And have there been a lot of deployments?
There have not been a lot of subsea deployments at this stage, though deployments are increasing. For example, in the Persian Gulf, pipeline maintenance specialist Gulmar Offshore Group is employing RFID to monitor the conditions of a crucial underwater oil pipeline. More than 3,000 passive tags are situated at 157-foot intervals along the pipe’s run. Divers equipped with a portable reader retrieve essential maintenance information from the tags. That data is then relayed to a support ship via an underwater cable linked to each diver.
Tags need to withstand corrosive salinity levels, intense water pressure (every foot underwater adds another 0.445 pound of pressure) and an almost endless variety of clinging marine life, which can take a toll on underwater tags, sensors and readers. Some RFID tag and reader manufacturers have addressed these issues. Technologies ROI (TROI), for instance, offers three Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags—the PC-102, OK-106 and RS-102 models—that it claims can survive depths of up to 1 mile. And Omni-ID‘s Max SQ-D passive UHF rugged tag is designed to be read within harsh environments, including while submerged in water.
The greatest RFID challenge underwater is simply being able to read tags. Waterproofing readers is not a simple matter, and salt water attenuates UHF RFID signals, which limits read range. If tags are going to be interrogated at depths of more than 1,000 feet, readers and tags must also be able to withstand the greater pressure. For more information, check out Undersea With RFID.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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