RFID-powered Sensors Can Play a Big Role in the Internet of Things

While energy-harvesting and battery-powered devices can be the right choice for certain applications, passive RFID sensor tags offer a number of advantages.
By Mikel Choperena

However, a number of applications require a more reliable energy source before they can be implemented in the real world. Wireless battery-free sensors based on RFID are a very good fit in some of these cases.

RFID Sensors
Although it is not a natural source of energy, an RFID transmitter is a very interesting source to take into account for wireless sensors in the IoT scheme. A sensor that requires an RFID reader cannot be considered autonomous. However, this kind of device can be embedded at any point, and will always be ready to measure and transmit. As an example, passive (battery-free) RFID sensor tags can be embedded in concrete, inside piping systems and at many relatively inaccessible locations, and they will never require battery-change maintenance. The disadvantage is that they cannot measure or transmit when there is no nearby RFID reader to send RF power. Still, the advantages over natural sources are important:

A passive RFID sensor has an "on-demand" reliable source of energy. There is no dependency on environment conditions for the sensor to transmit the required data. It is also not affected by dark or hazardous locations, or by natural temperature changes.

Battery-free RFID sensors can be embedded inside different materials. This allows for the implementation of RFID sensors inside walls and pillars, or sealed within enclosures.

There is no doubt that energy harvesting is a growing industry, no matter the reasons—be they battery-free green policies or simple economics. Battery-free RFID sensors offer a way to enjoy reliable sensor data in your IoT scheme, without being affected by such unpredictable sources as sun, wind and temperature.

Mikel Choperena is the product development manager at Farsens, a manufacturer of ultra-low-power digital sensors and long-range passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID sensors.

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