01. September 2015

Total RFID solutions for the workspace of the future

New developments in RFID technology, including versatile antenna systems and transponders with integral sensors, are speeding the development of total RFID solutions for the vertical integration of production processes in the factory of the future as embodied in the Industry 4.0 concept.

New cable antenna design

RFID plays a key role in the Integrated Industry concept, particularly for providing expedient and context-related information in the area of production and logistics support. For example, production and picking workspaces can be equipped with UHF RFID applications that make them more economical.

In this context, HARTING has developed a new type of antenna, the Ha-VIS LOCFIELD® cable antenna, which generates a localised tube-shaped electromagnetic field along the contour of the antenna cable. The diameter of the tube can be determined by changing the RF power injected into the cable by the RFID reader. Depending on the reader, transponder, coaxial cable type and environment, the read range can be adjusted from a few centimetres to a 2 metre read range. The length of the antenna can be varied from 20 cm to 10 m.

The key benefit of the Ha-VIS LOCFIELD® is the ability to shape the antenna, and therefore the reading zone, to meet the user’s requirements. This means that it can be positioned in almost any way – under tables, on shelves or along conveyor belts - so that no space is wasted. The cable antenna can be as long as is required by the application, and the options for placing the cable range from straight to waveform shapes; it is even possible to arrange it around table tops and door frames. The reading range can be controlled and increased by the way the cable is run. The antenna will operate with any transponder or reader that complies with GS1 EPC global standards.

A typical example of this versatility is an intelligent workspace using a LOCFIELD® antenna for RFID applications. The antenna is fitted with such precision under the worktable that it only reads objects on the table top. Using HARTING’s integrated RFID software system, Ha-VIS Middleware, the data can be accurately read, filtered and grouped as required. A supplementary application allows the simultaneous display of production and work instructions. This approach reduces the error rate during handling, production and logistics, while providing operators with the information they need in optimal form.

RFID transponders with external sensors

A major new development in the application of RFID to the manufacturing environment is the ability of a new generation of RFID transponders to transmit sensor data in the passive state. The extended functionality provided by this development means that, in addition to transmitting its own unique ID, the object or device equipped with an RFID transponder will also determine and wirelessly transmit its current status via attached sensors. This means that the RF transponder will be able to act directly as a control system in the vertical integration of production processes – much in the context of Industry 4.0.

The biggest advantage of this UHF-based control system is passive operation. This means that the activation of the analogue sensors takes place at a range of up to 2.5 m, while the additional data is transmitted to the reading device in passive mode. For this reason, the system does not need a power source on the transponder side.

This approach provides significant advantages in industrial applications. Mobile parts that do not have an uninterrupted power source can now be comprehensively monitored using the HARTING RFID control system in a completely maintenance-free environment.


This concept can be illustrated using a safety-critical application example from a different industrial sector: safety locks on chairlifts - which are used to secure passengers and consequently require consistent and exhaustive monitoring.

This process was previously possible only with enormous effort, but it can now be easily implemented without extensive conversion or maintenance effort.

With the RFID transponders, it becomes a simple matter.

When the cable car is in the stations and passengers are getting off and on, the status of the locking bar on the gondola changes from “closed” to “open”. Before the chair is allowed to start again, this status must first be electronically recorded as having changed from “closed” to “open” again. To avoid the effort associated with an active radio system that would have to be maintained at regular intervals (including battery changes), HARTING RFID transponders with external sensors and limit switches are used. These now transmit the status changes within the station.

A key benefit of this system is the facility for integration of additional data. With the HARTING RFID RF-R500 Reader, all the conditions required to provide the full functionality of a higher-order system are already in place. This includes the further possibility of carrying out integration in a PLC, for example, using just a few commands with the OPC-UA communication protocol.


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LOCFIELD Antenna whitepaper







Published in – Automation

Date – September 2015

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