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Solar engergy with RFID technology



An army needs to keep track of its resources, especially when those resources are deployed in distant locations with little infrastructure. RFID is a great tool for tracking physical objects -- as long as there's electrical power around. And solar energy is a great tool for providing electricity where no other sources exist. By putting those two technologies together the U.S. Army keeps track of resources in Kuwait and Qatar, and a Colombian logistics company tracks commercial shipments across the country's highways. Anywhere resources need to be tracked where there is no power infrastructure, solar-powered RFID is an option.

There are two hardware elements that make up an RFID system: tags and readers. Tags are the labels that get attached to objects and contain unique identifiers. There are two types of tags. Passive tags have no power source, so they can only send information when they use some energy from an incoming radio signal to send their own outgoing signal. Active tags have a power source so they can independently send information. Readers are the part of the system that sends out a trigger signal and detects the return signal from the tags. In practice, readers are used to precisely and quickly identify the location of RFID tags.


In addition to holding a serial number that uniquely identifies an object, RFID tags can also hold information about manufacturing dates or temperature extremes a product has been exposed to. An RFID reader captures that information at a specific location and sends it to a database. This allows an organization to answer questions such as "where are all the Brand X widgets manufactured during the third week of the year," or "what's the average time to ship our product to our overseas distributors." RFID provides unprecedented access to information about product or material location, in near real-time.

Solar Energy Powering RFID

The overall function of RFID is to provide an organization with up-to-date information on the location of material, products or assets. Information is provided only when a tag is triggered and read by a reader. By using small solar panels to provide electrical power to tags or readers, RFID information can be gathered almost at will, instead of being limited to warehouses or shipping docks. The most common use of solar-powered RFID is for military applications, but you can imagine how useful it could be in disaster response, where critical goods could be located even when electricity is out. The better the data, the more useful the RFID system -- and solar-powered RFID improves the quality of the data.

RFID Tagging Solar Panels

Solar energy can power RFID, and RFID can be used to identify solar panels. As of this writing, there aren't too many applications for RFID-tagged solar panels, but there are some. For example, the Indian government will have tagged 20 million solar panels with RFID labels by the end of 2013. The tags will contain information about each panel's origin, its output and its maintenance schedule.

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