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Mitsubishi Electric Automotive America Hopes to Save Costs Through RFID

The manufacturer of automotive electrical parts is working with Midtronics to introduce a system that uses radio frequency identification to guide workers through maintenance and diagnostic procedures, and records results on RFID tags attached to trucks and components.
By Claire Swedberg
Approximately one year ago, Warmack says, Midtronics first approached Mitsubishi Electric with the idea of adding RFID functionality to existing Midtronics testers, to be used with Mitsubishi Electric parts. "One of our main goals has been increasing our support to dealers to analyze and do maintenance on vehicle components," he explains. Dealers often return parts to MEAA that they claim are inoperable, but that are actually still functioning, having simply been misdiagnosed. As a result, MEAA winds up charging the dealership for these unnecessary repairs.

The Midtronics tester is designed to address that problem, Warmack says, by providing mechanics who carry out the testing at dealerships or other repair locations with a series of procedures to perform when conducting maintenance of electrical components or diagnosing a vehicle's electrical problem.

Without RFID, however, there is no way to be sure that service personnel actually follow the regimen recommended by the testing device before making a diagnosis. With an RFID tag on a truck, as well as on a part sent back to Mitsubishi, an electronic record is maintained on the part's tag and in the BMIS server, including the date and time of the test, as well as the testing results, such as the number of amps being generated by an alternator. With the data stored on the tag, Mitsubishi could receive a failing part, read the tag's details and gain more information about the failure, in order to help determine the cause of its problems, as well as access warranty information electronically.

With the RFID add-on to existing testers, Midtronics expects to offer two options. One would be a handheld reader that could be used to read a component's RFID tag, and to then send data recorded on that tag to the testing device, via a wireless connection. The testing device could also instruct the handheld to write data to the component's tag, including a description of the test being performed, using the same wireless method. The other option would be a handheld RFID reader with a wired connection to the tester.

To obtain the RFID functionality, users at dealerships or other maintenance providers would purchase the add-on solution from Midtronics—including the handheld reader and software to allow the linkage between the server on which the BMIS application is running and the testing device. They could then purchase 13.56 MHz HF tags with high user memory from one of a list of suppliers yet to be determined. The tags are likely to be compliant with both the ISO 15693 and ISO 14443 standards. Although ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags would also work with this application, Page says, the cost of UHF tags with high user memory would be too great to make the solution economical.

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