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Taiwanese Agency Tests a Broad Range of RFID Uses

The Initiative Office for Government RFID Applications is presently studying RFID's ability to track the whereabouts of hikers, the harvesting and shipment of mushrooms, the processing of mangos and the injection of medication.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 09, 2008The Initiative Office for Government RFID Applications, part of Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), has been conducting a series of projects intended to drive the use of RFID technology in major sectors throughout that nation. The agency has already completed seven RFID studies in the past two years, and is currently conducting five more, involving the use of RFID to track legal evidence, chemotherapy drugs, mushroom harvesting and shipment, hikers on a forest trail and duty-free shopping.

The initiative first launched in 2006, when the MOEA Industry Strategy Review Board began considering how RFID technology might benefit the Taiwanese government and commercial sectors, and how to spur RFID pilot programs throughout the country. "At the time [2006], there was a lot of interest in RFID," says Jimmy Li, deputy director of MOEA's Initiative Office for Government RFID Applications. MOEA entered talks with numerous industries, he says, "and the conclusion we came to was that the government could help by testing applications first." The newly formed Initiative Office for Government RFID Applications committed to four or five six-month RFID-related studies, annually, of a variety of applications that would provide sufficient insight to lead to commercial and government-led pilots.

Jimmy Li
The agency focuses on RFID use in five areas, Li says: medical, seaport cargo, airline cargo, food safety and the "living environment" or daily life improvement. The objective in many of these cases, he notes, is to focus more on safety improvements than on financial benefits, and to conduct feasibility and proof-of-concept studies with three stages—assessing hardware, putting the pieces together and operating them, then testing the technology in the field.

In 2006, a group consisting of the Initiative Office's RFID researchers, as well as mango producers and shippers, launched a project to study the use of RFID to track the fruits' processing and shipment for export. The group attached EPC Gen 2 passive UHF tags to crates of fresh mangos destined for Japan's high-end consumer market. The participants read the tags on mango-filled crates prior to placing them in steam ovens to kill any insects, then read the tags once more before the crates were shipped to Japan. The goal was to test whether tags could be read at several points in the supply chain, including at the time of packing and after the mangos and tags had gone through the rigors of steam ovens. According to Li, researchers were able to prove the tags would function properly after being heated in the ovens.

The second 2006 study pertained to labor safety, and involved tracking employees' movement at a paper mill in Taiwan. Participants carried active 433 MHz RFID tags, while interrogators were placed at locations where workers' movements needed to be regulated. This application, Li says, would be of importance for manufacturers where outside contractors often pass through the facilities. Their presence, he explains, must be monitored to ensure they are in the proper location in the facility at the designated times. The researchers proved the hardware worked in this scenario, Li says, and that data could be collected and accessed on a server for review by, for instance, the factory management.

A third application in 2006 involved the study of RFID on large steel beams used in building construction. In this case, government employees placed EPC Gen 2 tags on the beams at a government-owned construction site, then read them consecutively as they were used in building construction. By tracking the sequence of unique RFID tag numbers, the research proved constructors could employ the technology to ensure building material is utilized in the appropriate sequence.

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