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Can RFID Track Electrical Conduits?

Posted By RFID Journal, 12.16.2009
Our company seeks an RFID system that would enable us to place tags on electrical conduits, enabling us to track sections with an RFID receiver in order to better follow large conduit runs from beginning to end within large construction sites. Is this possible?

—Name withheld

Yes, it is possible. Special metal-mount tags from companies such as Omni-ID or Sontec could be placed on individual sections, each associated with a unique piece of conduit in a drawing in software (see New Mount-on-Metal Tag Marks Biggest Gen 2 Chip Order for TI for more information about Sontec's tags).

A handheld ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) reader from companies such as Motorola or Intermec could be used to identify the specific piece of conduit needed, and then for quality control to ensure the right pieces are installed in the proper order.

The two potential challenges I foresee involve the cost-benefit equation and protecting the tag. The first issue relates to tag cost. If you have to pay 75 cents or more for a special tag, and have several thousand sections of conduit, would the benefit of tracking each individual section justify the expense? Perhaps on a large project it would, if using the right section reduces costs and delays.

The challenge with the tags is ensuring that they stay on. Conduits bang around as sections are transported to a site. That might cause the tags to be knocked off. Additionally, the tags would be subject to harsh weather conditions, and might require special adhesive to stay attached. Another option might be to use hangtags that keep the transponder away from the metal, thus enabling it to be read.

The infrastructure necessary to manage the data on site is fairly minimal. Handhelds can be linked to a laptop onsite via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, in order to enable data to be pulled from a host system and transmitted back to the host system. I can provide contact information for companies able to provide tags, or offer advice regarding how to find the right tag for your particular application. If that would be helpful, feel free to e-mail me at editor@rfidjournal.com.

—Mark Roberti, Editor,
RFID Journal

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