RFID Technologies RFID Technologies CC

Monthly newsletters

RFID Newsletter No 26
15 July 2016

1. Development of Solar-powered standalone UHF RFID reader
2. Complete remote UHF RFID systems for farm applications coming shortly
3. Product range
4. Getting your own complete RFID/radar system

1. Solar-powered standalone UHF RFID reader
At the request of some farmers wanting to monitor their livestock in remote fields, Trolley Scan have developed a solar powered RFID reader that works in conjunction with the existing Eco-cattle(tm) eartags to provide a self contained RFID systemwith a 10 meter reading range. The system can be located in a distant location that does not have the conventional utilities such as power and communications.

Although solar power and batteries are well-known technologies, making a RFID reader that can work with these technologies has been a major challenge. A reader operating on solar power has to be able to handle serious power fluctuations when the solar batteries are discharged. The reader has to be able to sense the condition of the batteries, and when they hold sufficient energy, to restart the entire system and to re-establish communications with the remote computer systems. The reader has to send status messages in the dying and coming to life phases so that the remote computers are aware of the current status of readers.

Conventional battery technology and charging systems are not suitable as there might be long periods due to weather when there will not be sufficient solar energy to operate the system and the batteries might discharge to zero volts. To cater for these situations a special battery technology has to be used that can handle full discharge and even over-charge but still gives about a 20 year life.

The components of the reader had to be redesigned to handle lower operating voltage which is available from solar systems.

For communications we have made facilities to communicate either via cellphone networks OR point to point radio communications OR even via wire. The reader has to deal with the challenges of establishing communication, especially in the cellphone network situation where the network might be out of action.

Although this reader has been targeted at farmers both of cattle and wild game, it also has application in other situations where RFID systems are needed in remote situations where there are no power utilities.

The UHF reader works with the entire range of transponders that are made by Trolley Scan

For more info mailto:info@rfidradar.com?subject=Want_info_on_solar_reader

2. Product range
RFID Technologies are a manufacturer of UHF RFID systems.

RFID Technologies manufacture fixed readers and portable readers as well as a variety of transponders for different applications. Transponders come in the form of passive transponders with operating ranges up to 20 metres and battery assisted transponders with an operating range up to 40 metres. RFID Technologies also combine some of these components into packages for end users which are supplied with the appropriate software. Typical applications are asset management, notebook tracking, equipment barriers, store control, sheep and cattle tracking, event logging and sports timing systems.

3. Getting your own complete RFID/radar system
You can order RFID systems or RFID-radar systems from rf-id-systems.com

RFID Technologies provide small RFID reader systems which give new users the ability to evaluate UHF RFID and their applications without needing specialised skills.

RFID Technologies provide a variety of easy starter systems for first time users who have an application that needs a solution. Typical packages are :

These systems are already operating in 52 countries. To find out details of the systems and to order see http://rf-id-systems.com/

RFID Newsletter No 25
14 May 2016

1. Development of passive UHF RFID animal eartag for cattle and wild game
2. Solar readers coming shortly

1. Development of passive UHF RFID animal eartag for cattle and wild game
RFID systems have two major components, namely the reader and the transponder. If there is a suitable transponder available for a particular application, then RFID solutions can be provided for that industry.

To attach transponders to large animals such as cows or kudu, if you are wanting to get a reasonable read range, then the transponder needs to be outside of the body. (The water content of the body means that only magnetic coupled transponder technology can be used when the transponder is inserted under the skin and these have very short read ranges.) To get the transponder mounted outside of the body, it is usual to attach the transponder to the ear tag on the animal. This presents problems in the past as it is very difficult to glue anything to an eartag due to its material of manufacture, and the performance of the transponder changes when it is in close contact with the material of the eartag meaning short read ranges.

RFID Technologies have developed a UHF passive RFID transponder that now has a read range up to 10 meters. The transponder is moulded inside the eartag protecting it from damage and giving the RFID eartag a long operating life. The eartag is passive - so no batteries are needed - and the electronics should have a 100 year life.

The eartag is based on the standard range of eartags produced by SafeTag in East London, South Africa and comes with all the supporting equipment needed to apply the tags in the field. This includes having the ability to have the animal number marked on the eartag with a laser etching process for permanent marking.

To develop this transponder, RFID Technologies faced a number of challenges. An antenna needs to be very efficient to offer long reading ranges and this means it must resonate at the operating frequency. This is similar to the situation of a tuning fork in an audio situation. The antenna is influenced by materials in close proximity to the circuit board and by other items in its environment up to 9 centimeters away from the circuit board. These influences change the operating performance of the transponder compared to when it is operating in air such that when attached to the eartag all the performance has disappeared. This meant that a new design of the transponder had to be developed by RFID Technologies to compensate for all these influences and to get back the transponder performance that it would be able to be read at 10 meters from the reader when attached to the animal. This required a new design as the transponder is now embedded inside the eartag material and is influenced by the moulding material on both sides of the transponder.

This development opens opportunities for monitoring of large animals up to 10 meters from the reader and is particularly suited to unmanned monitoring of animals on a continuous basis.

More details can be found at Datasheet - Bokkie-tag(tm)/Ecocattle(tm) passive RFID eartag for wild game and cattle

RFID Newsletter No 24
19 December 2015

1. Using RFID to mark safe routes through landmines for vehicles - request from United Nations

1. Using RFID to mark safe routes through landmines for vehicles - request from United Nations

The following is an extract from the 38 page RFP:

The United Nations (UNOPS) has issued a Request for proposal and plans to procure Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) equipment to demarcate roads and allow vehicles to automatically follow such markers.

The border between Sudan and South Sudan is estimated to be approximately 2200 km long and according to the UNISFA mandate, the UNISFA is to establish and patrol this border together with National Monitors from both Sudan and South Sudan. The border has never been physically marked or if marking had been done before, it would have been done during the colonial occupation of Sudan.

The UNMAS marking methods as prescribed in the International Mine Action Standards makes provision for a series of marking systems to be utilised when marking a cleared area prior to handing it over to the relevant authorities or the end user. These systems include the following:
a. Visual Reference Points
b. Visual constructed Bench Marks
c. Visual and sub-surface Starting Points
d. Visual and sub-surface Turning Points
e. Visual and subsurface Intermediate Points
f. Sub-surface marking by insertion of metal rods in ground to be located with a metal detector at all above mentioned Points
g. Accurate mapping of area

In addition, the above-mentioned points are linked on maps with the relevant distances and compass bearings between them. The coordinates of these points are also recorded either with handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) or for more accuracy, a Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS).

Over the years, marking systems within the Mine Action environment has been problematic and sustainability of marking has been subjected to the following factors:

A. Climatic conditions: Extreme weather conditions, such as high temperatures reduce the durability of visual markers. Painted pickets, rocks, barrier tape etc. are eroded by extreme temperatures, wind and rain and therefore lose the ability to be utilised as visual marker over a short period of time. Rain and floods also wash away marking over a period of time.

B. Theft: Theft is one of the biggest problems experienced with the marking of cleared or hazardous marking, especially in under-developed areas. Theft occurs when the marking materials have a monetary value, a use as a souvenir (for example mine warning signs) or as in many instances children use material from marking systems to be utilised in making toys. When hazardous areas are being fenced off with metal barbed wire, these wires are sought after for farmersí fences and safekeeping of cattle for example.

C. Bush Fires: In rural areas in the country, bush fires are seasonal occurrences. Prior to rainy seasons, local population such as cattle herders, farmers etc. will burn vast areas to ensure better grazing after the onset of the first rains. The fires are normally uncontrolled and burn and destroy any visual marking. Those type of marking that is not destroyed, are normally burnt to such a state that it is unrecognisable.

D. Intentional removal of marking: In areas where there are political differences, armed conflict or other unresolved land issues between the population, removal of any marking of hazardous or clearance marking can occur. Furthermore, is can also be removed by groups to deter opposition groups to enter an area and therefore create doubt in the opposition group as to the exact location of hazardous areas.

Until such time as there is well established routes or constructed roads, the identification of exact tracks or areas cleared by UNMAS will be problematic, especially after marking has deteriorated or been destroyed by mentioned factors including rain, theft etc.

Navigation by normal handheld GPS as well as DGPS by unqualified persons can be a tedious task and increases the risk of entering hazardous or dangerous areas. The use of DGPS is also very expensive, brought about by licencing fees, equipment and training. In addition, due to the periodic rotation of military personnel within the JBVMM Mission, local knowledge of the Area of Operations is also lost.

During research to find a sustainable and cost effective solution to the described marking problems, UNMAS concluded that utilisation of Radio Frequency Identification Service (RFID) will be the best way to the unique environment and challenges in demarcating the border and cleared areas within the border.

As RFID is an established and proven commercial technology, UNOPS (UNMAS/UNISFA) has the requirement to procure existing RFID technology and equipment that can be adapted in a cost effective way to be utilised in the UNMAS/UNISFA programme for the demarcation of the border area between Sudan and South Sudan. The successful company will provide the technology, equipment and the training for the implementation of the initial stage of the programme.

Phase 1:
The estimated length of the route for the phase I of this project is 100 km, which will be a combination of gravel roads, as well as extreme off road bush paths. The bidders will determine the quantity and the type of equipment necessary to cover the total length of the route. At the Phase 1, it is estimated that five (5) Radio Frequency Readers (scanners) will be sufficient to carry out the task. The scanners should easily locate these buried tags. Bidders should be able to guide the right location where tags are needed. The Reader will have a LED/LCD or a similar display screen, which will indicate to the driver/patrol that they are following the route accurately while in motion at the estimated speed of 40 km per hour
Phase 2
Planned to extend the coverage to 1000 km.

The above RFP was received from UNOPS by RFID Technologies on the 18th December 2015. We are one of the companies that were approached by the UNOPS about the concept.

Depending on the operating frequency and factors such as water content, RFID energy does penetrate the ground and allow buried transponders to be located with a reader.

One regular application of this approach is in locating the manholes for buried trunk fibreoptic cables. In these situations the cables and the access manholes are covered with soil after installation. The manhole covers are tagged with RFID transponders and in the event of maintenance being needed, the technician uses an RFID reader to locate the transponder and hence the manhole which can then be uncovered providing access.

Passive transponders would most probably be needed top be protected by suitable packaging and buried in the roadway. The lead vehicle in the convoy would have a reader system which would detect the transponder and provide identity and tracking information to the vehicle providing location information and guidance.

In a similar project RFID Technologies provide systems for unmanned trains that continuously read transponders along the track to control their speed and provide location information for command and control.

"This application could be one of the largest unconventional consumers of RFID todate."

Want more info. If you contact Mike Marsh at RFID Technologies we can provide you with a copy of the RFP from UNOPS.
The closing date is in a couple of weeks.

RFID Newsletter No 23
18 October 2015

1. The rewards of using established component suppliers

1. The rewards of using established component suppliers
For those of you not aware about the features of RFID radar - it is an amazing RFID system that can give the identity and position of transponders in its field of view, with accuracies of millimeters at ranges up to 40 meters. To do this it does not use any classic radar type approach of pulsed systems, or features such as power measurement, but rather uses very low interference techniques that allow precise measurements while allowing many systems to operate in close proximity. This is achieved by a very special design, using special high quality parts and four digital signal processors running about 75000 lines of code.

The performance of the Radar is exceptional in that during its soak testing, we monitor thousands of readings and find very minor data scatter even at 40 meters.

As the designer and manufacturer of the systems, we have come to appreciate working with mature component suppliers that can keep on making the special parts we use over the ten year period we have been making the system. Although manufacturers might bring new versions of products to market, as a system manufacturer it is essential that we are also able to get the older versions that have already been qualified for use in our systems.

The RFIDradar uses some very special parts that have specially been designed and manufactured for us. We hold stocks of these parts but when it comes to re-ordering, some of the manufacturers have to do a special manufacturing run for our parts as they are not off the shelf parts. This in some cases needs a 90 day turn around between the order and delivery as the parts are carefully tuned to deliver the required performance. This is where one appreciates dealing with companies that have been in business for decades and have the skills and resources to make special parts for customers.

Like our suppliers, we deliver stand alone systems that will work with past, current and future generations of computers and software, providing reliable measuring data for computer systems. We support our clients from 52 countries with support covering our earliest generations of equipment to our current. Any client can contact us with a problem and we will be able to get their system to full operation.

Although our design has been stable for many years, the recent banning of transport by air of equipment containing lithium batteries caused a redesign of the battery powered transponders to allow the batteries to be removed before shipment. This allowed us to also improve the performance of the transponders. The systems will work equally well with the older and the newer transponders but should get slightly more range with the newer generation.

RFID Newsletter No 22
22 June 2015

1. Interesting projects using RFID - RFID controls unmanned heavy vehicles

1. Interesting projects using RFID - RFID controls unmanned heavy vehicles
RFID is a sensing system that can be used with computer systems to provide some very useful systems.

For the past ten years, RFID Technologies have been providing adapted readers with special software, that allow unmanned trucks to move heavy loads very safely.

RFID can allow heavy vehicles to sense their current position when moving along a roadway and by knowing the distance between transponders and the time they are read, the speed can also be determined. This can be an independant system that does not need external signals such as GPS, and will also work when moving inside buildings.

Transponders are attached along the track and a reader on the vehicle detects the identity of each transponder as it passes over them. The computer system inside the vehicle has a table of the correct order the transponders will be passed and can detect immediately there is any component failure. The reader software has been specially created to provide status information to the computer controller so that any failure can immediately be detected.

The system uses passive transponders so that there is no maintenance involved in keeping the RFID system operational.

About 20 of these systems are in operation and the project has been running for the past ten years.

RFID Newsletter No 21
28 April 2014

Your latest copy of our regular newsletter keeping you up to date with developments. Contents
1. Major changes to world trade in the past month
2. Energy conversion

1. Major changes to world trade in the past month
This weekend we have two radar systems in transit to overseas clients both with complicated shipping arrangements. Whereas we have shipped in the past about 500 such systems using couriers, the 1st April saw the introduction of new rules and measures that make the shipping of some goods nearly impossible. Even a major courier company like FEDEX said they could not transport the systems with the new rules.

Inside most watches, calculators, computer motherboards and virtually any device that can remember a date setting, lies a small coin cell battery that keeps the date chip running. These cell batteries usually contain lithium in small amounts to give a battery that has very low leakage and usually a five year operating life. It is these batteries that are the target of new regulations from the 1st April which make their transport by air or sea extremely difficult.

Since 2013, IATA (the airline association) has introduced new regulations that declared any form of lithium battery as a dangerous cargo. Prior to the 1st April, the small coin cells mentioned above were excluded in certain circumstances, but from the 1st April this exemption falls away and any item that includes one of these batteries is now classified as dangerous cargo and subject to new transport regulations. In most cases this involves special packaging, a limit on the number of batteries in the package, special labelling of the cargo and an accompanying lithium battery certificate even if the battery is encased inside an electronic system.

In the USA situation, for local transport, import or export, this cargo may not be transported on any passenger aircraft and can only be moved by "cargo only" aircraft.

There are further regulations concerning the lithium batteries, requiring them only to be made in approved UN certified factories.

In our radar system we provide transponders that have a 40 metre range and which contain one of these small batteries. The batteries are installed in manufacture and are deep inside the packaging of the transponder before the transponder is finally encased in a rubber sleeve. They are electrically disconnected during transport and are not accessible from outside the transponder.

The new transport rules are going to mean that we change the design of the transponder to either:-

  • 1) use a different chemistry rechargeable battery and supply a recharge circuit for users to recharge the encased battery. The leakage for rechargeable batteries is much higher than lithium batteries and typically a rechargeable battery will run flat in a storage situation in 3 months compared to the five years of a lithium battery.
  • 2) use an externally accessible battery holder so that the user can locally buy lithium batteries and install them themselves when they receive the equipment. We can then fly the equipment with no batteries included. This solution is further complicated in that the positioning of the battery in the transponder is critical in order to preserve the RF performance and its waterproof nature.
  • 2. Energy conversion
    A really impressive technology is developing at present relating to the useful conversions of solar energy.

    Solar panels are becoming quite cheap and have a long operating life (20 years if well made). However they are difficult to interface to harness the available power. A typical panel might have an open circuit voltage of 22 volts, a short circuit current of 3 amps and have an optimum power transfer point elsewhere say at 15 volts. In addition a cloud passing across the direct sun path might cause the output power to drop to just 10% of the energy compared to the energy without the cloud. All this means that one is getting continually fluctuating energy from the panels and it is very difficult to design for a steady load- especially something using a motor.

    In the past one might have stored the energy in some form of battery, but this gives very little of the potential energy available from the solar panel to a useful load. Batteries are expensive, difficult to charge and discharge quickly, have small capacities and a limited life.

    The ideal situation is to immediately convert the solar energy to mains electricity that is compatible with the supplied mains and to use the energy in the normal AC load of the building, reducing the amount of energy drawn from the municipal supply.

    You cannot use any inverter to convert the DC voltage from the solar panel to AC mains compatible energy. It has to be generated in exact phase and frequency with the incoming mains otherwise it is going to be vaporised.

    The type of inverter needed is called a Grid-Tie inverter.

    It is wired directly onto the mains supply and the solar panel provides the energy. The inverter continually monitors the solar panel and as soon as there is sufficient energy it starts to monitor the AC mains supply determining the frequency and the phase angles.

    It starts its inverter at the same frequency as the incoming mains supply but at a low output voltage and gets the two voltages in exact phase with each other. It then increases the output voltage to start supplying in phase electricity and using up the available solar power.

    On the solar input side it adjusts the load voltage to get maximum power transfer from the solar panel by monitoring the DC voltage and current to operate at the Maximum Power transfer point. It continually adjusts these values so that it can handle variations in the available solar power such as might happen with a cloud passing through the direct sun path.

    The inverter has another feature called islanding, which shuts down the entire process in the event of an incoming mains failure.

    Grid-Tie inverters have been around for a long time for major solar and wind turbine installations. They have however been quite expensive (US$1500 for a 15KVA system)

    The new development is in the form of micro grid-tie inverters which allow simple systems of 300 watts or 500 watts to be implemented in modular form. These are not wired into the main switch board of the establishment, but plug into a normal AC outlet in a room. They are also cascadable allowing many 300 watt or 500 watt units to work in parallel so that larger loads can be addressed. They also cost only about US$100 each.

    We have three of these systems running at present which generate about 40% of the electricity used during daytime. We have power meters on the incoming mains power supplied from the municipality and on the power supplied from the solar panels and continuously monitor the effectiveness of the system. When clouds pass over the setup one instantly observes the change in output from the solar network and the increase from the municipal network to keep the building load running optimally.

    Electricity meters that monitor the incoming supply from the municipality supply are becoming electronic based rather than the historic magnetic type. The electronic meters cannot determine the direction of the current flow and so it is important that one does not generate more electricity from the solar network than the building is using as any oversupply will flow back into the municipal network and generate a charge on the meter despite no electricity being used. Hence during times of full sun one can reduce the municipal consumption down to nearly zero using the grid tie inverters, but in cloudy conditions or when night falls, the building needs to run on municipal supply.

    At current electricity rates, we expect payback within 5 years without any form of solar subsidy.

    RFID Newsletter No 20
    13 November 2013

    1. CellID - a new form of global tracking

    1. Cellid a new form of global tracking

    If you wanted to track a motor vehicle for example, over a large distance, there have been some recent developments in equipment that allow this to be done very cheaply. This new technology uses the cell phone network to identify the location and to transfer the message from the unit back to the requester.

    Previously one would use a GPS receiver to determine the position of the vehicle, and then some form of communications system to sent the answer to the requester. The negatives of the GPS solution are the cost, that two systems are needed (namely measuring the position and communicating the result), that the GPS antenna need to be in line of sight of the GPS satellites overhead, and that it does not work in the presence of high rise buildings or when inside a building.

    The CellId systems operate where ever a cell phone signal is present, in the open or inside a building. The antennas can be inside the device which does not need to be in line of site, but can for example be built into the bodywork of the vehicle.

    The CellId device is a spin off of cellphone technology. It can be packaged in a unit as small as 3cms x 3 cms by 1 cm, of which most of the volume is the battery system. It holds a SIM card which connects it to the cellphone network to read the location and to provide communications. The device is activated by sending an SMS from the requester to which it replies with the current position. Other versions include a vibration sensor which can initiate an SMS whenever the device is moved.

    Each cellphone tower, when communicating with a cellphone device, communicates the country code, the service provider code, the local area code and the cellid of the tower.

    The format looks like mcc=655,mnc=001,lac=150,cellid=15262.

    This represents the position of the tower which is communicating with the cellid device and typically is about 500 to 2000 metres from the cellid device.

    Various websites convert the above data back to a lat lon position of the tower and plot it on a map.

    A weakness of the system is that the database of the cell towers is not freely available in many countries and the individual service providers are not compelled to provide the information to the public. This has resulted in various volunteer organisations creating a public database by their volunteer members finding towers, extracting the cellid data from the communications with their cellphone, and submitting the description and location to the database for others to use.

    RFID Technologies DO NOT make the cellid devices, but we have been using them and testing them for the past few months. They are hugely useful for locating vehicles out on delivery or the like, where the exact position is not important but one wants to know approximately where on the delivery route the vehicle is currently.

    They are very cheap to operate and are very cheap to buy, and do not need a third party service provider to realise the service. They also can be used to locate stolen vehicles, being built into the bodywork and only activated in the event of a theft.

    RFID Newsletter No 19
    6 June 13

    1. Tracking nuclear storage containers
    2. Server attack - hitting the beehive

    1. Tracking nuclear storage containers
    Many countries store their spent nuclear fuel from their nuclear power stations in metal and concrete drums which are then buried underground.

    RFID Technologies were sent a few months ago a request by a nuclear plant operator to propose equipment for a system to track these containers using RFID. The tracking relates to empty containers before filling, filled containers on site and filled containers that are being transported to the storage area. The RFID transponders need to survive the burial process for many decades to provide positive identification of each container if they are excavated.

    The intention is to attach special transponders to the outside of the metal drums, and in the case of concrete drums to embed transponders in the concrete case.

    There are two interesting challenges to this proposal, namely the design of transponders to be buried in concrete, and protecting the transponders from the effects of close nuclear radiation.

    A properly designed antenna for an RF device resonates at its operating frequency giving effective magnification of the RF performance, in the same way that a tuning fork resonates at its design frequency to sound waves at its resonant frequency.

    When radio waves travel through dense materials, they no longer travel at the speed of light but travel slower which is a function of the relative dielectric constant of the material through which the wave is passing. This means that an antenna system that works in air will not work effectively when the antennas are encased in concrete and a new design is needed.

    RFID Technologies have experience in designing for concrete, having done a design to tag the large concrete road crash barriers used in road construction on motorways. The purpose was to provide positive identity for each concrete block and be able to read that identity while passing at speed for inventory purposes. A new antenna system was developed for the transponders which are encased in the concrete during casting and allow good reading ranges.

    Semiconductors have a problem operating in a zone of high radiation. Back in the 1960/70s before the age of microprocessors, digital systems were made primarily from a technology called TTL. This technology implemented gates, latches, counters and shift registers and from these modules computer systems were built. There were three ranges of the technology, namely commercial which could handle 0 to 70 degC, military which could handle -40 to 125 degC, and radiation hardened to be used in space applications where they might be bombarded by radiation. The problem with the radiation seems to be that it alters memory states of the modules and hence the values being stored.

    Whether this would be a problem with certain RFID systems is uncertain as there are limited facilities that can test the devices due to the radiation requirements. However there are certain RFID design issues that should minimise the impact of the radiation, such as having hard coded data in the RFID device rather than memory structures.

    Testing in-situ will have to be done before final answers can be given.

    2. Server attacks - hitting the beehive
    This section relates to some observations that would be of interest to readers who operate internet servers and please skip if not of interest.

    In our past newsletter we described how we had discovered a continual low level of security probing of our site on an organised basis from a very large number of slave computers worldwide. We identified 3000 of these machines and blocked them, and then the fun really started. We started a webpage and published lists of the attack sites and the number of attacks from each site, which really annoyed some people who organise the probes.

    Having had about 1100 attacks per day when we started the tempo was upped to 11000 per day three weeks later. It then dropped off back to 1000 per day and on the 7th April we had an instantaneous 40 fold increase to 40000 attacks for just one day. The bullet proof properties of our site withstood the onslaught. We then received emails saying that our site had been taken over, a fact we knew was false as we could inspect all activity in the log files. For the past two weeks the attack tempo has dropped to less than 500 per day, very few of which even make it past the first level of filtering.

    We now weekly publish details of the attackers and graph the attack tempo at


    Many site owners globally have requested copies of our statistics and the identities that we have resolved.

    We are now in the process of constructing a huge WHOIS database that allows us to reverse lookup from where the attacks are coming. This is showing up patterns of links between certain ISPs. We have about 250000 data points at present and look for situations where there seems to be a high level of coordination, especially in time and message content.

    For those interested in this subject, you want to research the story behind "dellpc.com".

    In short Dell Security division noted that a site had been registered called "dellpc.com". They approached the regulators in the USA claiming this name was close to their company identity and applied to have it transferred to their name. The registrant was not clearly identified except by a yahoo email address and did not oppose the transfer legally. When Dell started operating the domain, they found it receiving large emails that contained confidential corporate information from many important companies. It seems that this was a control node that had been designated in specially created viruses that had been inserted into the target companies computer systems, gathered data over a long period and sent the packed information to the control node.

    Dell went further and found the same registrant email address had been used on a number of similar sites which are also likely to be control nodes. The email address was unmanned and so it was not possible to find out who was the registrant. However they managed to find out that it was a specific lecturer in China as he gave the same email address when pressed for a current email address when registering for a conference. They now have published his biography together with photos of the person creating this network.

    We currently are trying to find the patterns from our data that might lead to the identities of control nodes.

    We have written some very clever programs for processing the large number of datapoints very quickly looking for patterns. From this experience, one can foresee a large demand for people with Mathematical degrees for developing search programs and finding patterns in data.

    Want more info such as a list of attacking servers?

    RFID Newsletter No 18
    27 March 2013

    1. Different operation frequencies allocated to RFID
    2. Server attack

    1. Different operation frequencies allocated to RFID
    The most important criteria to select in choosing an RFID system is its operating frequency. The choice of frequency determines the performance that can be expected from the system.

    The world is divided into three regions for frequency plans which are then accepted or modified by the individual countries in the region. The regions are - Europe & Africa, North & South America, and Asia(excl Russia) with Australia.

    The regions draw up the masterplans for the management of the radio spectrum and these are then adapted and accepted by the individual countries in those regions. This means that for major issues there are blocks of frequencies allocated in the different regions, such as for example cell phones. Minor applications, such as RFID, are fitted in by the individual countries between the big blocks and as a result there are nearly 177 different plans for RFID globally.

    Because different frequencies will give different performance, there are five groups of frequencies allocated for RFID by the individual countries. These are typically

    1. 125kHz
    2. 13.56Mhz
    3. approx 900MHz
    4. approx 2.45GHz
    5. approx 5.8Ghz

    There are two modes of sending energy through space, namely magnetic and electric fields. Magnetic systems use coils to couple the energy into space and these coils can be quite small, but operating range is short. Electric field use antenna systems that are usually operating wavelength related - for example half wave dipole.

    The wavelength is the speed of light divided by operating frequency. The wavelength at 100MHz is 3 meters, 900Mhz is 33cms, 2.45Ghz is 12cms, and 5.8Ghz is 5cms.

    The electric field antenna collects energy passing and its collecting area is proportional to the wavelength squared. So a 900 Mhz system with a 16cm antenna size collects 7 times the energy that a 2.45GHz system can collect or 33 times the amount of energy a 5.8GHz system will collect. This reduction in energy collection with frequency means that a 900 Mhz is almost the ideal RFID frequency for passive systems having consideration for antenna size and operating range. Lower frequencies would give more performance but would have much larger antenna systems.

    For passive systems (that is where the transponder extracts its operating power from the energising field), typical ranges for the different operating frequencies are - 125KHz (2 centimetres), 13.56Mhz (1 metre), 900MHz (10 metres), 2.45GHz(1.2 metres) and 5.8Ghz (25 centimetres).

    The 125Khz and 13.56MHz systems are magnetic coupled which allow them to operate in situations where electric field systems cannot operate, such as underwater, inside the bodies of humans and animals, and even inside blocks of metal. The 125khz transponder can be made very small, the most common being a coil 1 millimetre in diameter and 11 millimetres long.

    In 1990 when the staff of RFID Technologies were involved in the development of a transponder that could be used for the labelling of items in a supermarket trolley, 900MHz as a frequency was only available in a few parts of the globe with many countries preferring that development happened at 2.45GHz, a frequency that was already allocated to microwave ovens which had very poor frequency stability.

    After Supertag(tm) was developed and demonstrated in South Africa(1994), the interest globally in RFID took off and countries slowly realised that they needed to allocate a frequency for RFID in the 900MHz region in order for their countries to stay competitive. By 2013 virtually every country in the world has finally allocated part of the spectrum at 900Mhz for RFID.

    RFID Technologies have a technical paper explaining these choices which can be requested Interested? - Use this link to be sent the white paper.

    2. Server attacks
    This section relates to some observations that would be of interest to readers who operate internet servers and please skip if not of interest.

    For the past 16 years RFID Technologies have been serving information from a stand alone webserver running a linux operating system. The server supplies about 2.5 million documents per annum in the form of HTML, PDF and JPG files. In the whole 16 years, on only about five occasions has it stopped and needed a reboot. Two of these stoppages have happened in the past three months and as a result we have been investigating the cause. Usually nobody looks at logfiles as everything is running smoothly until there is a problem.

    Particularly with what has recently happened with attacks in South Korea in the past weeks, internet security is becoming an issue.

    We found that the reason the machine had stopped was due to simultaneous attacks from about 300 machines distributed all over the globe on our server at virtually the same instant. This overloaded a stack causing the machine to stop. What was interesting about the attack was the distribution of the attacking servers and their time coordination. We have since limited the number of child processes that can be started at any time and made the machine bullet proof.

    On further analysis of the historical logfiles, we found that our machine was being probed by very many servers continuously. This takes the form of sending the server an email to a fictitious user on our server to see if our machine would acknowledge that the user is UNKNOWN. Once again the probing is coming from no single source but is routed through 3000 different slave servers around the world, but particularly from Russia, Belarus, Kazakistan and Vietnam. We have recorded about 80 000 of these attempts over the past 4 weeks.

    Because we have the logfiles and are experts at data processing and analysis, we find so far that about 3000 slave servers are being used to do this probing. They are connected as all the probing messages are the same with just part of the destination address changing. What is interesting is the use of individual slave servers is kept to once or so per week so that unless you have a long data set you will not notice the pattern. One can find the more important machines in the probing as they often use multiple IP addresses from the same server or group of servers.

    We then started blocking the probing from the more noticeable servers by listing them in the access.db file. This sent them an ACCESS DENIED message and they immediately knew that we knew who they were. This brought upon us a major storm, like hitting a bee hive. Whereas when we started this we were getting 1000 probes a day, we are now getting 9000 a day but have identified and blocked 90% of all probes. However new slave servers are being added all the time and whereas initially almost all the attacks were from Russia and Belarus, now many parts of the Western World are also involved in the attacks. These attacks are coordinated as at times all is very quiet and then the messages start coming fast and furious from all parts for an hour or so and then stop.

    In the past when we have had attacks, there were a few machines and you could see a coordination that might be with many people in a club all agreeing to do something at some time. We tracked these and blocked them and weathered the storm.

    This time we are convinced that the slave servers have been infected with a virus that allows some controlling body to coordinate and route targeted messages on their command and receive the feedback without the owners knowing. As the slave servers are only occasionally used for these messages, the existence of the virus is undetected.

    This whole exercise has become a James Bond like scenario. This server is really unimportant in the commercial sense as it has no commercial value and is just a repository for documents - i.e. it is not a bank server and it does not hold confidential information. It is only operating at 1% usage, it has a lot of spare resources,is a long way from being overloaded and is bulletproof after we closed the last loophole. Every time we get sent a probe, it is collected and added to a database that allows us to reverse understand the attacking structure and to see our impact on the probing.

    At present we are blocking 2984 servers that have been involved in multiple attacks on our server in the past four weeks, but we suspect this number might grow to 10000 when some of the servers that have only been used once are reused - unless someone discovers the virus in the client servers.

    We have published on our website a list of the top 200 (by frequency of attack) of the 2516 attack servers that have been active over the past month. We can also send a list on request of the attack servers.

    Want more info such as a list of attacking servers?

    RFID Newsletter No 17
    4 February 2013

    1. Linking Android tablets to RFID readers

    1. Linking Android tablets to RFID readers
    Recently RFID Technologies were approached to deliver a solution by a refuse collection service which needed to monitor the exact location of their wheelie bins and provide information such as weight of refuse collected, exact location of the bin and time and date on an automated basis.

    The intention is to fit each of the wheelie bins (about 300 000) with a transponder in the lip of the bin, and have a reader on top of the compacting vehicle that would read the identity of the transponder as the contents of the bin were tipped into the compactor. A load cell would also be fitted on the lifting mechanism to measure the mass of the each bin as it is picked up and dropped off.

    Using a standard long range EcoTag RFID reader from RFID Technologies and standard EcoTag RFID transponders, the RFID part of the project is easy to implement.

    This is a data gathering application and an onboard computer is needed in each vehicle to determine the exact GPS position of the lift, the identity of the bin, the mass of the bin, the date and time and route number. All this information needs to be logged for future analysis and transferred to HQ either at the end of the route or via 3G during the route.

    The development of the Android based tablet has delivered some hardware that can drastically simplify the solution. The Android operating system connects modules inside tablets together. Typical modules that the operating system handles are GPS receivers, accelerometers, compass, WiFi, Bluetooth, 3G, USB ports, cameras, displays and keyboards. Due to mass production these devices have become very cheap costing between US$100 and US$200 for a 10 inch display.

    There is also a lot of recent development in programming languages for these devices allowing programs to be created that easily gather data from the sensors and save the information and generate reports.

    The negatives of using mass produced cheap tablets for a project that would have a long operating life are:

  • The production cycle of the tablets is short before new generations of equipment are released with newer operating systems which means problems with repair, spare parts and compatibility with software in future versions.
  • Currently the Android operating system is going through fast development with new versions being released frequently. The new versions do not seem to be compatible completely with the hardware of earlier versions. This means that often one will not be able to upgrade the operating system with existing hardware as developments happen.
  • The tablet itself is not necessarily rugged enough to cater with the operating environment inside a truck.
  • New modules for control by the Android operating system are being added all the time. At present the latest versions of Android can handle serial communications only via a specific RS232/USB adapter.
  • The advantages of using the cheap tablets are:

  • A complete package with an extensive range of sophisticated modules that are incorporated into the tablets, such as GPS sensors, WiFi, 3G.
  • It has a large display for man-machine interface.
  • It operates on low voltage using little power that makes it suitable for operating from the truck battery.
  • That programming languages have been developed for the android package to allow simple programming of the modules to easily extract the measurement data from the sensors.
  • Not all android tablets are the same as although they might have similar sensors, the physical packaging is often different - for example whether the antennas are internal to the tablet or an external antenna can be used.

    There seems to be a lot of potential for using cheap Android based tablets as data collection platforms in automated data collection projects where RFID systems are used. The version we have been using for development has an external GPS antenna which can be mounted on the roof of the compactor to accurately position the vehicle and the bin locations when being emptied.

    RFID Newsletter No 16
    2 October 2012

    1. Getting a very low cost transponder
    2. Calling farmers in South Africa
    3. Long term product stability

    1. Getting a very low cost transponder.
    If you listen to market researchers and potential large scale users, there is a large demand for very cheap RFID transponders. Low cost transponders are a requirement for success in some markets such as food retail if each item has to be labelled. How low is low cost - is not defined and it is partly the uncertainty that has stopped any large scale production happening. In this section we identify the technical issues in the manufacture of transponders.

    In the 1990s RFID Technologies was asked to take part in a survey to predict the component costs of transponders over the next five years. What was interesting from that survey based on the collective knowledge of companies producing low cost passive transponders, was that there were three major component costs for low cost transponders - namely

    1. the electronic chip
    2. the antenna which needs to interact with an electric field wave that is 30 centimetres in length
    3. assembly costs to mount the chip on the antenna structure and apply protective packaging for handling.
    The consensus at that time was that each of these components would make up a third of costs of making a transponder and this is most probably still true today.

    1) The electronic chip
    The electronic chip is made in a semiconductor foundry that has been optimised to make chips as small and cheaply as possible. It uses processes that are aimed at mass manufacturing where a minimum manufacturing volume is typically 100 000 at a time.

    The developments that happened that allowed a single chip to become the workhorse for RFID were those developments in chip technology that allowed the integration of UHF diodes, analogue circuitry and digital circuitry all on a single chip with a single manufacturing process . When the staff of RFID Technologies were involved in the development of the first passive transponders in 1990, we had a separate digital chip, an analogue chip, external high speed diodes and external capacitors in each transponder. At that time the digital and analogue chips had to be made in separate foundries as the chemicals and processes used in the one process poisoned the other process. Developments in the 1990s saw these technologies being merged and the UHF diodes able to operate efficiently at 1GHz being incorporated into the chip.

    An understanding of the developments in chip manufacture in silicon foundries explains why the technology called "printed electronics" as a solution to costs in RFID is not going to be viable. In the "printed electronics" process the aim is to print the transistor structures on cheaper substrates than silicon, and not need the high tolerance printing processes needed for semiconductor foundries. RFID at UHF frequencies currently pushes the boundaries in a silicon foundry and there is little chance that the huge technical gap between the "printed electronics" version and the conventional silicon substrate technology will close sufficiently for it to be a viable and cost effective replacement.

    2) Antenna structures.
    The antenna converts the energy travelling through the air into an electrical signal that can interact with the integrated chip on the transponder. The antenna is interacting with an electric field wave that is about 30 centimetres long and so the antenna is large physically compared to the very small integrated circuit. The antenna is so designed to resonate at its operating frequency, in the same way that a tuning fork resonates with an audio signal at its design frequency. The conversion of the electric field wave to electrical energy means that current is flowing in the legs of the antenna and this means that the antenna has to be made of a material with good conductivity.

    The simplest way to make a viable antenna is to use a copper clad substrate that is usually used for making printed circuit boards. However cheaper solutions are required. This has led to various initiatives to print the antenna with cheaper materials. A carbon paste is the cheapest form of conducting paste as carbon is so plentiful. However it is difficult to connect the electrical terminals of the integrated circuit to the carbon paste. Another problem is that if the antenna is flexed, hairline cracks appear in the dried paste which impede the current flow needed for the antenna to operate.

    Some solutions to this problem have been to electroplate copper onto the conducting paste to form a continuous surface that can bend without breaking the current flow, while another has been to use a silver based ink that is then heated and sintered. This last method is expensive and has also had issues with disposal at the end of life particularly in the EU as the antennas are then treated as hazardous waste needing special; disposal methods. As one can see, particularly due to its size and manufacturing methods, the antenna itself is a large part of the costs of a transponder.

    3)Transponder assembly
    Before high volume RFID transponder assembly needs arose, the smartcard technology had developed and assembly machines had been devised to assemble large volumes of credit card sized smartcards. It was possible to adapt these machines to make RFID transponders and this meant that production of millions of transponders was available almost from the outset. These machines attach the integrated circuit to the antenna foil, and then encapsulate the whole structure in its plastic packaging, as well as programming and testing the devices. However these assembly machines are complex and expensive.

    If RFID is going to be used in retail, then very high assembly volumes are needed. The limit on machine size seems to be a volume of 100 million transponders per annum per machine, which equates to about 7 transponders per second. This is about the limit on movement via motors as the inertia at higher speeds becomes so great that the motors have to become very large. So far it seems that only one of these machines has been built, but the current demand for transponders does not seem to be sufficient to keep it in operation. To meet the needs of RFID for retail, about 1 million of these machines would be needed.

    Price reduction with volume
    Generally the larger the production volume, the lower the costs as benefits from economy of scale are realised. However it does not mean that there are no costs. Because of the very high volumes that would be needed if retail items were to be tagged which would need very low cost transponders, there are only a few companies in the world that have the manufacturing equipment and skills to run a very large scale production operation. Before these companies would become involved, the price of the transponders needs to be high enough so that these companies could make a profit on the large investment they would need to make to build high volume assembly equipment.

    One has to question if any of the companies involved in RFID transponder manufacture are driven by the desire to deliver very cheap transponders. RFID is such a pervasive solution that its success is not dependent on satisfying the Fast Moving Goods market for retail tagging. There are many applications that can afford a higher value transponder that can allow the manufacturers to make some profit. As the higher value markets saturate in the future, and as more companies gain experience in very high volume delivery, then possibly the retail market can be addressed.

    2. Calling farmers in South Africa
    RFID Technologies have been doing hundreds of tests on its new product called Cowtrack(tm) that is in development. Its purpose is to locate in real time large numbers of cattle on very large farms.

    In the past we have been approached by many farmers in South Africa who have a problem with stock theft. Although the Cowtrack product is not ready yet, some other technologies have become available that might provide a simpler solution to this specific problem. RFID Technologies would like to talk to some of these farmers who might want to try this solution.


    3. Long term product stability
    RFID systems are the data capture component of many computer systems. Usage starts out as small test pilot studies and then more equipment is ordered in the form of readers and transponders as the application grows. For many users, the expectation is that the new transponders bought will be exactly compatible with the installed readers they are currently using so that the application can grow seamlessly.

    Clients of RFID Technologies in 52 countries are assured that our new generation transponders will be compatible with previous generations that have been supplied over the past fourteen years. Newer solutions are always in development, but parts and compatible components are available for all equipment provided over the past fourteen years.

    RFID Newsletter No 15
    27 August 2012

    1 Timing at the Olympics and the use of RFID
    2 Tracking the players and ball in a soccer game

    Timing at the Olympics and the use of RFID
    Most of the world (except the USA which had delayed transmissions) has watched in real time over the past couple of weeks the spectacuilar Olympic Games held in London. Thirty eight different sports were organised and viewers around the world could watch the success and failure of their athletes attempting to win the Olympic Champion status.

    Having been involved in the development of RFID systems for the past 22 years and before that having been a key player and developer of timing systems for motorsport in South Africa, our interest was in the technology changes that had occured in timing systems with time.

    The most impressive development of these games, must be in the dissemination of information to millions of viewers globally, who could monitor on a website the reaction time of each competitor, interim time measurements and the final result as it happened in real time. With all this information, one had to have a laptop linked to the internet in front of the big screen TV to have all these dimensions unfold simultaneously.

    Because of all this realtime information, one was aware when the timing was fully automated - such as measuring the reaction times to the starter signal - versus when other systems were been used such as for the crossing the finishing line. The finish line is generally measured using optical systems as RFID is too undefined to provide an accurate time measurement. Understandably when 8 athletes can finish a 100 meter dash with a time spread of about 0.3 of a second, any automated sensor system is going to be tested.

    The basic dimension in the design of an RFID system is the wavelength, which is a unit with a dimension of typically 30 centimeters. Antennas are used to focus the energy into beams, - similar to what the reflector on a torch does with a globe - but as soon as these beams hit hard objects, they scatter - like shining a torch in a house of mirrors - meaning it is almost impossible to clearly define the energy beam. In a practical situation this limits the suitability for RFID solutions where high timing accuracy is needed. RFID can be used. for the timing of events where one second resolution is acceptable.

    In situations where there are a limited number of competitors, for high resolution timing, an optical system is used. This has a camera mounted above the competitors looking across the finish line. The image is recorded on a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) which time stamps each frame of the picture. Immediately after the event the frames taken when the competitors cross the line are examined and the accurate time of each competitor determined. A major advantage of this method is that very long finish lines can be handled, such as for rowing events where the finish line is the width of the rowing pan. It is in the area of digital video recorders over the past couple of years where major advances have taken place, with images stored on large random access memories and then transferred to disk - instead of tapes. These machines have come down in price to about US$100 making them suitable for small eventsl. Obviously at the same time higher accuracy versions are becoming available with higher frame rates and definition to cater for the professional market.

    However at present the DVR approach needs a human interpretation which shows in the response time it takes for the results to appear on the website from when the race is finished.

    What was interesting in the track events at the Olympics, was that despite all the technology, there is still a "human spotter" sitting at the finish line observing the finish in case the electronic results need to be revised.

    Tracking the players and ball in a soccer game.
    RFID Technologies had been approached a couple of years before the Soccer World Cup 2010 in South Africa, to see if the RFID-radar could be adapted to track the ball and players during a match. Although the RFID-radar can locate an item with accuracy in its field of view, it has limitations on the speed of movement of the items due to overloading the communications channel between the transponders and reader.

    The tracking of the ball seems to have been a problem that has been plaquing FIFA especially in determining whether a ball has crossed the line in the goal mouth - in situations where the ball has an amount of spin and bounces out again.

    One possible solution being proposed is to use the Sony Hawk-Eye system used for cricket and tennis matches. However this is a very complex system and is limited to major matches. One of the founders of RFID Technologies had occasion to help the Hawk-Eye staff with a computer problem during a Cricket World Cup in South Africa a few years ago. He says there was so much equipment needed for the system that it took up a similar space to an Outside Broadcast van used by television companies.

    One would have thought that a simple solution for the goal mouth problem would be to mount four cameras into the goal posts at each end and record their images on one of these low cost DVR players, thus allowing a third ref to quickly replay the situation in cases where the referee is in doubt. However it seems that FIFA have a 5 second requirement for judgement which stops a simple solution.

    On tracking players, optics seems to be the best approach and having some software to automatically analyse the images from cameras, cameras that can record a large section of the field at one time. The problem arises when two players come close together and the software can then get confused as to which player left in which direction.

    Night vision cameras used in homes use LEDs for illumination that are not visible to the human eye, but fall within the response spectrum of the cameras. Making small LED flashers using these LEDs which could be attached to the players and made to flash out quickly an identity code that would not be seen by the human eye - but would be seen by the image detectors in the cameras, could dramatically simplify the problem of identifying the specific players when analysing large images of a large part of the field.. The software would need to detect which pixels are changing very fast in comparing frame to frame, and hence locate the individual players. This could also possibly be adapted to the Olympic situation of identifying atheletes automatically in photo finish equipment.

    RFID Newsletter No 14
    20 July 2012

    1 RFID for data collection or clever application

    RFID for data collection or clever application
    As a leading global supplier and designer of RFID systems, RFID Technologies frequently get asked to advise on suitable configurations for the implemention of RFID- data collection system.

    RFID systems are often the data capture components that form the front end of a computer system which implements some application.

    Due to the complexity of radio wave propogation which forms a critical part of RFID systems, often the sensing part of the RFID systems have minor imperfections that need to be taken out by logical processing of the data.

    An example of such is that due to the vectorial addition of multipath radio waves between the transponder and the reader,it is possible for an RFID tag to be in an "RF-hole" and its data missed by the reader. These holes are very small as they require all the geometry of the multipath waves to be so orientated to exactly cancel the main beam signal. A solution is to have some movement in the environment of the reader or for the reader and transponder to move relatively so that the multipath geometery no longer creates a perfect cancelation environment.

    We recently were asked to consider an RFID solution to check for the presence of bond certificates in a filing cabinet each day. The certificates have an RFID transponder attached to each certificate and the relevant bank needs to know that no certificates are missing each morning.

    One solution is to pass a portable RFID reader over each drawer of the filing cabinet and record all the ID numbers present on a USB memory stick, and then take this away for processing at a remote office.

    Another solution would be to base the system around our RFIDasset(tm) tracking package, where all the certificates and their location are kept in a database on a laptop that forms part of the RFID system. The reader is connected to the laptop via a Bluetooth interface that passes all the ID numbers to the laptop, which instantaneously is able to check off the presence of the individual certificates as they are read, to update their location if moved, and immediately report certificates that are missing. This means the operator is immediately aware of the problem and can double check to see that the certificate has not been misread, or find out from the staff the reason for the certificate not being in the correct place.

    Especially in asset tracking applications where there are a large number of items in the vicinity of the reader,a laptop computer attached to the reader becomes essential - as the reader reads tags far faster than can be absorbed by a human operator. (A RFID Technologies reader reads tags at up to 70 per second).

    RFID Newsletter No 13
    16 April 2012

    1 Marking yachts,boats,soft drink fridges, LDV canopies
    2 Camera developments
    3 Product range

    Marking yachts, boats, soft drink fridges, LDV canopies
    As a manufacturer of RFID readers, transponders and solutions - the company gets approached by many companies in need of a solution to their problems.

    One of the recurring problems asked for a solutions is in the identification of fibreglass items to prove ownership. A typical request might relate to a fridge for softdrinks in a retail store where the fridge is owned by the soft drink company, and might be stolen at some time and then appear in another store. All identification marks have been removed from the fridge and although the softdrink company might suspect it is one of theirs, there is no way of proving the identity. A similar problem exists for mass produced items such as hobie cats, surf boards and canopies for LDVs.

    RFID Technologies produce a thin wire transponder that is a little thicker than a human hair, can be incorporated in the product during the moulding process, is passive with a very long operational life, and can be read with a reader up to 10 meters away providing a unique number.

    As the transponder is incorporated in the moulding, can be read at a long distance, and is very small - the thieves who are trying to remove all the identification tags cannot locate the transponder and it continues to provide a unique identification number for the life of the product.

    Camera developments
    In the last newsletter we discussed a remote security camera that can be set up in far away holiday homes, boats or places which need to be monitored but are far from normal human inhabitation or infrastructure.

    This was a new project we were testing to understand the pros and cons of such technology. The camera system is completely under the control of the owner thousands of miles away who can activate the camera, turn on heat sensing detection or night vision, receive photgraphs from the camera when an intruder is detected, or just send a snap shot on demand - all linked by the owners cell phone.

    After a couple of months of use from a test site 90 km from base, we can report that the technology is very reliable and cheap to operate, even in places that are very far from the normal infrastructure one has in residential areas.

    An associate in New Zealand has now started testing and developing a similar system based on the New Zealand infrastructure.

    Interested? - Use this link to be sent the brochure.


    Product range
    RFID Technologies are a manufacturer of UHF RFID systems. They manufacture fixed readers, portable readers and radar systems as well as a variety of transponders for different applications. RFID Technologies also combine some of these components into packages for end users which are supplied with the appropriate software. Typical applications are asset management, notebook tracking, equipment barriers, store control event logging and sports timing systems.

    RFID Newsletter No 12
    28 November 2011

    1 Preventing the removal of computer equipment and valuable assets.
    2 Getting your own complete RFID system

    RFID Technologies makes a variety of UHF RFID readers and transponders. These systems are the sensor components of computer systems for a variety of applications. In this newsletter we describe some of the application trends for which our systems are being ordered.

    Preventing the removal of computer equipment and valuable assets.
    RFID is a technology that is ideally suited for preventing and detecting the removal of valuable assets from a protected area.

    With the very sensitive passive transponders available from RFID Technologies, and the excellent read ranges available from its readers, an effective barrier can be created to record and alert when tagged items are being removed from a zone.

    For a long time RFID Technologies have been providing the Notetrack(tm) hardware and software package to control the flow of notebook computers in and out of office buildings,recording the authorised passage of the devices while alerting to the unauthorised removal of such items.

    At the request of clients, the hardware has now also been adapted to create alarm barriers to stop removal of items from uncontrolled exits and to channel the passage to monitored exits.

    Two examples of installations stand out, the one in a medical facility in the USA, and the other in a Central African training establishment for computer science.

    The readers are mounted at the the exit doors of the zone and continuously monitor the passageway. Should a tagged item enter the zone, it will immediately be detected and the readers emit a loud alarm signal to draw attention to the removal.

    In the case of the medical facility, equipment and even books may only be removed from the facility through the exit controlled by a guard. Other exits of the building have stand alone readers that make a loud noise if any of the tagged goods approach these exits, forcing the guarded exit to be used for moving of the goods.

    In the case of the schools in Africa, the readers are setup outside the computer room doors and should any equipment be removed, loud noises are made alerting passing staff.

    The reason this is successful is that the RFID Technologies transponders are passive, and are so sensitive that a laptop computer hidden from sight while up to 20 meters away can be detected. The reader does numerous checks on the signal it is receiving, such as data rates, duty cycle, checksums and many others to minimise the risk of false alarms. The readers have the ability to log the identity of any item that enters its zone. The readers use very low powers and provide uninterupted continuous monitoring, able to detect items passing at speeds up to 300kph.

    If interested send an email


    RFID Newsletter No 11
    2 June 2011

    1 Tracking of notebooks
    2 Timing of sports events
    3 Locating buried services.
    4 Getting your own complete RFID system

    RFID Technologies makes a variety of UHF RFID readers and transponders. These systems are the sensor components of computer systems for a variety of applications. In this newsletter we describe some of the application trends for which our systems are being ordered.

    Tracking of notebooks
    There is a lot of tender activity from large organisations wanting to track the movement of their notebook computers from their premises. RFID Technologies UHF RFID systems are being requested as the sensor components of some of these systems.

    RFID Technologies provide very sensitive passive transponders that can be attached to the notebook and can be read by a fixed reader up to 20 meters away. The owner also carries a credit card sized ID transponder which is read at the same time by the fixed reader. The software in the system matches the notebook to the ID badge and records the passage. If a notebook is detected without the linked ID badge, a warning is given to the guard at the exit.

    RFID Technologies provide the hardware and software for a single exit in their "system in a box" solution.

    They have also provided a software update that allowed seven exits to be controlled from one central point.

    To monitor notebooks, the physical situation has to allow limited numbers of exit points from the building so that notebooks and their users have to pass within range of a fixed reader.

    The other fact of life is that the transponder on the notebook has to be attached to the outside of the notebook. The construction of the notebook computer is such that the case forms a "Faraday cage" which prevents the radio signals generated on the inside of the notebook escaping to interfere with outside radio signals. More info on the website under Notetrack(tm)

    Timing of sports events
    Numerous organisations globally use the RFID Technologies readers and transponders for the timing of low key sports events. Although the systems can handle multiple transponders passing at speeds up to 300kph, they are not suitable for timing high precision events such as Formula One, but are very suitable for fun runs, MotoX and mountain bike events.

    Usually an enthusiast involved in the sport has a laptop computer and wants to write a computer program to do the timing and present the results. This starts off with manual capture on the keyboard and as the club grows and the number of competitors increase, a stage is reached where the club wants to add an RFID sensor system to automate the data capture.

    The RFID Technologies system is often chosen as it is easy to adapt to computer programs, it is relatively cheap, it can handle high speeds, it can operate from batteries and is reliable.

    Our largest installation to-date is for a club with 600 competitors. The one thing to realise with RFID is that the timing-line is the edge of the energy field radiated from the energising antenna, which is different from the straight line of the conventional finish line. This means that there can be a slight timing difference between a system based on RFID only as compared to a photo-finish. If a photo-beam is linked to the RFID system and the software adapted, then an accurate timing system can be built that will be comparable with the photo-finish timing systems.

    Locating buried services.
    In many countries telecom companies are digging up the roads to install fibreoptic based backbone systems. These are then being expanded to provide fibre optic connections to the individual homes. The acceptance of these services by the public varies and many of the connection points are left buried and unconnected until the service is requested by the individual. At that time the service provider has to locate the connection point without digging up the roads again.

    Burying one of RFID Technologies's very sensitive RFID transponders with the connection point allows the exact location of the connection point be identified using a portable reader as well as the exact ID number of the point.

    The RFID Technologies transponders are very sensitive, passive and can lie dormant under the surface for many years without degrading.

    There are some issues to consider. The depth of penetration of UHF RFID signals into the ground is a function of the water content of the soil at that time. Hence if you are in floods or if the water is pooled over the connector, UHF RFID signals are not going to penetrate the surface. Hence the location of the connectors needs to be scheduled when water is not pooling over the connection point.

    RFID Newsletter No 10
    31 May 2011

    Expanding the abilities of RFID

    Expanding the abilities of RFID
    RFID systems are sensor systems that are data capture devices for computer networks. Generally users would want applications solved and would use RFID systems to capture the data and software written by software companies to organise the data and provide a solution for the application.

    Users of RFID Technologies equipment and readers of this newsletter will know that RFID Technologies provide a range of leading edge RFID systems. RFID Technologies make fixed readers that can read transponders up to 13 meters away, 800 in a zone at a time, 70 per second and up to 300 kph. RFID Technologies also make portable readers that can be used in logistics and asset tracking applications with a 10 meter range. RFID Technologies are the only manufacturers of RFID systems that give precise location of the transponders in a zone up to 40 meters deep, a product that is known worldwide as RFID-radar. RFID Technologies also make a variety of transponders compatible with their readers, from thin wire laundry tags, to very efficient credit card sized tags and even battery assisted tags.

    RFID Technologies are in regular communication with some 4500 companies on a monthly basis. Many of these people have highlighted the need for a technology to provide affordable location information over much larger areas to find assets, such as supermarket trolleys in a large car park, airport luggage trolleys, golf carts on a golf course, farm implements on a farm, fishing boats and yachts sailing from a club or a harbour. The issue has been to drastically increase the operating range without using increased bandwidth or afford ability. The system is great for positioning static or near static items that are moving and is no use for tracking soccer players on a pitch.

    The system is very different from RFID-radar, fits different operating situations, and complements the range of products offered by RFID Technologies.

    Over the past three months the prototype has been under test and currently its parts are being industrialised. We will shortly be announcing the addition to RFID Technologies's product range

    RFID Newsletter No 9
    26th May 2009

    1) Leap in the performance of UHF passive transponder technology

    In this newsletter we detail another major performance achievement for passive UHF RFID transponders.

    Another leap in the performance of UHF passive transponder technology
    The distance is 25.6 metres and the transponder is attached to a metal item!!.

    This is the functional distance from the reader, as measured with the RFID-radar, of the new generation passive UHF transponder developed by RFID Technologies. UHF transponders attached to metal items are another problem situation addressed by the RFID Technologies development.

    Passive transponders do not have their own onboard source of power but extract operating power from the energising field of the reader.

    Previously, the maximum range with passive transponders with RFID Technologies readers was 13 metres.

    The impressive performance comes from the combination of a new integrated circuit specially made for RFID Technologies and from RFID Technologies's spectacular RF antenna developments for transponders.

    The new transponder has been specifically designed to be used with tracking laptop computers and office equipment, but also finds use in tagging metal items.

    The actual operating range achieved with the new transponder is not important. RFID Technologies have for a long time supplied battery assisted transponders that had a 40 metre range, and this improvement just means lower costs, increasing operating life from a few months to 100 years, and providing simpler technology for medium range situations.

    What the development does signify is how passive types of transponders are moving into applications that in the past could only be satisfied with battery assisted and active type transponders. It also allows progress on the development of low power technology to be accurately measured.

    By way of an explanation for those technically interested.
    The staff at RFID Technologies were involved in the first developments of UHF transponders for retail applications, namely the development of Supertag in 1990 in Pretoria, South Africa.
    At that time we aimed to build a single chip transponder for use in tagging items in a grocery trolley. Then semiconductor technology was at such a stage of development that there were analogue type devices which could handle RF components, and a separate type of technology was in use for digital circuitry for data handling. Hence we ended up with two chips on each transponder. About ten years later single chip devices were practical that had both the RF and the digital circuitry on a single device and single chip transponders became available.

    The transponders get their power from the energising field and to visualise the power distribution back in 1990, we made a number of small dipoles with light emitting diodes. Attaching these to the wall of the office and aiming the energising antennas at the wall from about 3 metres away, together with a fair size RF power generator, we could get the LEDs to glow if they were in the main beam and hence see the power distribution. Those devices needed about 54 milliwatts of power in the collecting area and had an operating range of about three metres with the transmitters and antennas we then used. The two chip transponders needed similar power.

    Since January 2004, RFID Technologies have been supplying 200uW versions of transponders, that is a 250 times improvement on the originals. We now have a new transponder which is also passive, is attached to metal items, and uses just 40 microwatts (uW) of power, that is 1350 times less power than the originals.

    This dramatic improvement over time, has meant greatly increased range for operation. It also has led to reduced energising power being needed from the reader, which means smaller RF amplifiers and the ability to use lower gain antennas which can spread the power over a wider angle increasing the area of coverage. The lower power needs of the new transponders also means that portable readers which can operate on batteries for a reasonable time and yet give a 10 metre read range are practical.

    RFID Technologies make UHF RFID fixed readers. UHF portable readers, UHF RFID-radar systems and a range of transponders for different packaging requirements. The new transponder technology is compatible with all the reader products made by RFID Technologies and with all the earlier ranges of transponders.

    RFID Newsletter No 8
    24 April 2009

    1) Development directions for RFID

    Development directions for RFID
    In 2010 we here in South Africa will be hosting one of the globe's largest media and sporting events, namely the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup. Technology is going to cause an interesting split in viewers of this event. Some will want high bandwidth communications so that they can watch it on a 5 centimetre cell phone screen, while others will want 42 inch screens with high definition satellite feeds. The people watching on the cellphones are never really going to know what is going on in the game, but they are going to feel good about their application of technology.

    In the same way, RFID is a technology that is suitable for some applications and not necessarily for others. RFID is a rapidly developing technology that is steadily finding its niche applications and it might be worthwhile to consider the directions of some of those developments.

    RFID is a data capture technology that allows the identity of items that are in close proximity to a reader to be communicated to a computer system for processing. It can read large numbers of identities in a zone, very quickly, accurately, and within radio distance of the reader. It can be made at very low cost which means that relatively inexpensive items can be cost effectively labelled. What makes it useful is when it is combined with the correct software application to manage these large amounts of data and generate simple, human compatible outputs.

    The ultimate application of RFID is in reading the contents of a supermarket trolley, an application that was first demonstrated in South Africa in 1994. Although technically RFID can meet this challenge, it is not a commercially viable application due to the high cost of the transponders.

    There are a number of new developments happening that are improving RFID.

    1)Lower power RF performance.
    As passive transponders operate on energy received in the form of radio power, and as this radio energy that is available degrades with distance, major developments are taking place to produce lower powered transponders. These developments focus both on the radio properties and the intrinsic operating powers of the transponders. The lower power developments mean that passive transponders are replacing the former active types of transponders due to their increased range and lower costs. The lower power devices also result in the viability of portable reader systems with good operating ranges and good battery life.

    2)Range information
    When transponder operating powers were high and ranges short, location of the transponders was not an issue as they were immediately in front of the reader. As ranges increased beyond 6 metres and approach up to 40 metres, it has become important to know the position of the transponder relative to the reader so that the item can be easily physically identified. These longer ranges mean that a single reader can now monitor an area that in the past had to be covered by many readers. This has resulted in Real Time Locating Systems (such as RFID-radar) moving into the RFID-reader market space.

    3)Manufacturing cost
    For many years there has been a wish to have very low cost transponders, especially by high volume users. Those who understand the issues realise that there is a floor to the pricing and very low cost parts are not going to be a reality. There are three major cost centres to making transponders, namely the chip, the antenna and the assembly/packaging. In a survey we were part of a few years ago, it became apparent from participants that roughly one third of the costs can be assigned to each of these centres.

    4)Smaller antenna size
    To transfer energy by radio means, antennas are used to convert electrical signals to radio waves and vice versa. The size of these antennas are dependant on the operating frequency of the systems. Breaking the relationship of size/frequency generally results in a drastic reduction in effectiveness. Users would like antenna systems that are as small as possible but still effective.

    5)RF interference
    As RFID systems become more popular it is going to be more likely that one RFID reader will interfere with another RFID reader close by as many users try to share the same allocated radio spectrum. Attention is going to have to be given to the interference profile of the different types of protocols. At present there are low interference tag-talks-first and high interference reader-talks-first protocols.

    6)Increasing dynamic range
    RFID readers are amazing pieces of technology, detecting very weak signals from transponders while in the presence of relatively strong energising signals. As the operating range of systems has been increasing, the readers have had to simultaneously detect transmissions from transponders that are very close to the reader and those that are very far. This has to be done without changing the amplification of the readers so as not to miss any transmission.

    7)New protocols
    Presently the simple protocols in use require each transponders to have a unique identity to be identified correctly. There are available more advanced RFID protocols that allow many transponders with the same identity number to be accurately identified and counted, protocols where the uniqueness of the data is not used for identity. In future systems where only product numbers are needed, these advanced protocols will be needed.

    RFID Newsletter No 7
    24 February 2009

    1) Interesting projects
    2) New developments in passive transponder technology

    Interesting projects
    RFID systems are the data capture components of some bigger productivity/management system. When a transponder comes close to a reader, the reader is able to identify the transponder and pass its identity on to a computer system for processing of the event. Most RFID systems only work over very short range, but the advanced technology available from RFID Technologies allow operating ranges up to 40 meters, 800 tags in a zone at a time, read rates up to 70 per second and speeds up to 300kph - as well as Rfid-radar systems that can measure the physical position of tags in the zone to millimeter accuracy.

    With such versatile performance for the data capture components of a system, RFID systems have become a basic building block of many IT systems that are used for measuring performance, management, security or the monitoring of assets.

    The ability of long range UHF RFID to be able to detect passing laptop computers even when they are being carried in a case, has resulted in many projects being initiated to protect companies from losing their laptop computers due to theft. The ability to match computers to their owners when passing through security checkpoints allow quick processing of staff and visitors at exit points without the loss of security.

    Recently RFID Technologies have provided systems to detect underground services such as fibre optic cables for telecom providers. The cables are buried when they are laid and need to be located when repairs are needed. By burying cheap passive transponders at the time of laying with the cables, the exact position of the cable can be determined when repairs are needed. The UHF energy from the portable reader penetrates the ground to power up the transponder which then emits its identity. The use of this technology is complicated due to the absorption of energy by the soils in different moisture conditions.

    Because of the ability to detect transponders at speed, RFID Technologies systems are widely used in timing systems for sports events. This allows enthusiasts to build a low cost timing system by just adding a computer and some software. Recently we have provided a 1000 transponder system for the timing of mountain bikes - add to the portfolio of systems in use worldwide.

    RFID-radar can measure the position of multiple transponders physically relative to the reader. Applications are being developed to use these features to assist disabled people, particularly those who are vision impaired.

    RFID has invaded the arts with RFID-radar systems which are being used as sensor systems to allow patrons to interact with art displays in galleries. By sensing transponders on the body, the controlling computer can change the electronic displays that the patron is observing by movements of the body of the patron.

    New developments in passive transponder technology
    One of the key parameters to measure the technological progress of RFID, is to monitor the amount of RF energy needed to operate a passive transponder. The transponder collects its energy from the energising field of the reader, and when the amount collected reaches the operating requirement, the transponder is powered-up and can function properly.

    The energy density from the reader decreases as the inverse square of the distance - that is every doubling of distance requires four times as much power, or a tag 10 meters from a reader only receives 1% of the power density of a tag 1 meter away. Hence by reducing the amount of energy needed to operate a transponder, operating ranges can be increased, operating power of readers can be reduced and portable equipment operating on battery power becomes more viable.

    In its simplest form, a transponder comprising a dipole antenna with a five volt logic circuit would need 54 milliwatts of power. For the past six years RFID Technologies have been providing passive transponders that could operate on just 200 microwatts of power - that is 260 times more efficient than a simple transponder and that could be read by a RFID Technologies reader at distances as far as 13 meters.

    RFID Technologies have in the past few weeks been developing a new design, one that operates on just 112 microwatts of power. This is nearly 500 times more efficient than a standard transponder and will give an operating range for a simple passive transponder of about 18 meters, while still being as small as a credit card.

    Passive transponders are dramatically cheaper and more green than their active transponder counterparts. There was a time when passive transponders had operating ranges of only 1 meter if you were lucky - and otherwise you had to use active transponders which contain onboard batteries. As the operating sensitivity of the passive transponders reduce so passive technology is replacing active transponder technology - reducing costs and increasing transponder operating life.

    The new transponders will be part of the standard RFID portfolio available from RFID Technologies within the next few months.

    RFID Newsletter No 6
    31st October 2008

    1) Productivity challenges
    2) Sports timing
    3) A portfolio of RFID technologies

    Productivity challenges
    Many companies phone RFID Technologies daily with details of potential problems that need solutions. As RFID Technologies manufacture advanced reader systems, a wide variety of low power UHF transponders in different shapes, and now are delivering standardised software packages to provide a "solution in a box" - we are approached by innovative clients wanting a solution that is different from the classical applications of RFID.

    RFID hardware systems form part of information gathering technology. The systems will capture the identities of items to which transponders are attached. - some at distances up to 10 metres, with up to 800 tags in a zone at a time and at read rates up to 70 per second. Data from the reader, which is arriving much faster than can be processed by the human mind, is usually interpreted by a computer attached to the reader.

    What is becoming clear is that the secret to productivity with these systems is the need to marry the UHF reader with some database and to report on descrepancies. Say for instance you are a farmer with a large number of cattle. UHF readers at waterholes and feedpoints can continually gather the identity and time recorded of animals passing the readers. By linking that to a database of all the animals you own that are known to be in the pasture, you can remotely check to see that all your animals are still in the pasture and quickly identify if a particular animal has not been near the water hole in the past 8 hours. Hence you are able to do a slow continuous stock count of your herd with no personal involvement.

    A similar situation could be for hire companies of TV equipment where they want to check on despatch and return that all the equipment is correct, that nothing is missing, and that nothing extra is bundled in the shipment. This would involve automatically matching the invoice for the shipment to the codes read at exit.

    Sports timing
    Because RFID Technologies equipment offers long read ranges, multiple transponders in a zone at a time, read speeds up to 300kph, and at read rates up to 70 per second; many companies worldwide are using our systems as the sensor part of sports timing systems.

    RFID Technologies have developed a software package to manage the timing, the results and other administration tasks involved in timing sports events. This is part of the "systems in a box" concept aimed at sport events organisers who want to just buy a complete system and not develop their own software.

    A portfolio of RFID technologies
    RFID is a new technology that is rapidly evolving as new developments are brought to the market. Range performance of passive transponders is increasing, reader energies are dropping, and more compact packaging of reader systems are being developed.

    Currently there are three separate lines of products for UHF readers.

    a) Fixed readers which are often mains operated and can monitor transponders entering a zone up to 13 metres in front of the antennas with up to 800 transponders in a zone and travelling up to 300kph.

    b) Portable readers that are linked by Bluetooth type technologies to laptop computers forming a mobile data capture and processing system. Due to the low power abilities of Ecotag type transponders, battery operated reader equipment is viable and can read tags up to 8 metres range for long periods.

    c) RFID-radar systems which can measure the identity, and accurately the range and position of multiple transponders in a zone at a time. Despite these measurements being accurate, they use very little bandwidth allowing many RFID systems to operate in close proximity. Used in conjunction with battery operated transponders, useful ranges of up to 40 metres are achievable.

    In addition there are a variety of different forms of passive and active transponders packaged in different forms for different applications. These might be credit card sized, thin wire types, tags for notebook computers, or long range battery-assisted types where the plastic of the housing forms a focussing lens.

    RFID Newsletter No 5
    9 September 2008

    1) Future advancements in RFID applications
    2) A laptop tracking software/hardware system in a box

    Future advancements in RFID applications
    RFID hardware systems form part of information gathering technology. The systems will capture the identities of items to which transponders are attached. - some at distances up to 10 metres, with up to 800 tags in a zone at a time and at read rates up to 70 per second. Data from the reader, which is arriving much faster than can be processed by the human mind, is usually interpreted by a computer attached to the reader.

    Large improvements in productivity are going to be realised when databases that are resident in computer systems are linked to the received RFID data and interpreted correctly. An example of linking databases to RFID would be in the tracking by tour operators of their clients' luggage on a bus trip - where the guide would want to be able to check that all the luggage is present and ready for loading when the bus departs from the hotel, and knowing what luggage should be delivered to which hotel room in the evening at the next stop.

    RFID applications usually require a simple program running on a computer, a program that in the past could typically be written by a high-school student. Unfortunately the computer "program-creating" skills of the world seem no longer to be a skill that resides in every home, even although most homes have numerous computer systems.

    Basically most applications for RFID in small businesses are the same. Whether you are running an asset management system, a security system to control the removal of your assets from your premises, a program to track deliveries from your vehicles or an access control system - they have remarkable similarity in structure of the computer software. This is not a widely published fact as there is a strong industry writing middleware, bloatware, and "you_will_forever_be_poor-ware"!!

    RFID Technologies have been developing a suite of pseudo object orientated application software that integrate with their RFID hardware systems to provide the solutions to most common RFID applications. Basically most productivity applications involve interacting with the RFID hardware, interacting with a series of databases, fitting the information to a set of rules, and generating reports, alarms and notifications. These programs receive data from readers, look up and maintain databases, generate reports and alarms, and email warnings if needed.

    Below you will read about the latest of these "systems in a box" hardware and software solutions. Because it is modular object orientated code - the software is low cost, costing a few hundred dollars for the entire solution in most cases.

    About 4500 companies get this newsletter globally. If any have applications that they feel are RFID orientated and would have a solutions that would be common for many users, let us know and we can see if the new software solutions can be fine tuned.

    A laptop tracking software/hardware system in a box
    RFID Technologies have developed a software package to manage laptop computers that are required to enter and leave premises with their assigned operators.

    Thanks to the availability of RFID Technologies's long range passive technology for both laptop transponder and personal ID tag formats, a fixed reader at a checkpoint can read the identity of both the notebook and its operator passing without hindrance.

    The purpose of the new software is to process ID codes from the reader at the checkpoint, to match the laptops to their authorised operators, and to report any discrepancies.

    This software had a special challenge as decision could only be made when both ID codes were received, and if a certain time had expired since a laptop had been read and it had not found a matching user code, then an alarm had to be quickly sounded.

    This is another in the new low cost series of "system in a box" software with the software costing just a few hundred dollars.

    A portfolio of RFID technologies
    RFID is a new technology that is rapidly evolving as new developments are brought to the market. Range performance of passive transponders is increasing, reader energies are dropping, and more compact packaging of reader systems are being developed.

    Currently there are three separate lines of products for UHF readers.

    a) Fixed readers which are often mains operated and can monitor transponders entering a zone up to 13 metres in front of the antennas with up to 800 transponders in a zone and travelling up to 300kph.

    b) Portable readers that are linked by Bluetooth type technologies to laptop computers forming a mobile data capture and processing system. Due to the low power abilities of Ecotag type transponders, battery operated reader equipment is viable and can read tags up to 8 metres range for long periods.

    c) RFID-radar systems which can measure the identity, and accurately the range and position of multiple transponders in a zone at a time. Despite these measurements being accurate, they use very little bandwidth allowing many RFID systems to operate in close proximity. Used in conjunction with battery operated transponders, useful ranges of up to 40 metres are achievable.

    In addition there are a variety of different forms of passive and active transponders packaged in different forms for different applications. These might be credit card sized, thin wire types, tags for notebook computers, or long range battery-assisted types where the plastic of the housing forms a focussing lens.

    RFID Newsletter No 4
    5 August 2008

    1) Find-a-tag feature added to asset tracking software
    2) Basic antenna theory

    Find-a-tag feature added to asset tracking software
    When you have a room full of 300 computer servers, that all look the same physically, and are all networked, - how do you find the exact computer that needs to be changed or repaired?
    This was the challenge brought to RFID Technologies recently by a client.

    In our past newsletter we informed readers about a new development in asset tracking, called RFIDasset(tm). With all items being tagged, a portable reader with Bluetooth interfacing, and a neat software package - one can have a very effective asset tracking system to monitor large quantities of assets in a corporation, making sure none have gone missing and that their current location is correctly recorded in a database.

    This can be effectively implemented with the RFID Technologies portable RFID reader technology and the long range passive Ecotag transponder technology - including the new passive tags for notebook and laptop computers. With read ranges up to 8 metres, it is not necessary to get close to each asset as its identity can usually be checked from the middle of a room, up to 8 metres away.

    FIND-A-TAG is a new feature that has been added to the software where one can search for a specific tag identity in a large tag population. When the software detects a match between the incoming data and the requested number, it lets the computer make a noise and flashes the 'found' message once per second as long as that tag is in front of the reader antenna. By turning away from the transponder, the noise and flashing will stop as soon as the tag is no longer in front of the antenna and so its physical location can be quickly identified.

    As the reader can process up to 800 transponders in a zone at 70 per second, this use of Find-a-tag can allow large volumes of assets to be checked very quickly.

    This same software can be used to find specific books in a pile of library books, or specific personal files in a stack of documents.

    Basic antenna theory
    Designing antenna systems is a specialised engineering field which uses extensive software modelling to try to achieve the best results. However an understanding of the issues by those not connected to the industry can be useful.

    The function of the antenna is two fold - a) to direct or focus the available energy in the desired direction

    b) to change the impedance of the medium in a controlled manner to allow maximum energy transfer.

    The basic unit of measure of an antenna is the half-wavelength of the operating frequency of the signal which it is transferring. At UHF frequencies typically used by RFID, the half wavelength is approximately 15cms. This distance is inversely proportional to the operating frequency, meaning that smaller antennas need higher operating frequencies.

    In the same way that one can use a reflector in a torch to direct light from a small globe into a beam, so an antenna directs radio energy. The general rule is that the bigger the antenna structure, the more concentrated the beam. This is why an antenna for radio astronomy or sending data to satellites is so large, while a cell phone antenna where energy is being spread in all directions is so small.

    At UHF frequencies, hard surfaces such as walls, floors and road surfaces reflect incident energy, meaning that the energy will be scattered when it hits that surface. This provides a practical limit to the requirement for focussing energy by reader antennas as there is no point in making a large reader antenna structure to make a defined beam which is then scattered by objects in close proximity.

    In a later newsletter we will address the impedance matching features of antennas.

    RFID Newsletter No 3
    17 July 2008

    1) Implementing asset tracking systems

    Implementing asset tracking systems

    "We need to stop criminals stealing hospital equipment from our wards"

    "We need to stop people stealing our laptops from our buildings"

    "We suspect the cleaners are stealing the laptops by taking them out with the rubbish bins"

    These are typical requests received daily at RFID Technologies as business owners look for an affordable technological solutions to manage their business problems.

    The solution to many of these problems is going to be a combination of sensor systems, software and the business system.

    The sensor systems that are needed are the easy part. Long range passive UHF transponders such as those produced by RFID Technologies, can easily be purchased. With long range features(read ranges up to 10 meters), and with innovative tags such as the new notebook tag, the sensors can monitor exit points from a building and can detect and identify any tagged item passing through the exit point. These systems are freely available and can be ordered off a pricelist when needed.

    Recent developments in software packages for RFID systems have meant that the challenge of managing the large amount of data coming from the UHF RFID systems has been dramatically simplified. It has not quite reached the stage of one solution fits all, such as has happened with the hardware RFID systems, but it is very close.

    The real challenge in implimenting an asset tracking system is now evolving around the business systems and processes. The challenge is to simplify the application to get the maximum benefits with the least disruption.

    For example on preventing equipment being removed from a hospital.

    1. A simple solution might be to tag the equipment and make sure that equipment removed from the hospital, will only happen via one exit where there is a guard. All other exits will have readers that will sound a loud audible alarm should some of the equipment pass through their zones.
    2. A more complex solution might be to have readers situated throughout the hospital, and to monitor the movement of all equipment between the different wards. This means that complex tracking software is needed as well as operators to determine when equipment is moving outside of its normal zone of operation.

    The simple solution above is easy and cheap to implement provided that the business systems can be adjusted to this mode of operation.

    Another key issue in looking after your assets in a large corporation, is to know what is in the building and what is now missing. This means that instead of auditing the assets once per year for accounting purposes, a more frequent scan is needed. Here the recently released RFIDasset(tm) software and RFID systems can be used to allow very quick and efficient monitoring and record updating of the current position of your assets.

    RFID Newsletter No 2
    29 May 2008

    1) RFIDasset - a merging of hardware and software to solve a significant problem
    2) Bluetooth kit for portables

    RFIDasset - a merging of hardware and software to solve a significant problem
    RFID Technologies have developed a unique asset management system for companies with thousands of assets who need to know where these are or if they are missing.

    The package comprises a customised software program that runs on a laptop computer, a long range portable UHF RFID scanner, and low power passive transponders that are attached to the items to be tracked. The system is simple to operate, easy to install, and is aimed at those who are confident to buy "systems in a box"

    The software provides a database of all the items to be tracked, the current location of those items, identifiers such as description, manufacturer and serial numbers, who is responsible for the item, and the date when the item was last scanned.

    The reader is portable and is moved around the building that is being checked from room to room. Transponders are attrached to items to be tracked from expensive scientific equipment to tables and chairs if these are on the asset register. As the read range of the portable reader is up to ten meters, the operator can scan from the middle of the room and by rotating scan all the tags in the room in a matter of seconds.

    The software in the laptop knows what should be in the room, and can immediately inform the operator what has been missed providing descriptions and the contact person details who might know where the item currently is located. It will also report what extra items have now moved to the room, and will update the database to show current location and date of scanning.

    This package combines the advantages of RFID with a customised software package to manage the data. RFID has the advantage of being able to read tags at long distances without the need for them to be in line of sight. The RFID reader can read at rates up to 70 items per second which would outstrip the abilities of a human operator, but as the system is linked into a computer program which can manage the high speed data, the operator can be presented just with the salient issues relating to managing large quantites of items.

    The software is compatible with spread sheet programs allowing manipulation of the asset register easily for large amounts of data. The package is low cost making an affordable productive solution.

    Bluetooth kit for portables
    Bluetooth technology is a system of transferring data via radio over a short distance, replacing a piece of copper wire.

    A portable reader needs a display to communicate with the operator, so that it can give immediate feedback to the user in the actual situation - for example - this item of equipment has not been found here!!

    In the past the RFID Technologies portable readers were usually connected via a short cable to some display device, such as a PDA that was carried by the operator. The idea of using a small device with limited display features such as a PDA with a fast reading scientific instrument like the RFID reader, was not attractive as the display on the PDA was so small and the data handling abilities of the reader so large (able to transfer 70 readings per second and 800 tags in the zone at a time) that it was difficult to convey to the operator the actual situation - a little like watching a soccer match on a cell phone!

    Another issue was that the RFID reader, WANs, Wireless Bridges, cellphones and the Bluetooth devices are all using radio spectrum and operating in close proximity to each other, meaning great care was needed in the design of the RF systems so as not to cause interference between systems.

    A third problem was that it was not sufficient to deliver the data to the host computer via Bluetooth, it had to be delivered in a form that could be interfaced to application programs so that they could use the data - a number of challenges to replace a simple piece of copper wire!

    RFID Technologies have introduced a Bluetooth option on their portable readers which allow the portable to communicate with a laptop that is within 10 meters of the reader. The option also includes a dongle for the laptop and software for the laptop that handles the transfer of the data from the dongle to the application software.

    As a result of the Bluetooth technology link, applications can now be run on a laptop placed on a desk near the mobile reader, giving the conventional large display features associated with laptops/notebooks, and allowing applications that run on the same operating system platform used in the company to be used rather than converting to a small opewrating system as used by PDAs.

    The Bluetooth option must be fitted when ordering a portable system.

    RFID Newsletter No 1
    5 April 2008

    1) New development - passive transponder for tagging laptop and notebook computers

    New development - passive transponder for tagging laptop and notebook computers
    Laptop and notebook computers are expensive items, often containing important confidential data. They are often stolen from business premises as they are easy to disconnect from their environment and easy to hide. A strong interest in RFID comes from applications that wish to monitor the unauthorised removal of such devices from premises.

    RFID Technologies (Pty) Ltd (Johannesburg),SOUTH AFRICA have developed a new passive transponder that is specially designed to be attached to laptop and notebook computers. These transponders work in all orientations of the computer and will be detected by a Trolleyponder fixed reader at distances between 13 meter and 5 meters. Since the system works on radio principles, it will be detected even if it is inside a briefcase, laptop carrying bag or under a jacket.

    The RFID Technologies RFID transponder is a rubber based tag that is glued onto the outside of the computer case. The tag can be attached anywhere to the outside of the computer case. It will be detected when it passes the reader even if it is screened from direct radio path with the reader by the computer itself. The rubber tag has a high resistance to chemicals and solvents. It is a passive tag with a very long expected lifetime.

    RFIDasset(tm) is the trademark of RFID Technologies CC

    To get more details, Want_info_on_RFID_systems

    RFID Technologies © /info@rf-id-systems.com