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European Companies Prepare to Roll Out RFID-Enabled Wheels

A solution developed by pureSpekt and noFilis will enable users of trolleys and other rolling carts to track items' locations via passive EPC UHF tags and readers.
By Claire Swedberg
May 22, 2012A European wheel manufacturer is providing RFID-enabled wheels to one of its customers, a maker of trolleys (rolling carts used to transport goods or equipment), following a 16-month trial of the technology. The solution was jointly developed by two German companies: pureSpekt, which designed the passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags embedded in the wheels, and noFilis, which supplied its CrossTalk software for use during the trial.

The wheel manufacturer and its customer both asked to remain unnamed.

PureSpekt developed a passive EPC UHF RFID tag that can be molded into wheels of trolleys and other rolling carts.
PureSpekt developed an EPC Gen 2 passive inlay made with Impinj's Monza 4 RFID chip, which the company converted into a high-temperature tag and embedded into a hard tag. The wheel manufacturer, in turn, incorporates the hard tags into wheels. The RFID-enabled wheels were attached to trolleys at the trolley maker's factory, using four RFID-enabled wheels on each cart. NoFilis installed fixed readers and antennas to the wall, at an angle facing the floor, in order to capture ID numbers as tags rolled by embedded in the wheels. The trolley company intends to provide RFID-enabled carts to its customers, while the wheel manufacturer plans to market the RFID solution to other trolley makers, as well as to companies that produce other wheeled products.

The solution was developed for use by businesses that wish to track the locations of their trolleys—as well as, in some cases, the products loaded onto them. By providing RFID tags in the wheels, the company ensures that users need not apply RFID tags to their trolleys, or to other wheeled items. Instead, the tag is embedded in each wheel in such a way that it cannot be seen, or be knocked loose of the wheel.

When tracking products, for example, plant and flower distributors could link each plant in their database with a specific trolley, and thereby monitor where they are located within a facility, based on reads of the RFID-enabled wheels as the trolleys pass fixed interrogators mounted at such locations as loading docks, or in storage areas. The wheels have many other use cases as well, however. For instance, they could be used to locate shopping carts at store locations, or to identify where hospital beds are located within a health-care facility. In addition, the RFID-enabled wheels could be utilized on food or beverage carts.

Charlie Purser, pureSpekt's CEO
PureSpekt and NoFilis designed the solution, says Charlie Purser, pureSpekt's CEO, to fill what it perceived as a market gap with regard to small form-factor RFID tags offering a long read range. He says the company worked closely with noFilis' CEO, Franz Angerer.

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