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Passive RFID Tracks Conditions for Construction, Smart Buildings

Smartrac and SensThys have partnered to develop a moisture-, humidity- and temperature-sensing solution that is being piloted for roof leak detection and concrete curing; the technology companies are also selling a starter kit for a variety of use cases.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 11, 2019

SensThys and Smartrac Technology Group are releasing a new solution that employs SensThys's UHF RFID readers and software algorithms with Smartrac's moisture-, humidity- and temperature-sensing RFID inlays and tags. The partnership is intended to bring passive RFID sensing into commercial applications at an affordable price.

The solution is initially focused on the construction and smart building markets, for use in leak detection and concrete curing. Currently, SensThys is piloting the system with an unnamed company on its large, flat roof. Smartrac's sensor tags are embedded in sections of the roof to enable the detection of water leaks, while the solution is also being tested to help determine when concrete is fully cured.

The SensX Extreme reader
The tags can be used in common building materials, such as gypsum board, insulation, roofing, flooring and concrete. SensThys is employing its own SensX Extreme reader with an array of sweeping sensors, such as an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a barometric pressure sensor, GPS technology and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-based beacons. In addition to tracking sensor data, the RFID tags can aid those in the construction industry by providing location data, according to Neil Mitchell, SenThys's VP of sales and marketing.

Smartrac launched its first such tag, the Sensor Dogbone, in February 2015. At the time, the company claims, this was the industry's first passive RAIN RFID moisture-sensing inlay. "The product resulted from our cooperation with sensor specialist RFMicron [now Axzon]," says Bill Barr, Smartrac's VP of global product and partner services. The inlay employs Axzon's Magnus S2 IC and was specially designed to measure moisture conditions in industrial environments

In May 2016, Smartrac took the Sensor Temperature Dogbone to market based on the Magnus S3 IC. The tag was designed for use in cold chain management, as well as for the grocery and agriculture sectors. "In general, our sensor inlays are intended to serve multiple markets," Barr says, such as industrial, logistics, perishables, automotive, health care, construction and smart buildings. "It's all about improved product management and quality control. Passive sensor inlays provide great performance at a very reasonable cost level."

Since the company's first sensor labels were developed, Barr says, they have been qualified by several global industrial, construction and automotive companies for their production, manufacturing and logistics processes. Most of the applications for the tags to date have leveraged standard fixed readers, while some also employ handheld models. Readers require some software algorithms to capture and interpret the sensor data, along with an Electronic Product Code (EPC) number. SensThys has been developing readers, software and solutions for some of its customers, says Jo Major, the firm's CEO, which are designed to interrogate the sensor tags relatively quickly. SensThys's software algorithm is designed to manage the sensor data, he adds.

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