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Norwegian Truck-Body Manufacturer Offers RFID-enabled Trailers

One of Bussbygg's customers is using two RFID-enabled refrigerated trailers in an ongoing trial, and finds that the technology shortens the delivery of goods by 30 minutes per stop, while preventing errors.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 17, 2015

Norwegian truck and semi-trailer body works company Bussbygg has teamed with transport firm Fosen Transport and RFID provider HRAFN for an ongoing trial of an RFID-enabled refrigerated trailer and cloud-based software system that tracks the locations of palletized products within a truck's cargo area or the trailer hitched to that vehicle, and also ensures that the pallets are delivered to the correct customer.

Bussbygg makes and sells 250 custom fiberglass refrigerated trailers annually. The company says its trailers cost more than traditional metal trailers commonly used in other parts of Europe, but offer higher value since the fiberglass provides better insulation to keep the cold products inside the trailer cold. Fiberglass trailers offer another advantage, the company has found: They are more compatible with radio frequency identification technology. Metal trailers reflect the transmissions of ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID readers and, therefore, makes RFID use challenging. What's more, installing RFID antennas inside a metal trailer means attaching each antenna to the interior wall, which compromises the space inside and also leaves antennas vulnerable to being knocked loose or damaged.

As Coop Norge workers load goods into one of the RFID-enabled trailers, its built-in reader and antennas capture each pallet's tag ID and links that data with the trailer's GPS location.
"We were happy when [HRAFN] contacted us about RFID," says Toril Hovdenak, Bussbygg's CEO. "We had already thought RFID was part of our future, but we weren't sure how we would use it. What makes this a perfect match is that we don't use a lot of metals in our products."

Bussbygg began working with HRAFN to install an RFID reader antenna array directly within a trailer wall's fiberglass layers, says Geir Vevle, HRAFN's CTO, so that the antennas are not visible and do not compromise the trailer interior. The only modification Bussbygg had to make, Hovdenak says, was to replace the aluminum reinforcements inside the trailer with others made of fiberglass. HRAFN also installed reflectors behind the antennas to ensure that RF radiation stays focused inside the trailer.

Fosen Transport, one of Bussbygg's larger customers, acquired two of the RFID-enabled trailers and has since been piloting them to determine what data can be collected as the two trucks transport goods to one of its retailer customers, Coop Norge.

The system employs a CAEN RFID R4300P Ion UHF RFID reader with an integrated GPRS modem, along with a GPS device that plugs into the reader's USB port. The reader was installed in the front of the container near the refrigeration unit. More than 10 antennas were embedded in the walls (HRAFN declines to reveal the exact number) with half on each side, spaced across the length of the trailer at multiple locations—one on the floor and a second one above that at about 120 centimeters (47 inches). The reader operates each antenna sequentially, via an antenna multiplexer provided by Keonn, and sends the collected read data to HRAFN's cloud-based Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) software whenever there is a GPRS connection.

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