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Orbit One Launches Satellite-Based RFID Service

The company's battery-powered RFID tags transmit GPS and sensor data via a constellation of low earth orbit satellites, enabling users to know an asset's exact location and status at all times.
By Beth Bacheldor
Feb 07, 2008Orbit One, a long-time provider of satellite solutions for emergency and disaster response, has introduced a new service leveraging a proprietary active RFID tag that communicates with low earth orbit (LEO) satellites. The service, known as Global-RFID, or G-RFID, is designed to give companies in-transit visibility and tracking of cargo containers, generators and other high-value assets.

"Our technology was originally developed for emergency response and disaster response situations," says Gary Naden, CTO for Orbit One, a division of Numerex, an Atlanta-based provider of fixed and mobile machine-to-machine wireless solutions and network services. "We've taken that technology and put it through, from scratch, a new design process."


G-RFID's active tag, the SX1, includes a field-replaceable lithium battery, an internal motion sensor and an integrated GPS chipset.
G-RFID's active tag, the SX1, includes a field-replaceable lithium battery, an internal motion sensor and an integrated GPS chipset, in a rugged plastic case measuring 7.25 by 3.25 inches and weighing 13 ounces. Through a serial USB port, the SX1 can accommodate up to eight external sensors, such as those measuring temperature or light exposure, that can be used to alert companies to environmental conditions, or to any tampering their assets might encounter. A sensor might detect when light hits it, for instance, indicating that a container has been opened.

The SX1 can be easily attached to an asset using double-stick tape or other peel-and-stick mounting options, Naden says, and it can also be screwed on or attached with a mounting sled. For the tag to communicate with the satellites, however, it can not be inside an object, such as a cargo container, railcar, building or ship's hold.

"As with any GPS device, the more sky it can see, the better it can acquire a fix," Naden explains. "That being said, we do have customers who are making the performance tradeoff to mount the device vertically, such as on the door of a container. The tradeoff is seeing half the sky, which impacts GPS search time and satellite transmit success rate. For those customers, it is better to see the tag on the asset, access it easier when necessary, and have it operating when stacked. This is possible due to the LEO satellite use. If we were shooting at GEO satellites, it would absolutely need to be on the top, in clear view of the sky, to always have line of sight to the stationary satellite."

Printed on each tag is a bar-code representation of its unique ID number. When a company receives the tag and is ready to affix it to an asset, employees can scan the bar code to populate the company's database, thus creating a correlation between the asset and the bar code and tag ID number.

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