Components for efficient applications in digitised processes
Experts are spotlighting the future of contactless data transfer and the hardware development of readers and antennas, ICs and transponders, printers and handhelds. State-of-the-art and innovative new and further developments are ready for use in scalable and sustainable applications.
Hardware, Manufactured for Wireless Technologies
In the realm of hardware that utilises wireless technology, the possibilities are practically endless. Companies are constantly designing and developing new products that work faster, have lower power consumption, span longer distances, or are adjustable to and compatible with more devices.
To make use of wireless technologies, an infrastructure of data carriers and readers is installed. Typically, RFID comes into play here but NFC or BLE, among others, are also possible.
LPWAN is a protocol that has keeps power consumption of the device and the operating cost low while enabling transfer across longer distances. The network consists of devices and gateways that are connected via unlicenced radio wave frequencies or mobile network frequencies.
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The right infrastructure
The labels store information about the product, item, or device that can be read by a reader over a certain range (from a few centimetres up to over 10 metres), depending on design, material, and frequency. Despite the fact that wireless technology – except SAW, among others, that works on optical frequencies or audible waves – is driven by electromagnetic waves (radio waves in the case of RFID), application has been optimised even for challenging materials (e. g. ESD).
The read information, for example a product ID, directional information, or sensor data, is pre-processed by the reader and then forwarded to the next IoT layer, from where it can be accessed for purposes like documentation, analysis, and decision-making.
The storage medium that includes coded information can be chip-based or chipless. Data carriers either have their own battery (active) or receive their power from the reader (passive). The communication is mostly unidirectional (from a carrier to a reader device; reading) but can also be bidirectional (reading and writing).
Wide range of possibilities
Data carriers – like RFID tags, NFC labels, BLE beacons – are used for container management, textiles, supply chain management, smart assembly lines, asset management, inventory, and more. Especially in industrial and medical environments, tags have to be able to withstand high and very low temperatures (sterilisation, storage of sensitive materials), pressure, dust and liquids (classified through IP codes), or rough treatment (textiles). Occasionally, they have to be very small (space-saving) or compatible with challenging materials (metal, ESD).
Labels are produced in high quantities by special printers, production machines, or in a print-and-apply process. The systems operate at different frequencies, depending on the application. LF (30 - 300 kHz) might be used for identification in rough environments, while HF (3 - 30 MHz, e. g. 13,56 MHz NFC) and UHF (300 MHz - 3 GHz, e. g. 2,4 GHz BLE) is used for long-range identification and moving objects. The reader design varies depending on the application – mounted, desktop, handheld, or gate.
LPWAN can be used for smart metering applications like the monitoring of gas and water supply, for which data is communicated regularly. For smarter cities, LPWAN networks are installed to monitor and control the infrastructure remotely, for waste management, maintenance, automated parking systems, or environmental factors. Another beneficial use is the tracking of livestock or monitoring of health care patients.