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Tönnjes, Kirpestein and NXP Complete Yearlong Vehicular ID Field Trial

The companies found that a system combining passive UHF RFID and digital camera technologies could identify 98 percent of vehicles—including battle tanks—passing through portals at high speed.
By Claire Swedberg

Two Kathrein RRU4-ELC-E6-KRAI readers, four Kathrein WiRa-30 antennas and an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) digital camera for redundancy were installed on a gantry spanning a road located on OTCRij's compound. "We used a digital IP camera developed for ANPR applications," Renz says. "Besides special technical features—for example, automatically capturing images at day and night—the OCR software for optical character recognition is one of the most important components of an ANPR system." The readers captured and decrypted data collected from passing tags, then forwarded that data, along with camera images of license plates, to Tönnjes software hosted on a local dedicated server.

Many military vehicles are equipped with additional metal cladding, which makes for a hostile environment for passive RFID tags. The major challenge, Renz recalls, was to ensure the reliable identification and verification of IDePLATE and IDeSTIX tags.

An important feature of the tags, says Maurice Geraets, NXP Netherlands' managing director, is the security provided by the UCODE DNA chip, which transmits only its unique identification number after authenticating the reader that is sending it a signal. "Only if the reader is allowed to have access to the unique identifier," he says, "the chip will send the unique identifier, encrypted, back to the reader." Another challenge, Geraets adds, was to keep the power consumption of the chip low enough that it could operate without a battery. The UCODE DNA chip satisfies both the security feature and the lower power consumption required, he says.

The initial testing of 60 passing vehicles found that 35 of them were properly identified via ANPR camera images (some of the plates were blocked by trailers), and that 49 were identified according to RFID reads alone. Combining the data enabled the identification of 98.3 percent of the vehicles (59 out of 60). The vehicles moved through the portal at speeds of up to 150 kilometers per hour (93 miles per hour).

The total results—based on a year's worth of data regarding all vehicles passing through the reader portal—have not yet been calculated. "The results we already have were very good," Renz reports, "and, indeed, we are happy with them."

Several government agencies in South America are now also preparing to pilot the technology, Renz notes, adding that Tönnjes is currently working to implement a system using IDePLATE and IDeSTIX RFID tags at the Cayman Islands and in Honduras. In addition, two million IDeSTIX labels are already in use in Peru for vehicle-registration purposes.

Tönnjes has been developing an RFID-based license-plate system since 2012, when the company, working with Kathrein and researchers from the University of Bremen, first began testing a prototype of the IDePLATE on cars (see RFID License Plates: A Successful In-Metal RFID Application).

The next step, according to Renz, is to launch and extend pilots in the Netherlands. He says the research team hopes to perform additional testing on highways, and is awaiting positive feedback from the Dutch government agencies (such as those registering motor vehicles) that received the pilot results.

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