3 Questions to...

In this edition of our ‘3 Questions to…’ series, Lauri Hyytinen, Head of the Automotive Segment at SMARTRAC, gives some insights into the hot topic of RAIN RFID sensor technology. He highlights how passive sensor labels can optimize processes in industry, and describes the technology’s potential and where it may lead.


There is broad agreement about the benefits of RFID technology in production processes. The contactless identification of components, even under challenging conditions, is one of the primary strengths. But what else would be possible if RFID could do more than identification?


At SMARTRAC, our goal is always to continuously reinforce our innovation and technology leadership in order to be able to deliver best in class products and solutions for our customers. Hence, following a meeting with RFMicron in late 2012 we both considered different new development options based on their latest IC, and started to design new kinds of sensor tags. From the very beginning, we focused on passive solutions, because large applications with batteries were seen as unrealistic from many reasons. Three and half years later, we can now recognize the presence of water, measure a material’s moisture content, sense pressure and measure temperature. All this with standard RFID readers and still offering unique TID, EPC and user memory.

Who can benefit from these new RFID solutions? 


The application areas that immediately spring to mind are industry – in particular automotive – and healthcare. One great example is the thorny problem of water leakage in new cars. As part of the car production process, every finished vehicle nowadays has to pass an extended high-pressure shower test, followed by a manual inspection -- which is costly, error-prone and time-consuming -- to see if any water has penetrated inside. With the degree of electronics contained in modern cars, any leak is obviously a major issue.


The solution we came up with was to develop a passive UHF sensor tag to detect leakage points in vehicles. We called it SENSOR TADPOLE, which by the way was recognized as Best Product of the Year at RFID Journal Live! 2016. Through the application of RFID sensor labels inside key areas of a car, manufacturers can completely avoid the time and cost involved in manual inspections.


Another interesting application for a compact, passive moisture-sensing inlay is in the healthcare area. Here, patient care and dignity can be vastly improved by the use of diapers fitted with SENSOR PATCH, which alerts staff to the need to attend the patient. It also maximizes the efficient use of health professionals’ time.


What is the potential for future developments?


We believe that passive RFID sensors will be an important part of the IoT’s future development. The ability to transmit information about temperature and production conditions wirelessly, from multiple locations, will enable companies to create innovative solutions for end users.


Other possible scenarios include the application of the tag in the field of agriculture, to measure the degree of moisture in the ground; or even inside concrete, to measure how quickly a structure is drying out.


More recently, we have just launched the world’s first passive sensor tag for temperature measurement. SENSOR TEMPERATURE DOGBONE offers a maintenance-free, battery-free temperature-sensing solution to business problems for improved product management and quality control. It looks set to find multiple applications in the cold chain management, grocery, machine maintenance, aviation and agricultural sectors.

The solution is easy to implement, and works on different low- and high-dielectric materials like cardboards, plastics, stone, wood and construction materials, and combines previously unattainable levels of accuracy and cost-efficiency.

Looking forward, we have the opportunity to develop a completely new family of RFID tags, which will enable the precise measurement of a wide range of different environmental data. Since the tags are not only cost-efficient but also very low-maintenance, and easier to recycle in an eco-friendly manner than conventional sensor technology solutions with battery support, the possibilities of where to use the technology next are endless.