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Energy Company Testing Passive RFID Sensor for Equipment

Once piloting is complete, the power company could opt to deploy Asygn's passive UHF RFID chips across the energy-generating machinery it operates around the United States and Asia.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 28, 2020

A global energy company is testing a newly released passive sensor tag that measures temperature levels—and, in one version, mechanical strain—then transmits that data to nearby readers via UHF RFID. The AS321X chip was developed by French technology company Asygn. A preliminary version was being tested as early as spring 2019, while the latest iteration is now ready for commercial-scale rollout.

The energy company, which has asked to be unnamed, is testing the new chip in an adhesive RFID label in France. If the pilot meets expectations, the company could opt to deploy the tags for passive wireless condition monitoring of its power-generating equipment in the United States and Asia.

Asygn's AS321X chip
The company has worked with RFID in the past, but it had not previously identified a product that could capture sensor data without requiring a battery, as well as transmit a signal in a highly metallic environment at a distance of more than a few meters. Asygn's chip can typically be interrogated at a distance of about 5 meters (16.4 feet), says Lionel Geynet, Asygn's RFID and RF project manager. The product was developed as a low-cost wireless sensor solution for the industrial, automotive, aeronautics and logistics markets.

Asygn has already provided its sensor technology for approximately a decade, the firm reports, but the AS321X is the first wireless RFID-based device that is entirely passive. The temperature sensor is integrated directly on the silicon. The chip can provide other sensor data as well, such as magnetic-based position awareness and strain. "The UHF sensor IC is now going into production, and we have our first applications with customers," says Nicolas Delorme, Asygn's CTO. "Our standard evaluation kit and samples are now available," he adds, with production ready chips to follow shortly.

The equipment for which the company is tracking conditions are large, highly metallic machines with rotating parts, and can stand at a height of approximately 15 meters (49.2 feet). The company tracks conditions in and around the machines at sites throughout the world, but there are some limitations in regard to the wireless collection of data. The energy company cannot apply batteries to the equipment, and it already has its own wired strain gauges that could be leveraged, though they require wireless connectivity to collect that data automatically. In addition, transmitting information from the equipment to a reader, often from a high point on the machinery, posed a challenge for RFID technology.

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