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RFID & Wireless IoT Global, Issue 03/2022 - Publication date: September 14th, 2022
Cayman Islands

World's First Complete RFID Solution for Vehicle Management

IDePLATE and IDeSTIX from Tönnjes secure control of vehicle registrations

Tönnjes International Group

The Tönnjes International Group is the world market leader in the field of electronic vehicle identification. The Cayman Islands have also been benefiting from this since 2014. The registration authority of the archipelago wanted a centralized, effective and secure management system for vehicles.

The license plate manufacturer sent two solutions to the Caribbean at the same time: the IDePLATE, a license plate with integrated RFID chip, and the IDeSTIX holographic label for the windshield.

70,000 vehicles travel the almost 800-kilometer road network of the Cayman Islands every day. With the world's first complete RFID solution for vehicle management, Tönnjes retrofitted all vehicles with the IDePlate RFID license plate and the IDeSTIX RFID security tag.

The company also programmed the IDeTRUST management software, including registration, management and readout systems. The result: a digital vehicle management system using RFID with counterfeit and theft-proof license plates as well as local license plate production.

Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands

Numerous Problems

70,000 vehicles travel the almost 800-kilometer road network of the Cayman Islands every day. Most of them are privately owned. Public transport and freight traffic are few and far between, as are motorcycles: only about 2,000 jet across the Caribbean islands. All vehicles have one thing in common: they must be registered with the Cayman Islands Department of Vehicle and Driver Licensing (DVDL).

Before the introduction of Tönnjes technology, however, not all Caymanians complied. The consequences: Taxes and insurance were not paid, stolen vehicles were misused for robberies or license plates were forged. In addition, there were delivery problems with license plates. Orders from Canada or the USA arrived late or not at all.

Outdated System Slows Down Authorities

At the heart of all problems was an outdated, manually managed system of vehicle registration using index cards. Digital solutions were completely lacking. This also impaired the checking of vehicle owners on the road. Here, black sheep had to be identified immediately and removed from circulation. Without quick access to an electronic database, this was an extremely difficult task. High time, then, to bring the entire fleet and administration of the archipelago into the digital age with the help of RFID technology.

The Cayman Islands

  • A group of islands south of Cuba
  • Belongs to the Greater Antilles
  • Three main islands: Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac
  • Area of about 264 km2
  • 69,914 inhabitants
  • Official language: English
  • 70,000 vehicles
  • 800 kilometer road network

Electronic Vehicle Identification

 

Commission for a Pilot Project

Flashback to 2012. A DVDL employee gets to know the German company Tönnjes and its successful products at a trade show in Miami: the RFID license plate IDePLATE and the windshield sticker IDeSTIX. Both the modern license plates and the security labels contain a passive RAIN RFID chip, about the size of a pin, with an encrypted identification number.

Thanks to RFID technology, vehicles can be identified contactlessly over several meters and even in moving traffic. Electronic vehicle identification, or EVI for short, is made possible by authorized readers.

For the Cayman Islands, this is the solution to all their problems. They commission Tönnjes to retrofit the entire fleet and the administration of the island group within three years. This is a challenge for the company's employees, as they are the first in the world to implement a complete vehicle management system based on RFID license plates and security tags.

The project planning phase before the rollout lasts 18 months. Existing IT systems in the Cayman Islands have to be checked, dimensions adjusted and interfaces defined. The new system will not work without an appropriate backend. In addition to pure vehicle identification, registration software is also required. Tönnjes programs IDeTRUST, an administration software including registration, management and readout system, exclusively for the DVDL.

Electronic Vehicle Identification

The mobile readers are used during traffic controls. They detect the chip in the license plate without contact and from a distance of several meters.

Trucks also receive the IDeSTIX sticker

Trucks also receive the IDeSTIX sticker.

Traffic Control

Data Transmission

Rollout Phase on the Cayman Islands

In the rollout phase, the Caymanian authority DVDL will receive 90,000 IDePLATES as well as 45,000 IDeSTIX. 2016 marked the start of the new vehicle registration system. At the same time, a local production facility was set up.

Here, administrative staff can emboss, ink and personalize the prefabricated Tönnjes blanks themselves on demand. In addition to the software, mobile readers and stationary antennas for capturing and reading the passive chips, Tönnjes is also supplying the necessary know-how for production.

The built-in RFID chip transmits the vehicle owner's data to the mobile reader in seconds.

Mobile Devices and Fixed Reading Points

Today, seven years later, all vehicles on the Cayman Islands are equipped with RFID technology. The police have 50 mobile devices in use. With these readers, officers have access to the central database of the licensing authority. If a vehicle comes under traffic control, the RFID chip embedded in the license plate transfers all the data to the smartphone.

This enables the police officer to check whether taxes, insurance or parking tickets have been paid, for example. In addition, ten fixed reading points are planned at strategic locations, such as bridges. Seven of these have already been installed.

Every Step is Tracked and Traced

 
Each vehicle has its own number

Each vehicle has its own number. This means that all the vehicle owner's data can be clearly assigned.

More fixed reading points are planned on the Cayman Islands

More fixed reading points are planned on the Cayman Islands, for example at tunnels.

Track & Trace

The security aspect was always at the forefront of this project. Due to the electronic fingerprint, RFID tags are absolutely forgery- and theft-proof, similar to an ID card. Each chip installed contains a number that is unique worldwide. The same applies to IDeSTIX vignettes. The chip contained therein self-destructs when detached.

In addition, the license plates and the sticker are linked so that the plates cannot be easily stolen and attached to another car. The connection to the IDeTrust management system also makes the entire process traceable for the authority. Every step, from the birth of the product to its issuance to the vehicle owner, can be tracked and traced thanks to the production-based software. This prevents misuse and theft. The stock of blanks is also constantly monitored. If necessary, reorders can be placed in good time, thus avoiding bottlenecks in production.

Before the implementation, long delivery times led to long waiting times. Sometimes even a temporary cardboard sign had to be used as a substitute. This is now a thing of the past thanks to the company's own on-site production facility. Cardboard license plates are now history.

A Wide Range of Possible Applications for RFID-Based License Plate Technology

IDePLATES, IDeSTIX and IDeTRUST have revolutionized the management system for vehicles on the Cayman Islands. In conjunction with the RFID Control System, which automatically reads and controls data at fixed locations, Tönnjes' products enable secure and uncomplicated vehicle identification. The company is convinced that other countries could also benefit from the multiple applications of its RFID-based license plate technology.

In addition to electronic vehicle identification, RFID would make it possible, for example, to improve access control and toll systems, implement environmental zones, modernize payment processes in the area of bridge or ferry crossings, and protect vehicle owners from theft or license plate counterfeiting.

INTERVIEW WITH OLAF RENZ
Interview

All Countries that Think Digital can Use Our System!

The pilot project on the Cayman Islands serves as a model example for other projects, says Olaf Renz, member of the management board of the Tönnjes International Group in an interview with RFID & Wireless IoT Global.
INTERVIEW WITH OLAF RENZ

Olaf Renz is Member of the Management Board at the Tönnjes International Group.

What sets us apart is that we don't deliver out of Germany. There are exceptions. However, we usually go directly to the country and are able to set up a factory there on a greenfield site. With our agencies and joint venture companies we are represented worldwide. Tönnjes now includes 50 companies.

We produce 50 million license plates per year. Furthermore, we have managed to turn an analog product into a digital one.

Products with RFID account for about 10 percent of our sales. That means we are still a long way from our target. However, we notice that there is a very strong push into the market. New projects almost always include the RFID component. You can already see the trend that the authorities are asking for RFID. On the one hand, it's about secure vehicle identification using RFID, but also about covering extended applications.

These are all products that we manufacture ourselves. Naturally, we also make use of technologies that are available on the market. One of these is the RFID chip from NXP. It contains a number that is unique worldwide. We then install this chip in components that we integrate into the license plate as a fixed component. Once it has been installed, it is impossible to steal the chip. If you do try, it self-destructs. It simply no longer works.

Here, too, we use standard technologies. It's the same chip. However, antennas are used that are connected to the metallic surface of the holographic label. In this way, the entire label acts as an antenna. We do the same thing with the license plate, by the way. We use the aluminum surface as an antenna amplifier. Through the metal surface, the radio waves can be read very well, safely and cleanly. That's why it works so well.

It is important to know: The chip is only the size of a pinhead or even smaller. You need a special machine to connect the chip to the primary antenna. Furthermore, the chip has to be encapsulated so that it also works when the license plate gets wet or dirty. We then integrate this encapsulation into our license plate. The finished blank then goes to the customer in this form. The customer takes it out of the box and personalizes it himself. The electronic packing lists are particularly important here.

The moment a product is taken out of the box, it has to be debited. Otherwise, personalization doesn't work. There are defined steps that the employee has to carry out onsite. Only then can all three products, license plates for front and rear plus windshield label, be linked together in the database. This means you have three individual numbers that are assigned to the vehicle. This creates a fingerprint for the vehicle that can no longer be changed.

Not at all, as a matter of fact. Manipulations are as good as impossible. We use the same system when we install products on our premises. That means: When the chip is born, we get an electronic packing list from NXP. We always know exactly which chip goes in which box and on which pallet. The system works seamlessly.

You have to take a lot of things into account, of course, and have a good team of engineers who are experts in the field. This is a very special technology where many factors play a role. Over the years, however, we have perfected it to such an extent that it works wonderfully in the license plate and windshield label application.

A very small project. This has to do with the volumes. Moreover, there is only one place on-site for issuing and personalizing the tags or vignettes. So the production process is relatively simple. This is in stark contrast to IT, which is of course just as complex, regardless of whether the project is large or small. The process itself always has to be set up from scratch.

Yes, there is. The DVDL has actually already implemented this idea. All official vehicles and employees of the public authority are recorded in the system. There is an antenna at the entrance to the parking lot. The barrier identifies the vehicle and automatically opens and closes. It can also capture who is in the vehicle. This is important because a whitelist is stored in the database.

In our system, we distinguish between a whitelist and a blacklist. If a vehicle owner does not pay taxes, he ends up on the blacklist. The lists are updated daily, both for mobile devices and fixed devices. They also indicate where to look for the "black sheep".

A digital product is always exciting for us. The special thing was that the customer took our idea on board. Like us, they were convinced that the entire process – from the birth of the blank through production to output, to the end customer – could be mapped electronically. We knew that this would open up a wide range of possibilities.

The authorities can, for example, offer data transmission as a service to other companies. The DVDL now knows which vehicle has which identifier. They can develop their own business model from this. The Caymanians are actually thinking about this.

Just go and have a look at the system. Visitors are always welcome. After all, the DVDL is very proud of what they have achieved. In principle, any country can use our system. Once you start thinking digitally, RFID-based electronic vehicle management is a solution for every country.

We are out in many countries that have similar problems to the Cayman Islands. The investments are compensated very quickly by additional tax revenues. Even countries that have a good central database can use our system.

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