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French RTLS Company Joins EU Initiative for Flexible Electronics Innovation

The SmartEE H2020 acceleration program will provide UWINLOC with nine months of research with partners and university researchers, to develop a small, recyclable RTLS tag for its UHF and UWB location-awareness solution.
By Claire Swedberg

Key customers have been in the industrial aircraft and original equipment manufacturing sectors, using the technology to track tools and small components around assembly facilities (see Airbus Testing Low-Cost RTLS from UWINLOC). Since the system was developed, the company has grown from a dozen employees to about 40, with an office in Toulouse, France, and an agent in Los Angeles, Calif. The firm is also in discussions with customers throughout Asia.

With the H2020 project, UWINLOC intends to design a tag that can operate with both UHF and UWB, but has a smaller footprint and is flexible and mostly recyclable. The inlay and printed antenna would be recyclable, though the IC would not. The company plans to work with a service delivery manager to focus on business cases for the product, according to Félix Zanker, UWINLOC's product engineer. The nine-month project is beginning now. "We've just finalized the administration aspect with Eurecat," Zanker states.

Félix Zanker
While existing tags measure about 6 square centimeters (0.9 square inch) in size, the company intends to reduce the electronics' parts size to around 1 square centimeter (0.12 square inch), enabling the creation of much smaller tags. It also expects to print an antenna onto a flexible substrate that will be low-cost and recyclable. The manufacturing process to create the tags, Chan report, will be designed to provide a low environmental impact as well.

H2020, Zanker says, "allows us to address new markets," which could include retailers of clothing and luxury goods. The development work will take place at Eurecat's facility in Barcelona, Spain, as well as at research labs at Grenoble University and Paul Sabatier University, in Toulouse.

UWINLOC makes fixed readers to capture UHF and UWB transmissions, and also offers handheld readers. In addition, the company provides an application programming interface (API) or software developer's kit (SDK) for customers to create their own software packages.

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