Can I Attain Global Real-Time Visibility With Passive RFID and GPS?

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Ask The ExpertsCan I Attain Global Real-Time Visibility With Passive RFID and GPS?
RFID Journal Staff asked 8 years ago

From my research, it would appear that Hitachi offers the smallest RFID chip on the market, which is the µ-chip (mu-chip). Is that chip, or any other RFID chip, equipped with GPS technology allowing positive identification at all times? If not, would it be possible to use an RFID transponder with a built-in GPS receiver that would communicate with satellites to track the chip in real time? If there are any RFID chips capable of doing this, I would greatly appreciate it if you could point me in that direction. Thank you.




Hitachi is no longer selling the µ-chip. Instead, Hitachi Chemical is offering a tiny passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tag based on the Electronic Product Code (EPC) standard. (The µ-chip employed a proprietary air-interface protocol and numbering system.) No passive tag, to my knowledge, has been integrated with a GPS device. GPS requires a battery and fairly large electronics. Several companies have combined active RFID tags with GPS in a device about the size of a pack of cigarettes.

In 2007, Santa Clara, Calif.-based WhereNet (now part of Zebra Technologies) introduced GPS capabilities into version 4.0 of its Marine Terminal Solution, a hardware and software package for tracking cargo containers within a marine-terminal environment. And Identec Solutions, based in Lustenau, Austria, added GPS to its I-Q RFID tags. The addition of GPS technology, the companies predicted, would enable end users to track high-value assets even if the RFID technology they'd installed proved unable to provide visibility at the level of granularity they required (see WhereNet, Identec Solutions Offer GPS Tracking).

In 2009, Savi Technology and Numerex introduced a hybrid tag that could intelligently determine whether to communicate via an active RFID network or satellite communications (see Hybrid Tag Includes Active RFID, GPS, Satellite and Sensors). And AeroScout introduced a Unified Asset Visibility (UAV) solution combining GPS and Wi-Fi tags (see Air Force Base Deploys Wi-Fi/GPS RFID System Across 2,500 Acres).

I am unsure whether Zebra still sells the WhereNet GPS tag. Numerex is no longer in business, Savi does not seem to be producing tags and readers anymore, and AeroScout was purchased by Stanley Black & Decker and now focuses mainly on health care, for which GPS is not needed. Additionally, I do not see the GPS tag listed on Identec's website. As such, I don't know whether or not a GPS and active RFID tag is currently available in any form.

Most companies that want to achieve global real-time visibility use RFID to determine what has been loaded onto a truck and then GPS to track that vehicle. There are also readers with GPS capability to determine where a passive tag was read.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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