Can RFID Control Where an Object Is and Where It Needs to Go?

By RFID Journal

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Ask The ExpertsCan RFID Control Where an Object Is and Where It Needs to Go?
RFID Journal Staff asked 4 years ago

I am a senior at Bloomsburg University, and am attempting to create an idea for my senior design project this coming semester. I read response to a question recently posted to your website, “Can RFID Pinpoint a Moving Object’s Location?” I appreciated your detailed answer and the professionalism you showed in your response.

I wish to ask you a couple of questions that are similarly related. If I wanted an object to move around in an object field, starting at one position and never doubling its path, would it be possible for RFID to control not only where it was located, but also where it had been, as well as where it needed to go? In other words, is there a way to translate that data, and to store it and write commands to the moving object? Additionally, I have read that an electric fence would be a good way to set the boundary of the object field. Is there a better way to determine boundaries?

—Michael

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Michael,

The simple answer to your question is “no.” RFID cannot control where an object is located or where it needs to go. The technology, generally speaking, cannot control anything—it’s a method of remotely identifying and tracking objects, so it can tell you (broadly speaking) where an item has been.

It might be possible to have an RFID system communicate with the “brain” of an autonomous object, in order to enable it to determine where it needs to go and where it cannot go. For example, you could put a passive UHF RFID reader under a self-driving car and install passive UHF tags at strategic locations along city streets. The reader antenna under the car would read a tag at an intersection, and that tag might have serial number 123456789. A computer in the car could look up the location and instructions related to that ID number in a database, then proceed based on those instructions. Similarly, the RFID system might locate a tag with instructions that would prohibit the car from driving down a certain street, and the vehicle would thus avoid that street. But it is the software instructions that would control the car, not the RFID system.

I wrote an article in 2014 about researchers at Tufts University using QR codes and potentially RFID tags to provide information to drones so that they would know where to fly. The team envisioned the system as an inexpensive way to photograph bridges for inspection purposes (see Drones to Capture Data From RFID Sensors on Bridges). This approach would work best in a situation for which the field in which the object moved were fairly large. As tags moved closer together, it would become more difficult to ensure that the correct tag was interrogated and that the movement was precise, though it would be possible to use passive HF or LF tags in a more confined area.

I hope I have answered your questions.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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