The Year That Was

By Mark Roberti

2011 saw some economic ups and downs, but many companies turned to RFID to track the locations of their products and assets—and to monitor their conditions.

This year started off well. There was a lot of confidence that the global economy was slowly emerging from the Great Recession. RFID Journal LIVE! 2011 was well attended, with a great deal of and energy and buzz. The U.S. Congress' mid-year fight regarding whether or not to raise the debt ceiling cooled consumer optimism and slowed spending. And then, rising concerns about the financial stability of Greece and other European nations further exacerbated economic uncertainty.

While the economy remains fragile, companies made progress in employing radio frequency identification to improve the way they do business. One key trend: RFID entered the beginning of Phase 2 adoption. Phase 1, in my mind, has always been utilizing the technology in the most basic way—to identify objects and determine their locations. Phase 2 involves using RFID to know what an item is and where it is located, and to monitor its condition. Phase 3 will be to employ RFID to control objects or the environment automatically, such as having robots perform tasks based on input from an RFID system.

We are, by no means, finished with Phase 1. Many companies have not yet begun to use RFID to identify products, assets, work-in-process and so forth. But technology adoption is not an orderly, straight-line process, just as evolution is not. Some companies may skip Phase 1 and move right to Phase 2 or 3, because they have a pressing business need.

Here are some articles from the past year that show how companies are utilizing radio frequency identification to monitor the conditions of things in the real world:

With RFID, Malaysian Logistics Company Gets Fewer Blowouts

Lee Ting San Group has begun attaching rubber-encased EPC Gen 2 tags to tires on some of its trucks, to help it track inspection and maintenance.

To Keep Drugs from Expiring, Hospital Tests Intelliguard System

The San Diego facility hopes to save costs by deploying MEPS Real-Time's drug-management system, which uses RFID-enabled drug-dispensing cabinets in conjunction with standard EPC Gen 2 tags.

Alaska's Dept. of Transportation Mixes Asphalt and RFID

With help from the University of Alaska, the DOT is evaluating how radio frequency identification can be used to track the amount of time that passes between the moment a truck is first loaded with asphalt and the instant the hot mixture is dumped.

BP Uses RFID Sensors to Track Pipe Corrosion

The system, provided by Permasense, enables the oil company to monitor pipe thickness at its refineries worldwide.

Beverage Metrics Serves Up Drink-Management Solution

The system's active RFID tags can track the amount of liquor poured at a restaurant or bar, while also tracking bottle inventory in the back room and enabling the billing of beverage purchases at banquets.

New Mexico Scientists Use RFID to Explore Caves

University researchers are developing a wireless sensor system to track conditions within caverns and in other subterranean environments, following a test conducted at El Malpais National Monument Park.

RFID Sensors Track Sleep Patterns

With iMPak Health's SleepTrak system, consumers can don an RFID tag on their arm at bedtime, and built-in motion sensors will then track the quality of their sleep.

Cordex Launches Handheld Pipe-Testing System

The solution includes a handheld ultrasonic sensor with a built-in RFID reader to identify the locations of specific sections of pipe and measure their thickness, along with software to analyze the compiled data.

Energy-Harvesting Sensors to Monitor Health of Jet Engines

The wireless sensors will be utilized to monitor engine bearings on F-35 Joint Strike Fighters while in flight, using their turbines' heat to power RFID transmission.

NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art Adopts RFID

The Met's Cloisters branch is using a wireless sensor system from IBM Research to manage data regarding temperature, humidity and other environmental conditions around artwork.

DB Schenker Uses Temperature-logging Tags to Monitor Drug Shipments

The German logistics services provider is using RFID to track the conditions under which sensitive pharmaceuticals and reagents are transported to the United States.

RFID Keeps Engine Noise in Check at Racecourse

The Nurburgring Motorsport Complex is using a system from sound engineers BeSB, featuring Identec Solutions' RFID technology, to identify the amount of sound made by vehicles passing through residential areas.

It's exciting to see these applications proliferating. The ability to sense an object's condition in the real world can deliver an additional benefit to businesses, and help them to achieve a return on their investment in RFID technology. In an upcoming column, I will offer some predications about the year ahead. In the meantime, I wish you all a happy holiday season and a joyous and healthy New Year.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.