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  • matthewparkin7

RFID Tags: The True Cost of Batteries

Updated: Mar 6

With Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Ultra-wideband (UWB) solutions growing in popularity is there a more sustainable alternative to bulky battery powered active RFID tags?

Codegate staff are frequently asked which RFID technology will work best for a particular tracking requirement and usually the answer starts with a statement none of them are perfect, it's what offers the best value for money according to the customer's specific needs...

Passive UHF RFID, the most established technology, has many attractions including low cost maintenance-free tags and truly global standards offering interoperability between products produced by hundreds of manufacturers around the world. The infrastructure, however, can be costly in the first instance, however it is inexpensive to maintain and highly expandable to cover multiple tracking requirements across the same organisation.

Whilst active tags using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or Ultra-wideband (UWB) are gaining in popularity and private 5G indoor trackers are starting to appear on the market, they all have one major drawback - the tags need batteries. Despite manufacturer claims of very long tag battery life they will inevitably need replacing over the design life of the tracking solution. That requires the introduction of a battery replenishment programme, seen by most customers as a major headache. Tags are more expensive and higher maintenance than their passive equivalents, but can deliver much higher accuracy in real time over a wider area using a simpler, lower cost infrastructure. Where items to be tracked have a high price tag, or always knowing where they are is critical to the business, active tag technologies are attractive and growing in popularity. BUT battery replacement remains a major issue and in terms of sustainability a major block to carbon neutrality. Around the world manufacturers are therefore working on ways to make batteries last longer or to remove them altogether. Wiliot introduced battery-free 'pixel' IoT sensors for example, capable of monitoring certain environmental parameters in addition to basic tag identification. However, the time taken to energise and read a Wiliot tag is massively longer than passive UHF tags (seconds rather then milliseconds).

An alternative approach has been taken by UK company Lightricity, replacing the battery with a small high efficiency solar cell capable of delivering enough power to operate an active tag even in indoor low lighting conditions. Doing away with the battery means the tags can be miniaturised greatly compared with battery based active tags, making them viable for use with smaller assets such as hand tools.

Codegate has integrated Lightricity 4EverTrack tags into its eVantage low cost zonal BLE tracking solution which in turn feeds Lime asset tracking middleware. From a sustainability perspective these tags offer a proven advantage over equivalent battery powered tags, as referenced in the white paper attached to this article. Codegate gratefully acknowledges Lightricity as the originator of this white paper.

The True Cost of Batteries - Whitepaper
Download PDF • 274KB


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