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Junkyard Sees Value in RFID

The company is using TrazeTag's rubberized tags to track the whereabouts and processing of salvaged cars, and to trigger a video record.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 29, 2013

A U.S.-based salvage yard is attaching Etiflex's rugged radio frequency identification tags to damaged cars, and is using RFID readers mounted on forklift trucks to track the parts that its workers remove, as well as the vehicles' locations within the yard.

The tags, made via TrazeTag's patented process of encasing RFID inlays in a tough but flexible rubber casing, was designed for the types of rugged environments in which the majority of RFID tags can be the most challenged. One of the company's latest deployments is an example of that kind of rugged environment: a junkyard to which damaged cars are sent to be destroyed, stripped for parts or occasionally sold. For the past eight months, a U.S.-based salvage yard, which has asked to remain unnamed, has been attaching a TrazeTag Long Reading-Range tag to each car's dashboard via adhesive as the vehicles arrive at the yard. The tags, made with an Impinj Monza 4 chip, are interrogated by RFID readers mounted on forklifts, and that action triggers a video camera—also mounted on the vehicle—to record what is occurring. The video data, stored on a cloud-based server, enables the company to know which steps the vehicle has undergone, as well as where it is located.

The salvage yard attaches a TrazeTag Long Reading-Range tag to each vehicle's dashboard.
The TrazeTag is designed for durability, according to Leandro Margulis, TrazeTag's founder. Molded in rubber, the tag can sustain heavy impacts, Margulis reports (see TrazeTag Designs Rubberized RFID Labels for Abusive Environments). Therefore, he says, the clients that are using or plan to use TrazeTag's products are typically in the yard-management, oil and gas, or government and defense sectors. The tags can come with inlays from a variety of high-frequency (HF) and ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) vendors using NXP Semiconductors or Monza 4 chips for UHF, with a read range of up to 36 feet.

The junkyard poses a challenging environment, as the tags are surrounded by metal, and are exposed to extreme temperatures and water. The tag is designed with its rubber encasing to improve readability in the presence of metal (which can interfere with RF transmissions), as well as to protect the chip and antenna from water or other environmental damage. The end user's goal was to make it possible to better track each vehicle from the time it entered the yard until it was destroyed or sold. Most cars remain in the yard in storage before undergoing a scrapping process (if parts are removed to be sold) and ultimately ending up at the crusher, where they are then compacted and recycled. Junkyards typically track which vehicle has arrived and the processes it has been through manually, by writing down vehicle identification numbers (VINs) and recording where the cars are transported and when, via pen and paper.

Keeping track of the vehicles within a large yard is no easy task, since they are often piled on top of each other and are thus often not readily recognizable. What's more, the yards can be quite large.

In the case of the salvage yard using TrazeTag's RFID tags, the goal was to identify each vehicle's location automatically, using a combination of passive RFID and video footage.

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