Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Fraunhofer combines wireless and optical identification

Steve Rogerson
September 28, 2016

The Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS) is introducing this week at the FachPack European trade fair for packaging, technology, processing and logistics in Nuremberg a way to combine the wireless and optical identification of packaging.
The Dresden-based research institute developed the universal RFID-OPC-US-AutoID Server (Road-Server) software that provides for easy and cost efficient integration of various readers, tags and sensor technology in complex process environments regardless of manufacturer, frequency band, protocol and interface. Claimed to be the first middleware of its kind, the Road-Server implements the OPC UA (unified architecture open platform communications) AutoID companion specification to provide manufacturer-independent communications in automation technology.
Intelligent packaging is on the rise. The implementation of RFID technology in the packaging industry is becoming increasingly important especially in terms of information, identification and security. Although it is easy to identify packages and their contents, read product information and provide verification and evaluation, things become difficult when various RFID components from different manufacturers are left to communicate with each other.
In cases in which these components require further integration with optical identification methods such as barcode reader systems, users are faced with complexity, extensive implementation times and considerable cost.
Initially used only for RFID components, the research team led by Dirk Reichelt has extended the Road-Server to include the integration of 1D and 2D barcode technologies. When implemented on the OPC-UA interface basis, applications can be further used regardless of changes to the reader or transponder population.
“This is of particularly great interest for the packaging industry,” said Reichelt. “Our software enables the easy combination of wireless and optical identification methods. Regardless whether a packet or shipping crate carries a barcode or an RFID-tag, standard reader devices and tags for various frequency ranges can connect and communicate with each other in process constructions over a single standardised interface through the Road-Server. Integration of further sensor-transponders for reporting physical parameters such as temperature, moisture, light or pressure is also possible.”
Transporting food, medicines or hazardous materials must be rigorously controlled. Moisture and high temperatures inside shipping crates can result in quality deterioration and product decay as well as dangerous situations. Sensor values can be wirelessly read and product characteristics can be examined quickly and safely over integrated RFID-tags without opening the packaging. The integration of additional sensors detecting, for example, limit values is also conceivable.
Reichelt, on Thursday this week at FachPack, will explain the contribution of AutoID technology to the automating of business processes en route to Industry 4.0 in a lecture entitled: “Cleverly packaged: How to efficiently integrate standard RFID AutoID with OPC UA.”