Companies Track Guns, Art with RFID Sensor Technology

Published: August 29, 2023

Anantics is providing solutions using passive UHF RFID sensor technology from Asygn to track location, as well as temperature and other conditions for high value assets.

The best way to store guns is in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment – the ideal temperature is between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, with humidity between 30 and 50 percent. Companies concerned with the storage, location, and conditions of the firearms their employees’ use are deploying an RFID solution from Anantics that leverages battery-free RFID tags that not only uniquely identify an object but can transmit sensor data. Asygn provides the passive UHF RFID sensor chips and software to interpret the sensor data.

Anantics, a Michigan-based IoT technology company, offers its solution with the Asygn tag ICs to security companies and others that store weapons, and the company also serves other sectors with a variety of applications. Some other use cases for temperature and humidity sensing include pharmaceutical management, art museums, and food transportation. Sensors can also include strain measurement for aerospace or civil engineering applications.

A private security company in the US, which requested to remain anonymous, is among one of the adopters of this solution for firearm tracking.

The temperature and humidity of a firearm storage area is important to prevent the weapons from rusting or corroding, says Anurag Kulshrestha, Anantics’ president and CEO. It’s not just the weapons themselves. In long-term storage of ammunition, the shell casings are also vulnerable. “Corrosion comes from excessive moisture reacting with the brass casing or the primer, making the round dangerous to fire,” he says. As a result, “The key to successful storage is to avoid moisture damage.”

Anurag Kulshrestha, Anantics President and CEO

As a systems integrator, Anantics launched in 2009 offering geographic information systems (GIS) solutions. Companies used its technology for map-based data and analytics. About eight years ago, the company started to offer UHF RFID solutions for identifying objects, while also selling other auto ID technologies, such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN), GPS, and Ultra-wide Band (UWB).

The company began working with Asygn several years ago to leverage Asygn’s passive sensor solutions. The chip can use the energy from an RFID reader to capture multiple sensor measurements and transmit the measurement, as part of the tag’s ID, to the reader. The sensors accommodate temperatures ranging from -40 degrees to +125 Celsius (-40 degrees to 257 degrees Fahrenheit). (See General Electric to Pilot Battery-free RFID Sensors in Its Hydro Turbines – RFID JOURNAL.)

The US security company is using the technology to identify weapons, personnel, as well as to track the conditions to which weapons are exposed. In such a deployment, a standard UHF RFID tag is attached to the firearms, which are then stored in a weapons depot and distributed to security officers, as needed.

RFID tags with Asygn chips can be attached to the weapons themselves, or simply to the interior of the storage area, to track humidity and temperature conditions. “So one application is tracking the assets itself, and the second part is [tracking] temperature and humidity,” says Kulshrestha.

All data is managed in Anantics’ IoTtix software platform. Users of the technology can view where assets are when they were checked out or returned, as well as by whom, and what the temperature and humidity was in the storage area, each time the tag was read. The system can also send alerts, such as unsafe conditions, which are forwarded to authorized parties via e-mail or a text message.

With fixed readers deployed in a storage area, the tags can be read at pre-set intervals, such as every second or every ten minutes. The software then analyzes the results. In fact, an Anantics’ client is creating 40 billion data points from RFID tag reads in a week, the company says.

The technology company is also offering the weapons management solutions in the Middle East.

Art and Other Solutions

Anantics offers its solutions for other applications as well. It is in discussions with art museums that are planning to deploy the technology to track conditions their high value art is exposed to, says Kulshrestha. In museums, he points out, with visitors coming and going and doors opening and closing, humidity and temperatures can be affected.

While there are several technology options to capture wireless sensor data, the benefit of Asygn’s passive RFID is the low cost of deployment, as well as the lack of batteries required in the tags, Kulshrestha says, which would be required in sensors using technology, such as Bluetooth BLE beacons. Asygn estimates the solution is 10 times cheaper than a battery-powered option, without the cost of maintenance of the battery.

In addition, says Lionel Geynet, Asygn’s RFID Business Unit Manager, the Asygn RFID tags can be added to an existing RFID-based solution without requiring new infrastructure. “That’s a key feature of our IC – [end users] just use standard RFID infrastructure,” Geynet explains. The reader captures the tag’s EPC number, as well as any additional bytes related to sensory reads. The chip can also enable the sensor data to be read from the user memory.

Thus far, a US-based security company has deployed more than 200 RFID readers in storage areas for weapons, while In the long term they could expand the solution to include data centers. In the future, Anantics also plans to offer virtual reality with its solution so that users can view the location of assets in 3D, as well as the conditions in their location. Users simply sign in and navigate through an RFID-enabled storage area in a 3D format.

For Asygn, the number of applications, for its battery-free sensor chips has been growing.  “People are aware of RFID and what you can do with it,” says Mike Stone, Asygn’s Sensory IC and Chipset Sales Manager. “Now they can do something besides count; they can actually tell the sensory conditions.” That’s when companies begin to think about different applications. “There’s quite a few of them out there that we’re working on right now with different sensory capabilities in different environments. So it’s really exciting,” he says.

For example, the chip can be used in an inlay to track strain on everything from aircraft parts to bridge construction. It could also be used to track the conditions at various inbound and outbound shipping and receiving locations or inside trucks that transport perishable goods, such as fresh food or pharmaceuticals. A reader installed inside the truck could capture condition data in real time and forward the information to management via a cellular connection, for example. In this particular scenario, a temperature or humidity problem could be caught before the product was damaged.

Key Takeaways

  • Companies pose to gain both location- and sensor-based data about the conditions of their goods or assets with passive UHF RFID sensors.
  • The technology operates with standard RFID readers, Asygn’s sensor technology, and Anantics software to ensure art, guns, or other assets remain in healthy condition.