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Most Innovative Use of RFID: Getting the Bugs Out

Dow AgroSciences is a winner of the first annual RFID Journal Awards. With its RFID-enabled termite monitors, Dow is helping pest control companies kill wood-devouring insects faster and more efficiently.
By John Edwards
Jun 01, 2007On May 2, 2007, RFID Journal presented the first-ever RFID Journal Awards for outstanding achievement in radio frequency identification technology, at RFID Journal LIVE! 2007, our fifth annual conference and exhibition. Dow Agrosciences was the winner for Most Innovative Use of RFID.

In addition to alerting technicians to the presence of termites, the Sentricon Termite Colony Elimination System uses RFID technology to automate a number of business tasks, including inventory tracking, billing and meeting regulatory requirements.
Dow AgroSciences, a wholly owned subsidiary of Midland, Mich.-based Dow Chemical Co., offers an RFID-powered termite-detection system that promises to cut costs by helping pest-control technicians find and eradicate termites faster and more efficiently. The Sentricon Termite Colony Elimination System features conically shaped plastic detection stations that are designed to lure and trap termites. The devices are inserted into the ground around a building's perimeter. While operating, the stations are periodically visited by technicians—anywhere from once a month to once a quarter—who scan the units with an RFID interrogator to determine their operational condition: empty, hosting termites or broken. "What drove Dow AgroSciences to RFID was trying to find a better mousetrap, so to speak," says Andy Wurtz, Dow AgroSciences' Sentricon project leader.

Walk and Wave
Dow AgroSciences' RFID termite detection system is based on an earlier version of Sentricon that required technicians to manually open each station, scan a bar code on the device's cap and then manually record the station's condition. "What RFID does for you is that you can walk along with your reader and wave it over the top of the station," says Wurtz. The technician then sees either a red or green light. A green light means everything is OK, and the technician can move on to the next station. "A red light means that you need to open the station and inspect it," says Wurtz. "It may mean you have termites in there, or that the station needs to be serviced due to deterioration, age or some other problem."

Each Sentricon station incorporates a low-frequency 125 kHz RFID tag. The tag is designed to last at least four years in almost any type of outdoor environment. Based on a custom design, the tag uses an RFID chip from semiconductor maker Atmel. The tags are produced for Dow AgroSciences by a contract electronics manufacturer in Michigan. The same manufacturer is also responsible for repairing and designing updates to the RFID interrogator, which is a custom design. "It looks basically like a metal detector," Wurtz says.
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