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Taiwan's Electric Scooter Riders Get a Charge From RFID

KentFa Advanced Technology is installing stations where scooter operators can trade in their bikes' depleted batteries for fully charged ones.
By Claire Swedberg
The Taiwan EPA hired KentFa Advanced Technology to develop the recharging stations, which employ ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) and high-frequency (HF) RFID technology to track which batteries are exchanged and by whom, without manned assistance. The stations themselves were built with the help of Sysgration, a Taiwanese company that provided the racks that hold the batteries, as well as the mechanical and electronic technology that enables a battery's charge to be measured, and that opens and closes the doors of the compartments in which the batteries are stored. EPC Solutions Taiwan provided consulting services related to RFID's use in tracking which batteries were at which area of the machine, based on the ID numbers encoded to the batteries' tags, and the linking of those IDs with data regarding the batteries on KentFa's software, residing onsite at the station.

The station operates similarly to a vending machine, with each machine storing 15 batteries. KentFa has attached an EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID tag made with an Alien Technology Higgs-3 chip to each battery that it stores in the machines, though in the future, it intends to request that all battery manufacturers tag the batteries before providing them to KentFa. KentFa's software stores information about each battery, including its serial number, maintenance record, manufacturer and amperage, as well as the number of times it has been recharged and at which charger this took place. It also stores data regarding the scooter operators participating in the program, including the ID on the card each individual is issued. The station comes equipped with two RFID readers: an Alien Technology ALR 9650 UHF model to read the batteries' tags, and a 13.56 MHz HF reader to interrogate tags embedded in the ID cards. The HF tags and reader were provided by EasyCard Corp.. More 30 million EasyCard payment cards have been issued in Taiwan to date, and are used to pay for bus and train rides, in addition to other transport-related services.

A scooter battery
To sign up, a user pays an initial fee, after which he or she is provided with a full battery at one of the stations. The operator must also provide an EasyCard payment card, to which the company can bill that individual each time that a battery is exchanged.

Thereafter, upon arriving at the station with a spent battery, a user first presents his or her EasyCard payment card to the HF reader at the front of the station. The card's ID number is forwarded to software residing on a computer built into the machine, which receives the ID and links it to data in order to verify that the user is valid. Once validity has been verified, the door of an empty compartment automatically slides open.

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