The new system could become the foundation for nation-wide traffic and road toll monitoring. The new technology will be first deployed in Wuhan, a city with a population of 7 million. Readers will be installed on each of the city's bridges during this year. The goal is to eventually expand the RFID reading system to cover the entire city and use it for traffic control purposes. Nation-wide adoption of the system would require millions of readers and hundreds of millions of RFID tags.
In Western countries, road tolls utilise either active long-range tags or a GPS-based positioning system. However, passive long reading range UHF RFID enables extremely low-cost technology for road tolls or other traffic applications. It is easier to first commercialise new long-range RFID technology in China before introducing it in the West, since compared with European countries, China has a much more open infrastructure.
VTT will deploy its long-range RFID technology solutions in China through FennoID, a Finnish company established for this very purpose. FennoID is a shareholder in ReadTech, a recently established Chinese company which markets the systems in China and invests in mass production of RFID tags. The company will supply the City of Wuhan with one million RFID tags, with deliveries scheduled to begin before the end of the year. In the first phase, some 100 readers for the road traffic application will be installed on the city's bridges. In the future, the company will also supply RFID tags and systems to the huge and ever-growing Chinese transport and logistics market. The first non-transport applications are designed for personal identification and logistics solutions for the automotive industry.
Low-cost RFID technology offers vast application opportunities, and it is continuously expanding to new fields. RFID technology can also reduce and even prevent counterfeiting of products - drugs, for example - which is a common problem in Asia.
One of the companies currently applying the technology is Mercedes-Benz, where RFID identification of car parts helps speed up production of the company's S-Class cars. RFID identification boosts the efficiency of the entire production process and even extends to maintenance, which is also to the benefit of the buyer. The RFID tags developed by VTT are particularly suited for metal surfaces. In the pilot stage, VTT's tags outperformed - by a wide margin - all other RFID tags tested by Daimler Benz.
Heikki Seppä, Research Professor at VTT, believes it will not take long before tagging technology is used in electronic driving licences and to identify cars - at least in China. Potential RFID applications include parking and speed monitoring systems, road tolls, border clearance and theft prevention. In traffic control RFID identification can be used to clear the way for ambulances and fire engines. The police and the insurance sector have already expressed an interest in the advantages offered by RFID technology. RFID tag technology was originally developed mainly for logistics purposes. According to Seppä, it is essential that the technology is also utilized in transport and payment applications. Thanks to large volumes, the cost of both RFID tags and readers can be brought down to very low levels.
VTT has been actively developing RFID technology for more than ten years and made significant advances in the field globally. For example, the integrated circuit and antenna used in the RFID tag now introduced in China are based on innovations made at VTT. VTT holds several patents related to tagging technology and remote identification.
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