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RFID a Treasure for Portuguese Trash Hauler

The waste management authority for Portugal's second-largest city implemented an RFID-based system to identify its trash-hauling vehicles, authorize their access to the disposal facility and monitor activity there. The system saves up to 10 minutes for each of the 400 loads that are processed daily.
Mar 04, 2009This article was originally published by RFID Update.

March 4, 2009—The city of Oporto, Portugal, is using an RFID vehicle identification system to eliminate waste in waste management. The municipality's waste management organization, LIPOR, has outfitted its trucks with passive UHF identification tags on their windshields, which are read at the gates of the city's disposal center to verify that the vehicle is authorized to enter. The automated RFID system replaced a process that required drivers to swipe a magnetic stripe card, exit their vehicles and present paperwork to an attendant. That process could take up to 10 minutes.

"Now it takes seconds to verify the identity of a truck and open the gate. That saves a lot of time that was wasted with manual, labor intensive procedures," Stephen Crocker, director of EMEA/India sales and channels for Alien Technology told RFID Update. Alien, Portuguese systems integrator Creativesystems and Wipro, an Indian technology company with offices in Portugal, developed the system.

Approximately 400 trucks each day check in to the facility, which serves 1 million residents in the greater Oporto region. An RFID reader identifies the vehicle and lifts the gate if it is allowed to enter. Authorized vehicles proceed to a weighing station, where the weight of the load is calculated, recorded in system software, and reported to the driver via a wireless connection to an in-vehicle computer. The computer screen also directs drivers to a specific location to unload. Unloading points are monitored by passive readers and verify that trucks are in the right location before sending the driver a message that unloading has been authorized. Trucks are identified a final time when they leave the facility.

The system features passive UHF RFID tags and readers from Alien and software developed by Wipro. Active RFID technology has been commonly used for vehicle ID and yard management applications, but passive UHF is gaining favor, according to Crocker, who noted Alien has implemented more than 20 vehicle tracking and yard management systems throughout Europe and Asia.

"There are numerous advantages in using UHF/RFID solutions in these types of vehicle management/tracking applications, including very low cost tags, consistent and reliable reads, and an RFID solution which is part of the global and open EPC protocol," Crocker said in Alien's announcement.

Magnetic card systems such as the one LIPOR previously used are still very common for vehicle identification applications such as yard management, check-in, and access control to parking areas, according to Crocker, but he expects passive UHF to become the dominant technology for these operations.

"The price of the tags is now so low that it is completely justifiable to use passive RFID instead of magnetic stripe or other technologies. Plus, because of the range UHF provides, drivers don't have to pull up within arm's length of a card reader, which reduces the chance of damage to the vehicle," he said. "In my opinion passive UHF will replace every vehicle identification mag stripe application in the world eventually, because it's less manual and labor intensive."

Texas Instruments is also active in the garbage collection market, striking a partnership to develop passive RFID-based waste management solutions last year (see Firms Want to Take Out the Garbage With RFID).
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