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RFID Breaks Speed Records for Tolling Solution

Kathrein and Tönnjes used a German racetrack to test and demonstrate the effectiveness of UHF RFID tag reads at speeds greater than 220 kilometers per hour, utilizing Kathrein's readers and software and Tönnjes' IDePLATE tags.
By Claire Swedberg

Initially, says Jochen Betz, Tönnjes' managing director, the tags could be read at a speed of 130 kilometers per hour. However, that wasn't fast enough for every application, since vehicles travel faster than that on many European roadways—especially if they are trying to elude a toll-collection system.

Last year, the two technology firms worked together on firmware updates and antenna configuration in order to boost read effectiveness. At the time, Kathrein's readers were able to accomplish tag reads when the Tönnjes tags were moving at 160 kilometers per hour. With further engineering, Betz reports, they raised that speed to a maximum of about 220 kilometers per hour. "Our focus is the mandatory introduction of RFID as part of registration," he states. Several motor-vehicle agencies in Peru, the Cayman Islands, Kenya and the Philippines have already deployed the system, while other agencies are currently in pilots.

Kathrein's Thomas Brunner
Launching a nationwide solution is a large-scale, multiple-year project, Betz notes. It requires building up reader infrastructure across a country, while also enabling that nation's motor vehicle or transportation agency to distribute tags to drivers as they have their vehicles registered. Most such agencies are focused on initially using the technology for toll collection, but the license plates, with integrated tags, also provide electronic identification. Some countries are looking at expanding the use case to access control or fueling stations, Brunner says, adding, "So going forward, applications are as many as you can imagine."

In addition, Kathrein is providing a hybrid solution that combines optical and RFID technologies. Such a system could capture the tag ID number of a vehicle moving past an RFID reader, while taking a picture of both the license plate and the vehicle. Such a hybrid system, utilizing cameras and RFID readers, is being rolled out in Egypt, Brunner says. Coupling cameras with readers enables the gradual transition to RFID systems, he explains, with the cameras being used to identify license plates that don't yet have RFID tags attached to them.

Tönnjes's Jochen Betz
"It can be important to combine the two technologies," Brunner states, "and to add the features each offers." For instance, RFID cannot identify a vehicle's color, but with camera data, software could be employed to recognize if a car did not match the description of the particular vehicle for which its tag was intended. In that way, the technology could potentially identify stolen vehicles.

This was the first time the technology has been demonstrated with motorcycles, trucks and cars in front of a large audience, the companies report. The technology firms are now setting up a pilot with one country's agency that was present for the demo, and they are following up with other attendees as well. The companies aim not only to attract new customers, but to help existing customers expand their use cases. "We'd like to see applications that build on the technology already in use by our existing customers," Betz says. "Events like the racetrack demonstration are excellent for that." The technology is typically installed by systems integrators.

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