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RFID Will Make Buildings Smart

Low-cost, battery-free sensors can be embedded in buildings to provide feedback on the state of those structures.
By Mark Roberti

Battery-powered RFID temperature sensors are being used in some data centers to monitor the temperatures of different zones within rooms housing hundreds or thousands of servers. This enables companies to more efficiently cool these facilities. In the near future, low-cost temperature sensors could be installed in the walls, ducts and other areas of buildings to monitor heat loss, so the buildings could reduce energy consumption.

I expect, in the years ahead, that we will see chips that are able to detect mold—perhaps legionella bacterium, which causes Legionnaires' disease—and other contagions that can spread through air conditioning and heating systems. Trane, a large manufacturer of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, is already using Internet of Things technologies to monitor the health of its HVAC units. I can foresee a day when passive sensors in ducts will tell Trane if hot or cold air is failing to reach a particular area.

The key to smart buildings, of course, will be low-cost readers that become standard equipment in these structures. It's possible that one day, all Wi-Fi routers will also emit passive UHF energy and capture data from sensors in buildings (tag range would need to be much greater than it is today). It might also be possible to have low-cost readers that are affixed to ceiling tiles and powered through an Ethernet cable.

Some might think this is science fiction. I think it's only a matter of time.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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