RFID helps with tires, food and drug, automotive applications

RFID can be used effectively for tires, food and drug applications, and by suppliers to the automotive industry, according to an analyst, end-user, system integrator, and an RFID vendor, at the 2004 Omron Technology Connection Editor's Day.&/& body>


RFID can be used effectively for tires, food and drug applications, and by suppliers to the automotive industry, according to an analyst, end-user, system integrator, and an RFID vendor, at the 2004 Omron Technology Connection Editor's Day.

Lifecycle applications of RFID can help now in a number of industries, suggests John Blanchard, principal analyst, ARC Advisory Group . "Business concerns, regulatory requirements, and empowered consumers are forcing improved tracking in many industries," Blanchard says. In food and beverage, there’s a greater need for ingredient sourcing, to more quickly trace intentional, or unintentional contamination. A few years ago, Blanchard says, U.S. Food and Drug Administration cited 25,000 salmonella-related contaminations across 16 states, before they identified the source. Other food-related concerns are mad cow, foot and mouth, and bird flu diseases; counterfeit foods; and allergen mislabeling. In the pharmaceutical area, efforts continue to reduce number of medication errors. He cites more than a dozen U.S. and global regulatory requirements for more careful record keeping. Beyond food and pharmaceuticals, detail provided by more careful recording keeping could drastically reduce the number of manufacturer safety-related recalls of tires, automobiles, and other high-profile products, Blanchard suggests.

6-point RFID roadmap

1. Create a global RFID policy (frequency, technology, data structures);
2. Execute an application analysis (how, why, and when deployed);
3. Create a cost-benefit analysis (return on investment study);
4. Develop an implementation model (decide on suppliers, etc.);
5. Design a deployment plan (choose a pilot); and
6. Manage the change impact (audit the change).

Source: Control Engineering with information from Patrick King, leader global electronics strategies, Michelin at the 2004 Omron Technology Connection Editor's Day.

Patrick F. King, leader global electronics strategies, Michelin , notes that there’s been a technology challenge with tires, because form factors for most electronics are flat and inflexible, and tires are not electronics friendly. RFID [radio-frequency identification] technology has potential beyond retail and helping to avoid recalls incurred by Ford and Firestone in 2000. Providing only identification information, so-called "slap and ship" retail requirements, he says, doesn’t add value, only cost. Because tires are the only interface with road conditions, future applications for embedded electronics have potential also to provide details on operating conditions and vehicle performance, King says. Michelin is among many companies involved in efforts by the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG), to create an industry standard for tire and wheel identification, initially completed February 2002. Michelin has since offered to the industry an RFID tag capable of being cured into the tire.


The B-11: Tire & Wheel Label & Radio Frequency ID (RFID) Standard, according to AIAG, "provides a methodology for the use of 2-D Symbologies (on labels) and RFID technology on tires and wheels for product identification. Standard is designed to help automate the collection of data from tires and wheels." Version 5, June 23, 2004, revision also provides data syntax to allow for retail applications (for compliance with Electronic Product Code, EPC). The AIAG standard allows for using one transponder to interrogate multiple frequencies, King explains; 868 MHz (Europe); 915 MHz (U.S.), and 956 MHz (Japan). It follows ANSI MH 10.8.4 protocol; requires a read range out to 24-in. (0.61 m); and has 110 Byte data capacity.

With tires, two keys to making RFID work are controlling process costs of embedding the technology and making use of information from the tires; it’s not just the price of the RFID tag. King draws on experience. Michelin announced a commercial RFID solution in January 2003. The result is a cured-in, flexible, no-battery electronic tag. Vendors licensed to supply tire tags are Applied Wireless Identifications Group Inc . (AWID), Sharp Electronics , and iPico .

King says Michelin is particularly concerned about implementation costs and strongly supports the idea of a single solution for the industry as well as international standards. Migration of EPC to UHF Gen 2 (second generation) and the opportunity to bring the B11 standard into compliance are good for the industry, he adds; for example if a solution costs $1 then the incremental cost at full implementation, could be $190 million a year, he says. There better be benefits associated with those costs, because "We’re in business to serve our customers and to make money as well." For King’s RFID roadmap recommendations, see the text table.

Also in the automotive area, Jeff Gottschalk, chief technical officer, ADC Division of The SMS Group , talked about working RFID into systems at Total Interior Systems of America (TISA), a supplier for Toyota. The SMS Group is a system integrator of data systems. A new TISA facility includes just in time (JIT) and just in sequence (JIS) methods; new enterprise resource planning software; minimum downtime requirements; conveyor control interface; a 2,500-ton injection molding machine; pallets with RFID tags; tracking of airbags and occupant compartment components; and interfaces to several makes and models of PLCs. RFID enables ship-in-sequence and traceability requirements, with just a 50-60-vehicle buffer between TISA and Toyota. Fixed and handheld Omron RFID readers feed data to SMS CORE (Component oriented reusable environment) middleware, providing validation via an Oracle database.

Dave Quebbemann, Omron Electronics director of marketing, emphasized that regulatory requirements in industries, including automotive, foods, and pharmaceuticals, help justify costs of improving record-keeping with RFID and other tracking technologies. "The ability to ruin a company in short order is driving traceability requirements. It cost five times as much to recall a product than to ship it originally."

For more from Control Engineering about products introduced at the Omron meeting, see " Omron launches software, sensors, safety controller, RFID reader/writer ."

—Mark T. Hoske, editor-in-chief, Control Engineering, MHoske@cfemedia.com

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