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RFMicron Releases New Passive UHF Chips With Moisture, Temperature, Pressure Sensors

The chip maker says its chips can enable companies to inexpensively monitor for moisture in everything from car interiors to drywall and diapers.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 24, 2015

RFMicron has launched the latest version of its Magnus S passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID chip, with moisture- and temperature-sensing capabilities. The Magnus S3 temperature and humidity sensor chip follows the release of the Magnus S humidity-sensing chip in June 2014 (see Smartrac Group and RFMicron to Develop Passive Sensor Tags). The Magnus S chips can also come with pressure, weight and proximity sensors. Several companies are considering using the chips for solutions aimed at the industrial, health-care and automotive sectors.

The Magnus S3 temperature and moisture sensor chip was released at this year's RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, held last week in San Diego, Calif., and is commercially available now. As shipped, the new temperature sensor chip can report a temperature within 1 degree Celsius, via a one-point calibration, according to Shahriar Rokhsaz, RFMicron's CEO and president. The accuracy can be improved to within 0.3 degrees Celsius with a two-point calibration, he says. Several firm are currently testing it, as well as the moisture, pressure and proximity Magnus S2 sensing chip.

Smartrac's Sensor DogBone tag is made with RFMicron's Magnus S moisture-sensing chip.
The Magnus S2 chip is being incorporated in RTEC's RS-Magnus, a small on-metal tag that can be used to sense moisture or pressure. The company has begun providing the tag, which measures 18 millimeters by 4 millimeters (0.7 inch by 0.2 inch), for such use cases as tracking tools or metal parts, as well as the conditions to which they are exposed. RTEC can customize the antenna, dimensions or casing as needed, and also offers its Atom-Magnus and Proton-Magnus tags with the same sensor chip.

Magnus sensor chips utilize a self-tuning circuit known as Chameleon technology to provide sensing capability without a need for batteries or external sensor devices. Each chip comes with a 12-bit sensor code to report any change in impedance resulting from environmental changes, such as the rising or lowering of temperature or the presence of fluids. The chips are intended to provide a low-cost solution for sensing applications in large-scale deployments, for which users would want to capture changes in conditions by reading a label containing a UHF reader. Smartrac is one of the inlay manufacturers now building the chip into its products for early pilots (see Smartrac's New Passive Sensor DogBone Transmits Moisture Levels).

RFMicron, based in Austin, Texas, makes the Magnus chips, as well as full solutions for fixed or handheld readers. A Smartrac tag made with RFMicron's Magnus S moisture-sensing chip is being used by companies in the automotive manufacturing industry to detect whether water penetrates a vehicle's body during high-pressure water tests. Without the Smartrac inlay, auto manufacturers must use a more manual method of detecting whether water penetrates a car during high-pressure water tests conducted following assembly. Ionic probes, for example, are inserted in moisture-collection areas and are then removed and visually read to determine the presence of moisture. This manual process is time-consuming, Rokhsaz explains.

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