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RFID Sensors: Applications

  • Abhishek Shukla
  • Aug 11, 2023
  • RFID
RFID Sensors

“RFID sensors mostly find application in collecting data on temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors, especially in food supply chain.”

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is long known as an AIDC technology capable of accurately identifying objects and tracking them. The technology is not new. It is so old that its first use is recorded during the World War 2 when allied forces used RFID to identify enemy aircrafts from their own. Apart from that, the first we get to know about any such technology was possible when the Russians gave a listening device (the thing or the great seal bug) as a gift to US ambassador to Russia, Mr Averell Harriman, on August 4, 1945. It was a passive RFID device that was gift wrapped in the form of the famous American seal, the great seal, and the American national symbol featuring an Eagle.

So, RFID has been around a long time but the commercial success of this technology is rather recent, post IoT boom. With demand of various identification and tracking needs as well as data collection and sensing needs, use of RFID tags and RFID sensors is seen as a cost effective and efficient option.

Recently, I came across a news about MIT engineers figuring out a way to turn RFID tags into RFID sensors by using off the shelf integrated chips that were capable of switching between the fully passive RFID mode when used normally and in assisted mode (BAP or battery assisted passive mode) when sending some sensing data. When placed anywhere, in any environment, these RFID tags are able to sense data on environmental gases, temperature, location and condition etc.

RFID Tags and RFID Sensors

RFID tag and RFID sensors, both might seem like the same thing but are both the same thing. Actually, no! RFID sensing application is slightly different than traditional RFID track and trace. An RFID sensor is designed by integrating the particular sensor inside the microchip. Some bits of the unique ID can denote the sensed parameter such as temperature, humidity, moisture content, light intensity etc.

When exposed to such environment where sensing is required, the microchip can collect data in one of the two ways, either electronic or electromagnetic.

Chipless RFID Sensors and Chipped RFID Sensors

Chipless RFID is a recent advancement in RFID technology. It’s basically an RFID tag sans the silicon microchip. Now for data storage, chipless RFID tags utilize various techniques to encode information directly onto the surface of the tag itself.

Now coming to RFID sensor applications, unlike chipped RFID sensors, chipless RFID sensors do not require an integrated circuit (IC) or silicon chip to function. Various smart materials such as iconic plastic crystals, conductive polymers (PEDOTs), and nanostructured metal oxide that are very susceptible to environmental changes such as  pressure, temperature or electric fields. These materials, when used on fully printable multibit chipless RFID surface, bring new innovations in sensing applications.

Using these smart materials instead of an IC makes chipless RFID sensors cost-effective and suitable for applications where cost and size constraints are critical.

Chipped RFID Sensors

Chipped RFID sensors, on the other hand, utilize, in addition to a silicon chip or integrated circuit to store and process information, a sensor integrated with the IC. The sensor senses the temperature, pressure, humidity and strain etc. parameters and the data is stored in the microchip.

These sensors offer higher memory capacity and more advanced features compared to chipless RFID sensors. However, their cost and size can be limiting factors for certain applications.

RFID Sensor Applications

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has significantly revolutionized various industries by providing efficient and reliable tracking and identification capabilities but RFID sensing features offer additional benefits in various industries be it cold chain, food supply chain, manufacturing environment, etc.

Let’s see some of the benefits of RFID sensors:

 Food Safety (Food Supply Chain) and RFID Sensors  

RFID sensors are employed in the food industry to monitor temperature, humidity, and other environmental conditions. These sensors are attached to perishable items so that companies can ensure that products are stored and transported within the required parameters, reducing spoilage and enhancing food safety.

RFID tagging also ensures that the products are visible and throughout the food supply chain. It prevents losses and order fulfillment is also ensured.

Healthcare and RFID sensors

RFID sensors also find applications in the healthcare industry. It is used for patient monitoring, asset tracking, and inventory management. They can be used to monitor patients' vital signs, track medical equipment, and manage medication inventory while ensuring the medicines and vaccine vials are stored in appropriate temperature and pressure conditions. This is very helpful for patient care and saves hospitals from incurring heavy losses.

Apart from that, in livestock monitoring and tracking needs, RFID sensors can be used to check up on animals, their body temperature and their cabin temperature.

Environmental Monitoring with RFID Sensors

Another application that RFID sensors are utilized is in environmental monitoring applications, such as monitoring air quality, water quality, and soil conditions. The sensors can be embedded in various objects or placed in specific locations to collect data, enabling researchers to monitor and analyze environmental factors. In areas where real time, on-site research is not possible, these RFID sensors provide extremely valuable data.

To conclude, RFID sensors provide advanced features and valuable information in sensing applications in various businesses and scenarios such as food supply chain where it can prevent massive losses by tracking perishable items, their temperature and cold chain pressure conditions, as well as it can monitor and provide valuable data on animal health and their body temperature when required. The RFID sensing applications are quite cost effective and a great alternative in food retail and healthcare.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is for general information purposes only and true to best of our understanding. Users are requested to use any information as per their own understanding and knowledge. Before using any of the information, please refer to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

  • Created on Aug 11, 2023
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