Archive for the ‘Automotive’ Category

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.”

Xerafy enhances performance of its X series RFID-on-metal tags for work-in-progress, asset tracking and equipment management

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Xerafy took advantage of a captive audience today at the Alien User and Partner Conference to unveil the new and enhanced line of its X Series tags. The X II UHF RFID-on-metal tags are engineered for high performance and demanding apps in the automotive, aerospace, construction, energy and IT markets.
 
The new X II Series maintains the look and feel of the original X Series tags but now include an ingress protection rating of IP68 and enhanced read-range performance.
  
Dennis Khoo, CEO of Xerafy, says that the new tags are particularly appealing to customers who have been unable to deploy RFID in the past because the RFID tags could not achieve read range requirements in harsh conditions. “In critical and often potentially hazardous applications requiring reliable identification of people and assets, Xerafy tags offer the RFID traceability essential for safe and secure operations and tracking,” he says.
 
The PicoX II and NanoX II come with robust a encasement that is weather resistant and increases tag performance to twice the reading distance of the PicoX and NanoX respectively. The MicroX II has the longest read range with over 26 feet and has been reconstructed using patent-pending packaging for higher impact and temperature performance.

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.”

Michelin rolls out RFID-enabled tires for commercial fleets; U.S. may pass tire mandate

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Should there ever be another tire recall incident similar to 2001 when 13 million Firestone tires on Ford Explorers were recalled, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the U.S. government act swiftly to pass legislation mandating the use of RFID to track and trace tires.

In fact, some industry insiders expect that the government may issue a mandate requiring RFID tags on the tires of all passenger vehicles regardless. After all, why wait for another massive recall? When the Ford/Firestone incident occurred, Congress seriously considered track and trace programs for tires. However, the attention of lawmakers was diverted from the topic following the 9/11 attacks and the war in Iraq.

“We were very close to [legislation] after the Ford incident but then Congress went to war,” Dr. Pat King, Michelin’s leader for electronic strategies, said at this week’s AIM Expo in Chicago. “If it weren’t for the Iraq [conflict] we’d probably have tags in tires on passenger cars today.”

King estimates that at today’s costs, RFID tags in production for tires would cost about 30 to 40 cents apiece, meaning that consumers would pay about $1 extra for each RFID-enabled tire. RFID tags in tires would allow consumers to track mileage and maintenance records, and also provide beneficial safety information on tread wear, tire pressure and warranties.

Currently, Michelin is moving quickly into RFID-enabled truck tires, especially in China and other foreign countries. RFID can help to manage the re-tread process, for example, and assure that fleet owners get the re-treads from their own fleet, not from other tires that that may not have been maintained.

“We don’t know that passenger tires will ever have RFID in them” short of a government mandate, says King. “B2B is where it’s at.”

Would you be willing to pay an extra buck a tire to gain the above benefits? Leave a comment and let us know.