back carried the ball, the speed of a wide receiver, the distance between the receiver and cornerbacks in pursuit and much more (see RFID Drafted to Track NFL Players' Every Move During Games).

Ultra-wideband is different from other types of active RFID RTLS technology because it can identify a tagged object to within inches. Most other systems can locate an item to within 10 feet, which is fine for many applications. If, for example, you are looking for a specific parts bin in a large factory or an oxygen pump in a hospital, providing location data that gets a worker to within 10 feet enables that individual to easily find the item in the area.

But for some business applications, locating an object to within 10 feet just isn't good enough. Airbus chose an UWB RTLS because it needed to know precisely where parts bins, tool chests and other assets are in very large factories. During his keynote address, Carlo Nizam, head of value chain visibility and RFID at Airbus, showed a PowerPoint slide that had lines depicting the routes workers walked during a shift. Based on this information, Airbus plans to move a tool crib to a location that will cut the distance workers have to walk.

UWB has been around for a while, but it has been largely looking for applications for which precise location data is critical. The MotionWorks platform is one example, and I have no doubt soccer, hockey and other teams will soon adopt it.

PhaseIV Engineering's strain sensor is exciting because it will allow companies to get real-time information on the health of buildings, tunnels and other structures. The device, which has a battery, can take periodic readings and record the strain on rebar in a building, bridge or other structure. The data can be retrieved through the concrete. The battery lasts roughly 10 years, but the sensor can be accessed long after that, simply by taking a reading with a passive UHF reader.


Gorka Garcia 2015-05-05 05:04:00 AM
Hi Mark, could you please provide some more information on those "very tiny on-metal passive ultrahigh-frequency RFID tags" that you have mentioned in the first paragraph of the article?

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