Collaboration Leads to Cold Chain Management RTLS

Published: January 25, 2024

Identiv and Energous are providing a real-time asset tracking solution for monitoring temperature-sensitive items through the supply chain

Energous and Identiv have partnered to offer a solution leveraging their collective technology with Wiliot Ambient IoT Pixel chips and software, providing real-time asset or inventory tracking. The solution can monitor sensor data for perishable food and other environmentally sensitive products and supply chains.

The three-way collaboration uses Identiv’s Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) ID-Pixel tags, Energous’ PowerBridge technology (to power area tags and receive responding sensor measurements even when goods are in transit) and Wiliot’s Ambient IoT tag modules and software to enable real-time data transmission and management without requiring a power source to the sensor.

The solution tracks conditions in real time—minus wires, disposable batteries or other infrastructure.

Gaining Cold Chain Data Without Batteries

The companies teamed their technology to create a system that goes beyond capturing tag IDs as they pass through portals or with handheld readers (as passive UHF RFID would require).

What was built is a system to identify goods as well as conditions inside warehouses, stores, refrigerated vehicles or even cargo ships in near-real-time, says Giampaolo Marino, Energous’ business development and marketing vice president.

Energous began working with Identiv on a solution that leverages Wiliot’s IoT Pixel devices last year.

Piloting by RPL Group

The companies already have made their combined solution available to European companies in about 15 pilots, including for logistics company RPL group, says Amir Khoshniyati, VP and GM of IoT business at Identiv, which was one of the first adopters.

With the proof of concepts (POCs), Marino says, “we demonstrate how you can leverage the technology to bring that concept of real time supply chain management to the cold chain application.”

Once the POCs are complete, companies go through an evaluation process and the technology companies expect to see rollouts underway later in the year.

“RPL group is one of the two POC’s that have really gotten the earliest start,” he said.

Battery Assisted and Passive Tags

When the Energous bridge transmits its signal, the tag uses the transmission to respond with the necessary data. Users could set timers relying on the energy harvesting intervals set in the bridge, in which tags transmit data results.

Identiv offers several tag options for the solution, including its passive BLE tags that transmit an ID when interrogated, using the PowerBridge energy charge to respond. Additionally, it offers battery assisted (BAP) sensor tags that can capture measurements of temperature, humidity, vibration or other conditions.

The cost of such tags can average about $1 to $2, says Khoshniyati.

Deploying in Reefer Trucks, Warehouses

A typical deployment could include tracking of temperature sensitive food or other such products both in transit and in storage.

For instance, a refrigerated truck, outfitted with the Energous PowerBridges, can capture tag data as the goods are in transit. The bridge can use a 5G or LTE connection to send that data to a server.

When the goods are delivered to a warehouse, PowerBridges at that site could update the conditions and status of goods as they are received and stored. Another such bridge at an exit dock door could enable transmission of data about the shipping of those products to a customer.

The technology could be built into stores as well to continue tracking products and their conditions until purchased by a customer. The data is managed on Wiliot’s software in a cloud-based server.

Offering Alternative to RFID

Although it will not replace the low-priced, passive UHF RFID tags that are placed on inventory such as apparel, the technology offers greater insights for the cold chain environment, points out Khoshniyati.

“It’s definitely a solution that has additional capabilities that you would not get with RFID,” he said.

By tracking goods and their conditions, with low cost, easy to install infrastructure, the company says investment could readily provide information not available with standard RFID.

“RFID is a great technology and it’s there to stay, but there are a lot of trends that are intersecting where customers really need to create a digital twin of their operation,” Khoshniyati says. “We see this technology helping companies achieve that digital twin to really digitize their operation and understand where assets are and how they are moving.”

Expansion Year

While the companies spent 2023 developing and testing the solution, 2024 could mean actual deployments, says Marino.

The three-year goal is to sell billions of the ID-Pixel tags, Identiv reports, while the shorter-term focus is on completing the POCs in Europe and expand into the US and Asia.

Key Takeaways:
  • Identiv and Energous have teamed with Wiliot to offer a single solution for tracking assets and conditions of tagged items without batteries.
  • The solution offers an alternative to RFID systems that require batteries in tags that collect sensor data, and the cost of reader infrastructure.