Archive for the ‘Aerospace’ Category

Wall Street Journal: RFID will simplify the airline experience for travelers

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

We’ve covered a lot of developments in the aerospace sector when it comes to RFID and how the technology will benefit the airline industry. Airbus, which is scheduled to deliver its new A350 line beginning in 2013, says that each new plane will include from 3,000 to 10,000 RFID tags to simplify maintenance and safety checks, saving airlines thousands of hours in labor.

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal looks at some of the consumer-facing benefits that flyers can look forward to. Some, like RFID-enabled check in at airports, are currently in the pilot stage. Others, like using RFID to track the progress of trips from start to finish, are longer term projects. Either way, just the idea that RFID is going to greatly enhance the consumer travel experience is exciting news.

An excerpt from the WSJ article:

Qantas Airways Ltd. has gone a couple of steps further with a pilot program in place for domestic flights at four airports in Australia. The program allows travelers to check-in in seconds at a kiosk that reads an RFID, or radio-frequency identification, chip in their frequent-flier card. At that moment, flight details, including a gate number, are sent to the traveler’s smartphone. At the gate, passengers can simply have their card scanned again and board the plane.

Farther down the line, technology will emerge to manage every aspect of a trip, from door to door, says Brian O’Rourke, who leads the global airline team at International Business Machines Corp., which is working with Qantas on its RFID technology. “In a decade or two, there will be smart analytics around your travel itinerary that will do everything from recommending the best transport options to and from the airport to being able to update the airline, the driver, the hotelier and the rail company on the status of your flight and other travel,” he says.

 

 

Boeing and Alaska Air to pilot RFID maintenance solution

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

The aerospace industry is strongly pursuing RFID technology for a variety of reasons, including tracking work-in-process, improving productivity and maintenance procedures. On Monday, Boeing, Alaska Airlines and Fujitsu announced that they will partner on a solution to speed up onerous maintenance and safety checks on Alaska Airline aircraft. The pilot program, which will be deployed in Q4,  will document the time savings involved in using RFID to perform normally tedious safety and maintence tests in the cabin of aircraft. The program, called Component Management Optimization,  utilizes RFID tags that store part numbers, serial numbers and maintenance history, which can be updated constantly to create an electronic record that travels with the airplane. When the program is certified, it will be available for use on Boeing and non-Boeing airplanes.

“Our partnership with Boeing reflects our vision of being on the leading edge of the best technology applications that we believe will shape the future airline operations environment,” said Fred Mohr, vice president of maintenance and engineering at Alaska Airlines.

Click here to view a short video about the application.

Click here to view RFID 24-7′s previous coverage of the Boeing Fujitsu announcement.

Click here to view RFID 24-7′s past coverage on RFID and the aerospace sector.

Auto manufacturers consider high memory tags for maintenance, warranty program

Monday, April 4th, 2011

In an effort to capture new customers and increase sales, luxury automakers are tempting consumers with free maintenance programs. Volvo, for example, is pushing a feature that covers all maintenance costs for the first five years of new vehicle’s life.

In an effort to manage these programs, manufacturers are investigating high memory RFID tags like those being embraced by the aerospace industry.

Aside from Volvo, automakers like Jaguar, BMW, Audi and Lexus could all be turning to high memory tags in the next several years. Tego, a provider of high memory RFID tagging solutions, expects that the auto industry will be one of its major markets in three to five years. Tego CEO Tim Butler says the auto industry could consume tens of millions of high memory tags as manufacturers target better efficiencies for process control, production control, supply chain management, car distribution and managing maintenance programs.

“Initially we’ve seen interest from some very high-end auto manufacturers who do a lot of maintenance for automobiles,” says Butler. “Lately we’re seeing interest from the larger automotive companies as well.”

Butler expects Tego will ink at least one automotive deal within the next six months. He sees the automotive sector emerging as one of Tego’s top five markets down the road. The industry is looking at tags with 4 and 8 KBytes of memory to keep track of production numbers, VIN numbers, part numbers and supply chain information. Tags would be placed on car bodies or on any type of metal parts, and would travel with the car for its entire life cycle.

Manufacturers are also considering high memory tags for configuration management and to record product lifecycle data by tracking manufacturing information, product testing and any repairs that are conducted throughout the life of the part.

“The high-end auto manufacturer’s assets are very high value,” says Butler. “So they are also looking at this from an anti-counterfeiting perspective to make sure parts are actually genuine OEM parts.”

Aside from aerospace and automotive, Butler says that the railroad, chemical, and oil and gas industries are all looking at adding intelligence to high value assets by utilizing high memory tags. However, the aerospace sector is far ahead of other industries. Initial reports of the airline industry using hundreds of thousands to millions of high memory tags have been pushed out another 12-18 months. Aerospace manufacturers will likely use the next 12 months to get their high memory tagging programs in gear, and then fully ramp up tagging during 2012.

And while Airbus is on record that each of its new A350 aircraft will carry 3,000 RFID tags, it’s entirely possible that each new plane could carry up to 10,000 tags as Airbus starts to identify other use cases. The A350 is scheduled for delivery beginning in 2013.

“It’s the same thing you see in automotive, but they are two years ahead of the game,” says Butler. “They’ve done their due diligence and are starting to see where the applications fit and other use cases, so tagging starts to extend itself out.”

While aerospace has clearly defined the ROI for most use cases, there is still a disconnect when it comes to return on investment for auto, primarily because of the misconception that users must spend millions on back end systems to accommodate RFID. While some infrastructure costs are needed, Butler stresses that they don’t need to invest multi-millions on IT systems on the back end when they have the information needed on the asset.

“I can have someone with a handheld reader and a laptop out there getting the information without having to acquire all this back end [infrastructure], and then I can use those back end systems more efficiently,” he says.

“The conversation we have with people is that this is no different from 25 years ago when PCs were coming along and it took people a while to understand the impact of distributed data. In this instance, it’s just distributed data for assets. The value points and implications for new applications and efficiencies is just beginning, and people are just starting to realize this.”

The other area where high memory tags are just scratching the surface is with the concept of putting applications onto the tags. With the additional memory of Tego’s tags, enterprises could use the same model available today on an iphone to have downloadable apps.

“Our 32 KByte tag is just the beginning,” says Butler. “We think there will be the ability to store a lot more information and provide more functionality.”

The auto industry continues to work on standards for RFID tagging. The Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) is involved with a global standardization effort and recently unveiled RFID standards for returnable containers. AIAG is working with Europe’s Odette International Ltd. and the Japan Automotive Manufacturers Assoc., on global standards for item level tagging of parts. The standards will identify memory and read range requirements.

Larry Graham, a principal at LG AutoID LLC, works closely with the AIAG standards body. He says the regs should be ready in June, although the natural disaster in Japan could delay the standards.

“The big thing that is helping all of this is having the Gen 2 tag to build standards around,” says Graham. “Whether you use a tag for retail or industrial, we’re all leveraging that same tag design. So by doing things in a standardized way, we get volumes up and drive costs down. Traceability is becoming much more important for us. You’re talking about extending warranties, and usually suppliers are a partner in that warranty. All of this is going to enhance the as-built record for a vehicle.”

High memory RFID tags allow iphone-like apps

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Sophisticated users of RFID technology are beginning to embrace the concept of running applications on high memory RFID tags, instead of just storing information. Read about this and other ways that the aerospace and auto industry are using high memory tags in this week’s issue of RFID 24-7.

According to Tego CEO Tim Butler:  “The other area where high memory tags are just scratching the surface is with the concept of putting applications onto the tags. With the additional memory of Tego’s tags, enterprises could use the same model available today on an iphone to have downloadable apps.”

RFID TagSource inks R&D agreement with FAA; high-memory tags take off in aviation apps

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

RFID TagSource has signed a cooperative research and development agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration that allows the firm to use the FAA’s laboratory facilities and resources at the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center in New Jersey.

The collaborative research will eventually help to enhance flight safety and maintenance operations by storing maintenance history information directly on aircraft parts by using RFID TagSource’s new high memory passive RFID tag. The AeroTag, unveiled in November, stores information on a small chip that tracks the pedigree of flight certified parts and improves inspection operations.

The FAA agreement is an indication of the capabilities that RFID TagSource has developed for RFID in aerospace and defense. Last year RFID TagSource worked with Boeing on the Air Force ARAI program where specially designed RFID tags were attached to an Air Force F-16 and tested at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

“This work supports the mission of the aerospace industry to continually improve flight safety and operational efficiency,” said Kevin Donahue, managing director at RFID TagSource. “The resources available to us at the FAA Technical Center have really helped speed up our development efforts. This is a fantastic opportunity and exciting time for our company.”

RFID TagSource is a tag supplier for the Airbus A350, which is currently under development. Airbus is requiring that most parts be tagged with RFID tags. Airbus expects that up to 3,000 aircraft parts will be tagged on each plane, with 2,000 of these tags being high memory tags carrying 4 kilobytes or more of storage.

“The Airbus program is very real and it’s very far along,” said Donahue. “They are actually in the process of having [RFID tagged] parts delivered.”

Airbus will use the RFID tags to maintain maintenance records and parts history. When it comes time to check the history of part, maintenance personnel can rely on a hand-held RFID reader to obtain the full history of an A350 part. Donahue says that the Airbus requirement for read performance using a handheld unit is a minimum 20 inches globally, but that RFID TagSource is exceeding that requirement, in some cases reaching 24 inches or more.

While Airbus will use up to 3,000 RFID tags per plane, actual tag consumption will likely be up to 10 times that number for each plane, as all spare parts stored at global distribution centers and warehouses will also carry tags.

In November, RFID TagSource announced the development of the AeroTag family of high memory passive RFID tags, developed within the guidelines put forth by the Air Transport Association (ATA). The tags meet ATA Spec2000 and SAE-AS5678 specifications. With 4 kilobytes of memory and a lightweight rugged design, the tags are particularly well suited for manufacturers supporting the Airbus A350 XWB RFID initiative.

“The AeroTag has been designed to address an identified need for storing maintenance history information directly on aircraft parts,” said Donahue. “There are a number of initiatives underway in the aerospace industry that cannot be supported using generally available lower memory tags. The combination of our new high memory and our partner’s lower memory offerings has RFID TagSource uniquely positioned to serve the broad set of needs for RFID technologies across the aerospace and defense industry.”

Click here to view RFID 24-7′s previous coverage on RFID and aerospace.

The new AeroTag product line features integrated circuits from Tego, a provider of high memory passive RFID chip solutions that meet the ATA Spec2000 spec. AeroTags outfitted with Tego silicon can be configured to store up to 32 kilobytes of data.

Last year RFID 24-7 reported that the airline industry could consume hundreds of thousands of high memory RFID tags within 12 to 18 months, possibly reaching the millions depending on the applications and use cases that manufacturers adopt.

“Right now we have just the specific applications for flyable tags but there are additional applications that companies are looking to expand into,” Tego CEO Tim Butler told RFID 24-7. “Going forward, we think the projections that call for the industry to use many millions of tags over the next three to five years is a very viable estimate.”

Fujitsu and Boeing form strategic alliance; RFID will assist in aircraft maintenance services

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Boeing, a longtime leader when it comes to introducing RFID to the aviation sector, will roll out a new system for airlines that will allow them to utilize RFID when it comes to conducting maintenace operations and other procedures on planes. Boeing plans to launch the service in the first quarter of 2012.

Boeing has established a strategic alliance with Fujitsu to develop the service to enable greater efficiency in aircraft maintenance operations, relying mostly on RFID technology and contact memory buttons (CMB). Airlines will be able to use these technologies without needing to retrofit their own fleets.

By using RFID, airlines can lessen costs by reducing inventory and manual data entry errors without having to create new processes. For example, Boeing has already proven that RFID can be used to test and inspect the oxygen devices that are embedded above each passenger seat. And at the AIM Expo event held in Chicago in October, Boeing’s Ken Porad noted that maintenance personnel can inspect all of the life jackets stored under passenger seats in about six minutes. Previsouly, it took two people one hour to check all of the floatation devices on a single plane. That’s just one of more than 200 use cases that Boeing has identified for use in airline production and maintenance.

Click here to read about RFID 24-7’s previous coverage of RFID in the airline industry.

Under the new alliance, Fujitsu will provide Boeing with a globally-shared platform that includes automated identification technology devices, device readers, software applications and a system integration and deployment service. Boeing will tailor solutions for each customer’s needs, integrate those solutions into the customer’s operational environment and establish a long-range plan that will expand automated identification technology solutions across the customer’s enterprise. The service will be available for Boeing and non-Boeing fleets and will be rapidly adaptable to any customer.

“We have been working with Boeing for more than five years to promote RFID implementation in the aviation industry and we are very excited to start this project jointly,” said Mitsutoshi Hirono, corporate vice president, Fujitsu Limited.

The Boeing Transformation Service will enable customers to better manage aircraft components, equipment, and materials by retrofitting them with automated identification technology devices, allowing automated data management and highly visible supply chain related maintenance processes. Prior to the launch of the new service in early 2012, the service will undergo three phases of beta testing through deployment with a launch customer.

“We see an opportunity for the aviation industry that surpasses past expectations,” said Per Norén, vice president, Boeing CAS Information Services. “Airline customers will greatly improve their operation efficiency from this service as a result of Boeing and Fujitsu entering the market together.”

In the not to distance future, Boeing will likely embed as many as 3,000 RFID tags on each airplane it manufactures. Boeing has 52 different RFID projects running at its facilities in Long Beach, Calif., Seattle, Philadelphia and St. Louis, where Boeing makes F18s. The RFID pilots involve shipping and receiving, managing tools, work in process, managing assets and much more.

One of Boeing’s most successful pilot’s to date involves a refrigerated RFID cabinet that stores the sealants it uses during the manufacturing process. RFID solved a major pain point for Boeing in that mechanics usually reached for the freshest tube of sealant, meaning that tubes with older dates were thrown away. It’s similar to reach for the freshest dated milk when grocery shopping.

By affixing an RFID tag to every tube if sealant, Boeing is able to track each one, curing dating problems and saving thousands of dollars associated with throwing away expired product. In addition, RFID assures that the proper product is used during installation.

“The whole process out of control,” says Porad. “By using RFID tags it took the human intervention out. The ROI was within one month. It’s been a fantastic solution for us, and we are replicating that for every storage freezer at Boeing’s facilities.” 

Click here to read about Airbus’ use of active ultra wideband RFID to track work-in-progress.

Tego set to produce millions of high memory tags for aerospace and automotive markets

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Editor’s Note: For those who may have missed this week’s top story in RFID 24-7, we’ve posted the story here. Be sure to subscribe to RFID 24-7 here:

Last week the industry was abuzz following the launch of the Item Level RFID Initiative, an alliance of major retailers that hope to accelerate the use of item level tagging in the retail arena. Retail item level tagging could utilize more than three billion UHF low-memory tags within four years.

This week, the buzz is about high-memory tags and the huge impact they could have in the aerospace industry, as well as the automotive, utility and medical sectors. In addition, smart cards and passports could become much more secure and functional by using high memory chips.

Waltham, Mass.-based Tego, a provider of high memory RFID tagging solutions, today announced the worldwide availability of new aviation-grade RFID tags for aerospace and a broad range of industrial applications. Developed by Tokyo-based Marubeni Chemix using TegoChip technology, the Marubeni TAGAT tags deliver high memory and rugged survivability for harsh industrial environments, with a 4 Kilobyte (32 kbit) TegoChip XL inside. Marubeni has purchased wafer-scale quantities to meet global demand.

“This is an opportunity for us to announce to the world that we have production-ready, in-volume tags available to the broad industrial marketplace for high memory,” says Tim Butler, CEO of Tego. “We are now in the position where we can immediately offer tags in the thousands and move into hundreds of thousands and millions within weeks.”

The TAGAT design addresses global interest in high memory RFID solutions for storing the life history of parts. With TegoChip inside, Marubeni’s TAGAT tags improve maintenance and repair operations by streamlining parts service history management, inventory tracking, and regulatory compliance.

“The Asian market has been demanding tags like this for quite a while, and we see many opportunities for these products,” says Yoshihiko Tsujimoto, RFID tag development leader at Marubeni Chemix. “The combination of Marubeni’s advanced tag technology and Tego’s chip technology opens the door to new solutions worldwide that help companies cut costs and improve operational effectiveness.”

The aerospace sector is the biggest and most immediate sweet spot for high memory RFID tags. At last week’s AIM Expo in Chicago, Boeing’s Ken Porad, an RFID pioneer in the aerospace field, said that planes will soon carry up to 3,000 RFID tags apiece, as nearly all parts begin to be tagged. Aside from tracking maintenance and part history, RFID provides huge labor savings for airlines and plane manufacturers. Boeing, for example, is using RFID in 52 pilots at various plants, including tracking work-in-process for the production of its new 787 Dreamliner. Parts for that plane are manufactured around the globe and shipped to Boeing’s production facility in Seattle. The tagged parts are then assembled in just three days. RFID helps Boeing to track those parts. (Click here for previous coverage on how Airbus is using RFID to manage work-in-process)

Within 12 to 18 months the airline industry could consume hundreds of thousands of high memory RFID tags, possibly reaching the millions depending on the applications and use cases that manufacturers adopt.

“Right now we have just the specific applications for flyable tags but there are additional applications that companies are looking to expand into,” says Butler. “Going forward, we think the projections that call for the industry to use many millions of tags over the next three to five years is a very viable estimate.”

Some manufacturers are considering using high memory tags early in the manufacturing process so they can incorporate work-in-process information onto the tags. That allows the tag to become a tool for customization as well as a repository for testing and managing information, not only for after the product is built and placed in use, but during the manufacturing process as well.

That’s one reason the automotive industry is moving into high memory tags very quickly. Given the amount of automobiles produced each year, tracking work-in-process could offer the industry huge productivity gains. “We think this will be a big area for growth in the next year,” says Butler. He says that applications and pilot projects that are starting now will likely result in using fewer than 100,000 tags initially, to eventual usage of more than a million high memory tags in the next year or two.

The rail industry is also considering high memory tags, as is the medical space, which is not so much focused on the high memory feature, but the fact that the tags meet the sterilization requirements of the medical industry.

Another potential sweet spot is smart cards across many industries, particularly where there is a need to use high memory and UHF technology and incorporate significant levels of encryption and authentication. “The need for the high memory is required for those [uses],” says Butler, who notes that the tags are ideal for passports and drivers licenses.

“We’ve already begun discussions with companies around the globe around those applications and solutions,” he says, and Tego is already demonstrating how digital fingerprints and photographs can be encrypted on passports. “All this information can be encrypted onto a passport that cannot be on them today. So the ability to crack the information on there and fake a passport could be greatly diminished. We see significant opportunity there.”

Butler says that the advent of high memory tags is akin to where the computer industry was back in the mid 1980s. “Where computers were at that point in time is where RFID is at this point,” he says. “We are transitioning from dumb tags and mainframe systems, into distributed systems where you have smarter tags and tag functionality just like PCs and laptops, to where the whole process of how information is managed begins to change. With RFID, we’re just at the early stages of that.”

International RFID Congress on tap for Sept. 14-15 in Toulouse

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Toulouse in September? Fall is a beautiful time to visit France. Throw in the International RFID Congress being held Sept. 14-15 and what’s not to like? The Congress is billing this event as the first event focused on RFID applications in the aeronautical, shipping, railway and automotive industries.

The event will include keynote speeches by decision makers and world leaders in the aeronautical, automotive, railway and shipping industries; business meetings and demos from providers of innovative RFID solutions; and a unique opportunity to meet and mingle with international experts and ISO officials, and to find out the latest news on ongoing work. The event will also feature a tour of the Airbus Industrial Showroom & Innovation Centre, which will demonstrate the use of Auto-ID technologies in the aeronautical industry.

The following specific topics will be discussed for each vertical:

Aeronautics

  • In-service parts monitoring and maintenance with reliable, hard-wearing tags specially designed for harsh environments
  • Development of human and material solutions that can be adapted for either in-house or outsourced maintenance operations

Automotive

  • Vehicle fleet management
  • Optimisation of assembly line flows
  • Prevention of parts counterfeiting
  • Assembly line automation

Railways

  • Automatic wagon scanning for stock-taking purposes
  • Ensuring safe management of train journeys through sensing controls
  • Maintenance of sensitive part

Shipping

  • Securing containers
  • Assistance for transferring responsibilities in maintenance operations