Are there any examples of the two technologies being combined in a hybrid tag?
Radio frequency identification is a relatively short-range technology. Even the longest-range active RFID systems can identify objects from no more than a few thousand yards or meters away. To offer full supply chain visibility, some RFID solution providers have introduced hybrid tags that combine active RFID technology and GPS transceivers.
In 2007, Santa Clara, Calif.-based WhereNet (now part of Zebra Technologies) introduced GPS capabilities to 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 was 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).
GPS has also been integrated into RFID readers, in some cases, to provide information regarding where a tag has been interrogated. Ameya Logistics, for example, outfitted mobile cranes—known as reach stackers—with a device from C&B Electronics that incorporates an RFID reader, a GPS unit and a GPRS radio. The reader's antenna is installed on the underside of the boom that lifts the container, in order to capture the unique ID number of the tag on a shipping container, and the GPS unit then ascertains that container's longitude and latitude coordinates. All of this data is forwarded to the back-end software via GPRS cellular transmission. The reader continues to interrogate the tag as the reach stacker moves the container, until that container is deposited within a specific area of the yard, at which time the stacker drives away and thus no longer interrogates the tag. The software calculates the exact time at which the tag ceased to be read, and links that time with the location, within 1 meter (3.3 feet), based on the GPS coordinates. This enables the company to know the exact location where a container was placed within a very large yard (see Ameya Logistics Uses RFID to Add Efficiency, Value to Its Freight Yard).
GPS has also been incorporated into handheld devices so that the locations of tags read within a field can be recorded. In June 2013, we wrote about a solution known as EchoShield PipeTalker, from a startup called EchoRFID. The system, designed to enable oil and gas pipeline owners and operators to better manage pipes and other equipment, includes a cloud-based server to host software that tracks location information, as well as historical records for every tagged item. The solution also comes with EchoRFID's own patented reading devices that incorporate a GPS unit and an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) reader to provide location data, as well as Omni-ID Dura 3000 and Dura 1500 on-metal passive EPC Gen 2 tags. The system includes ODIN software (ODIN partnered with EchoRFID to develop the solution) to manage the capture and interpretation of RFID data (see EchoRFID Offers Views Into Buried Oil and Gas or Utility Pipes).
Whether you should go with tags or readers that incorporate GPS would depend on what you are trying to achieve.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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