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Porsche Uses RFID to Track Prototype Testing, Improve Security

The car manufacturer is tracking which components are installed in its prototype vehicles, and is monitoring the cars' locations to reduce their chances of being seen by unauthorized parties.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 11, 2015

German high-performance car manufacturer Porsche has launched a radio frequency identification solution to better manage the development and movement of its prototypes as the new vehicles and their components are tested in the lab and on the road prior to being released to the market. The RFID system, provided by noFilis, enables the car maker to identify and confirm exactly which components are installed in its prototypes during each of numerous tests, while also tracking the locations and testing of its engines, as well as the parking and movements of the prototype cars onto and off the lot, at the company's development center. What's more, the firm is using a sensor-based system to track the newly engineered vehicles anywhere they go, in order to better manage the prototypes.

"Porsche needed innovative software solutions in order to improve production and application-management processes," says Thomas Grabscheit, an RFID specialist and senior project manager at MHP, a Porsche subsidiary that provides process and IT consulting services to the automotive and manufacturing sectors.

When testing is completed, a prototype vehicle is driven through a portal consisting of Kathrein RFID readers and antennas, to identify the vehicle's components by means of RFID tags.
Porsche's engineers work on its future cars at the company's development center in Weissach, Germany. There, once a prototype has been built using components made specific for that new car, the vehicle proceeds through a series of tests to ensure that it meets the company's requirements for speed, performance and other functionality. Some tests are conducted within a laboratory setting, while others require a driver to drive the prototype on roads, either inside or outside the facility.

The development and testing of any new car is a highly complex process, nowhere more so, Grabscheit says, than at the Porsche facility, where new cars are expected to provide the latest and best performance in what the company refers to as "the premium segment" of the automobile market. Each new car, he explains, is tested with multiple combinations of hundreds of components made by Porsche and third-party providers, according to engineers' specifications. During each test, components are installed in the vehicle, its performance is measured, and the parts are then swapped out for others, all in an effort to gain the best-performing product. Tracking which components are in the car for each test requires the writing of serial numbers and other details on paper or manually entering them into a database along with test results. Sometimes, if testing personnel are unsure which components are in the car, they may need to dismantle parts of the vehicle following a test in order to view the ID number written on each component.

MHP's Thomas Grabscheit
Porsche approached noFilis seeking an automated system to accomplish the tracking of components via this testing process, with no potential for error, after noFilis built a similar solution for Porsche's parent company, Volkswagen, according to Patrick Hartmann, noFilis' global sales director. The system, known as "Gläserner Prototyp" (the German words for Transparent Prototype), consists of EPC ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags on as many as 200 components, each with a unique ID linked to details about that part. The tagged items are installed in the car, and once testing is completed, the vehicle is driven through an RFID reader portal to identify all of its components. The portal is made with a Kathrein RRU4-ELC-E6 readers and Wide Range antennas, and noFilis' CrossTalk Agent software, residing on the reader, captures the tag data and forwards it to CrossTalk software running on Porsche's back-end server. With CrossTalk Agent operating on the reader, Hartmann says, the system continues to operate even if the local area network (LAN) becomes temporarily unavailable.

The company can also use a Nordic ID Merlin Cross Dipole handheld reader to confirm the tag IDs, in case not all were interrogated by the fixed reader.

Due to the wide variety of tagged components—such as intake pipes, air filters, airbags and catalytic converters—and their various form factors, the company employed multiple makes and models of RFID tags. Those included tags from Confidex and Smartrac.


Paul Drolshagen 2015-03-02 10:51:30 AM
That is indeed a nice application where RFID can show its potential. The floor antennas are supplied by IdentPro (available in ETSI only). Visit www.identpro.de.

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