Wiliot Offers Humidity Sensing with Ambient IoT

Published: October 3, 2023

The company applies an additional membrane to its low-cost wireless passive sensors to measure humidity conditions, then transmits that and other sensor data wirelessly from trucks, stores, or warehouses.

Ambient Internet of Things (IoT) platform company Wiliot has released a humidity sensing solution as part of the company’s battery-free, real-time locating visibility platform. The solution is being tested with food and pharmaceuticals to track conditions that could impact the quality of those products or assets. Early adopters are expected to be grocers, retailers, and logistics companies to ensure the freshness and sustainability of products.

Wiliot already provides temperature, location, and carbon emissions sensing capabilities. The company offers sticker-sized IoT Pixels with battery-free Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) functionality to transmit ID and sensor data to area gateways when interrogated. The firm reports that the company’s software-as-a-service platform connects the digital and physical worlds by managing data from these wireless sensors. (See Wiliot Expands BLE Sensor Solution with Platform, V2 Chips – RFID JOURNAL.) Now, it is adding humidity for moisture-sensitive products.

One driver for such technology is legislation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued requirements (related to traceability for fresh foods), known as the Food Safety and Modernization Act’s Rule 204 (FSMA 204). The rule, which goes into effect in 2026, requires traceability recordkeeping for those who produce, process, pack, or transport foods. The goal is to prevent contaminated foods from reaching consumers.

According to Steve Statler, Wiliot’s chief marketing officer, some companies have been seeking low-cost humidity measurements that could be applied to existing temperature and location-sensing capabilities. Humidity can impact some products. High or low humidity affects the freshness and appearance of some foods, while it can also cause damage, in some cases, to goods as well as assets such as fine art. When it comes to fresh produce, optimal humidity levels can ensure the product’s quality. If the humidity level changes, companies can adjust, such as selling specific products according to when they can be expected to be at the best level of ripeness.

Traditionally, humidity for goods in transit or storage is measured with devices that must be accessed manually. The sensors can be high priced, and typically, the data is not available wirelessly, leaving a gap in real-time measurement when it comes to conditions as goods are in transit. To solve this problem, Wiliot has been working on adding the latest sensing capability to its technology.

Humidity Membrane on IoT Pixels

Wiliot’s solution consists of its existing IoT Pixel tag, with an additional membrane that detects the humidity in the air. IoT Pixels are already in use for temperature and location tracking. Partners provide complete solutions leveraging battery-free, BLE-based tags, and related content to capture data even in containers and trucks. “We are going where no sensor has gone before, and we’re seeing things that have never been seen before,” says Statler.

With the addition of the humidity sensor, if the humidity level is too high or too low anywhere in a supply chain, the data is available so that actions can be taken, such as alerting a truck operator or warehouse manager. The new technology can measure and transmit sensor readings up to 80 percent humidity.

By tracking humidity as goods move through the supply chain, Wiliot’s customers are reporting various potential applications. For instance, they can better predict the ripeness of fresh produce. That means that companies can be more strategic in putting goods on display.

Statler says the more traditional method of “first in, first out,” is not always the best approach. He predicts that as temperature and humidity data are applied to a product throughout its journey or storage, “we can expect some pretty interesting findings.” That could mean, for instance, identifying the ripest avocados to be taken from the back of the store.

Wiliot expects the tags to be sold in high volume over the following year, and the company is ready to meet volume orders in the millions, Statler says. “He says the humidity membrane is low-cost to manufacture, so that tag cost will not be impacted heavily.  He adds that the company has set price expectations according to high-volume sales to accomplish a price of 10 cents for each sensor tag.  Humidity would raise that cost “a few percentage points more,” Statler says.

“People see real value in being able to measure the state of their products in transit because they just haven’t been able to do it affordably” in the past, he adds.

Wiliot provides its technology to partners who sell complete solutions (See Wiliot Builds Partnership Program for Passive BLE Sensors (rfidjournal.com.) These partners provide the reader or bridge devices that energize and read the tags.  Wiliot offers reference designs for the IoT Pixel tags and sells sensor data management to convert the enormous data flow to actionable events. Thus far, says Statler, “we have had requests for the product across a comprehensive set of customers.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Wiliot’s IoT pixels are now being tested with additional humidity-sensing functionality to track such conditions throughout a product’s supply chain journey.
  • The humidity, as well as temperature-based sensors, are being marketed to food and pharmaceutical companies as well as for applications such as exemplary art management.