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'High Function' Passive UHF Tag Supports Built-in Sensors, Display Screen

Powercast Corp. and Vanguard ID co-developed the tag, which uses power harvested from an interrogator to energize sensors and transmit that sensor data back to the reader, up to 25 feet away.
By Claire Swedberg
Tags: Sensors

The High Function tag is designed for use under conditions in which tracking sensor data about goods is critical to ensure that they do not fall outside acceptable parameters. For example, perishable products may be packed in a container with dry ice. In this case, the High Function tag could be placed within that container, or be attached to its exterior, in order to monitor conditions inside the box. A reader's RF signal would power the tag, and users could view the conditions on the reader's screen and store that data in a company's software. In that way, if temperatures fell or rose outside the acceptable parameters, workers at a distribution center, for example, could be alerted by reading the tag.

An interrogator would not require special software to read the sensor data, Greene says—it would simply read the tag's user memory. "The data can be standard or customer-specific," he states. The software could then issue alerts to management identifying a potential problem, as well as which container was in question and, thus, which product was at risk, packed inside that container.

Vanguard ID encases the tag in a protective layer of waterproof printable Teslin plastic film.
In another use case, the High Function tag could be employed on machinery—within a manufacturing facility, for instance. In this scenario, the tag could measure vibrations and, when interrogated, transmit the collected vibration data that would indicate a potential problem with that piece of equipment before it actually failed. This, Greene says, would save the company the cost of having to shut down a manufacturing process in the event of a piece of equipment unexpectedly failing.

Retailers might be interested in deploying High Function tags with the electronic paper display option. The screen can display 28 characters or icons, but its size and other specifications would depend on an end user's particular needs. In this case, a tag could be placed on a store shelf, and could display data regarding a product and its cost. That displayed information could then be changed via a transmission from an RFID read event.

Yet another use case would involve biometric proximity cards containing a fingerprint scanner. The card's embedded High Function tag would utilize a reader's power to scan a user's fingerprint and transmit that data back to the interrogator.

The UHF tag can transmit a signal at a distance of about 25 feet using the High Function power-harvesting feature built into it. Vanguard ID also offers a version made with a high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz RFID chip, if requested, instead of the Ucode I²C chip.

Vanguard ID is offering a credit card-size version of the High Function tag, but it can also provide custom form factors as requested by customers. At least one firm is testing the tag now, Neves says, though he declines to indicate how the tag is being used, or that company's name.

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