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RFID Paves the Way for Road Construction

Road crews are piloting an application using battery-assisted UHF tags to track asphalt from the time it leaves the plant to when it arrives at a work site.
By Beth Bacheldor
Mar 04, 2008Minds Inc., a provider of information technologies and advanced automation systems for the hot-mix asphalt industry, has introduced a new application that employs RFID to track hot-mix asphalt from the time it leaves the plant to when it arrives at a construction site and is dumped into a paver (a vehicle used to lay asphalt on roads and parking lots).

PaveTag, part of the company's eRoutes suite of automation systems for the real-time monitoring of job activities, leverages battery-assisted passive (BAP) ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID tags and interrogators from Intelleflex. The tags are affixed to the trucks that transport the hot asphalt from the plant to the site.

"Hot-mix asphalt is a real-time product in the sense that it is made on request, put on a dump truck and has to be delivered to the paver in a maximum amount of time, which is about three hours," says Pierre Vidaillac, president of Minds, headquartered in Boisbriand, Quebec.

During the asphalt-transportation process, it is vital to measure tonnages, time and delivery location because these metrics are part of the hauling cost equation. Monitoring generally involves a worker manually checking delivery at the paver, and sometimes another at a truck scale (typically located at the plant), where tonnages are weighed. But tracking the process that way isn't very accurate, Vidaillac says.

According to Vidaillac, other tracking technologies were considered when developing PaveTag. GPS was rejected because the majority of dump trucks that haul the hot-mix asphalt are rented—truckers generally don't like to be tracked in real-time, he says, and since customers don't own the trucks, they aren't in a position to force the truckers to use GPS technology. "And active tags were too expensive, so the battery-assisted passive tags work well," Vidaillac adds, explaining that BAP tags offered a good read range regardless of the direction in which the tag is oriented relative to the RFID interrogator.

At its factory, a hot-mix asphalt company attaches the BAP to the back of a dump truck. When the truck approaches the plant's loading dock, a fixed interrogator reads its tag; the tag's unique ID number is associated with a specific delivery order. A paper ticket is printed showing both the tag number and delivery information (such as where the load of asphalt is going, for example, and the time it needs to be there by). That data is then transmitted via the Internet to a secure server housed at Minds' headquarters.

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