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Hybrid RFID Tag Links Worker Safety to Access Control

Extronics' new safety badge, which combines active Wi-Fi RFID and passive HF RFID technologies, will allow oil and gas workers at a Southeast Asia refinery to gain site access, as well as have their location tracked, without requiring them to carry multiple devices.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 23, 2018

U.K.-based technology firm Extronics has enhanced one of its active RFID tag models to make it a hybrid safety and access-control device for an oil and gas company in Southeast Asia. The tag is one of ten varieties of active RFID tags offered by Extronics, whose next-generation tag will automatically come with both passive high-frequency (HF) RFID functionality and active Wi-Fi transmission.

The enhanced tag, to be released earlier this year, is based on Extronics' iTAG100 (an Aeroscout technology-based tag) using active Wi-Fi transmissions, and has a built-in passive RFID tag for access control; it also includes space to store a photo ID. The enhanced tag will offer the same features and will be put to use by the refinery to track 8,000 workers, as well as provide them with access control and identification.

A mock-up of an enhanced iTAG100 tag with integrated access-control functionality
The company, one of the world's largest oil and gas firms, will be the first to utilize this technology and already employs Extronics' worker-safety technology at another site containing 1,100 workers. When it planned the adoption of the worker-safety system at the latest site last year, however, the company sought a hybrid solution.

Oil and gas workers carry a variety of safety and ID equipment with them every time they report for work. That can include personal protective equipment (PPE), gas monitors and identification, including photos, for the purpose of access control. With the addition of a worker-safety program, personnel could have yet another device for employees to keep track of. "The main driver is that workers have to carry so many things with them," says John Hartley, Extronics' CEO. The last thing businesses want to do, he adds, is to say to their employees, "'Here's another thing for you: a tracking tag.'"

In addition, the refinery wanted to ensure that workers would remember to bring the devices every time they went onsite. If the worker-safety technology were built into the access-control device, they simply would not be able to enter without it.

The hybrid solution was one the company was already building into its next-generation tag, according to Hartley. However, the firm required deployment before the tag could be released, so Extronics modified its existing active iTAG100 to include space for storing the picture and worker identification, as well as the built-in HF 13.56 MHz MIFARE DESFire EV1 RFID access-control chip. The chip, provided by NXP Semiconductors, complies with the ISO 14443A standard. The tag also comes with protection in the form of a TGUARD tag protector, to sustain the harsh environments in which such tags are often used.

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