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If cars were tagged - Part 4

New cars already have HF RFID technology and their spare parts are often tracked with UHF RFID. How would the introduction of UHF “car ID-tags” change the manufacturing and distribution processes, not to mention customer service?

Co-authors: Henri Lehto, Tero Nieminen, Arabella Bassett & Natasja van der Meer as a part of a school project.

HF RFID VERSUS UHF RFID - WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE WHEN IT COMES TO CARS?

The huge difference between tagging a car with HF tags versus UHF tags is; the reading distance. Today's typical HF tags can be read from a distance of up to 50 cm (20 inches), while UHF tags can be read from a distance of up to 10 meters (33 feet). But that's just today. The development constantly goes forward and tomorrow could be a whole different story with new possibilities.

New cars are usually equipped with HF RFID technology for different purposes, such as car locks, ignitions, tires, etc. Their purpose is to fulfill a specific function, usually in the form of a customer convenience feature. In terms of production, HF tags are being used for identifying cars on the assembly line, but that is their sole purpose and they are usually disposed of afterwards.

So called "smart cars" are cars that are equipped with an UHF RFID tag containing information about the car's identity, here referred to as the "car ID". Although spare parts can be tagged with UHF tags for logistic and assembly reasons, the kind of UHF tagged car that we are talking about here refers to cars equipped with UHF tags in the purpose of providing a "car ID", much like a register plate. This "car ID" is useful throughout the car's life cycle for all involved interest groups (car manufacturers, distributors, car service providers, car owners, police and safety authorities etc.) - but, in different ways for all.

Shutterstock _90067396_car _manufacturing _assembly -line _web

WHAT INFORMATION WOULD THE TAGS CONTAIN?

We are discussing the benefits of the system from a manufacturer point of view, but the "car ID-tag" has to be useful and secure to other interest groups as well after it leaves the manufacturing facilities. With this in mind, we are basically looking at two alternatives:

  1. The "car ID-tag" only contains an ID number - a so called VIN (vehicle identification number). All information related to the ID number is stored in a back-end system. The advantage of this system is that it is harder for unauthorized scanners to obtain information about the car, since the tag information itself only consists of a number. Only by gaining access to the back-end system will the ID number be associated with the information about the car. The problem with this system is the inability to access the car's information when there is no connection established to the back-end system. From a manufacturer point of view, this alternative makes sense, since contact with the back-end system is easy to maintain in manufacturing facilities and the system is simple to use and update.
  2. The "car ID-tag" has read/write capability and contains all the information associated with the car (not just the VIN). But, the information is stored behind encryption codes that only allow authorized RFID readers to see the content. Whenever the "car ID-tag" is connected to the back-end system, all updates made to the tag will be copied to the back-end database and vice versa. During manufacturing the "car ID-tag" can be modified and updated to the back-end system by scanning it with a fixed or mobile RFID reader. But after the car reaches its final destination and is out on the streets, the future might bring us "car ID-tags" that connect to a back-end system e.g. with a mobile smart phone or through the satellite connection of the car's navigation system.

 

VIN-and -car -info -on -tags -in -windshield


As you can see, both methods have their pros and cons. The most likely solution would probably be a combination of the two. Some basic information about the car is unprotected without any encryption codes and available without connection to the back-end system. More sensitive information placed on the tag might be protected by encryption codes and the most critical information might only be available in the back-end system.

Whether the tag type is read or read/write might vary from country to country and depends on the degree of infrastructure in the region. From the perspective of car manufacturers, both tag types are applicable.

Whichever the system and independent of from whose point of view we look at this, there will always be information that is sensitive and has to be protected. If the cars are tagged at production, it's up to the car manufacturer to ensure that the tag conveys with the needs of the different interest groups and the standards and requirements of the destination country.

ENHANCING PRODUCTION

As soon as an empty car shell enters the assembly process it can be equipped with a "car ID" in the form of an UHF RFID tag. This tag will follow the car throughout the different production stages and eventually be permanently attached to the windshield or the license plate of the car.

Car manufacturers often offer their customers customized solutions, where the customer basically fills in a form with check boxes of features such as specific interiors, seats and engine parts. Keeping track of these customer preferences throughout the production line has been proven difficult and confusing, resulting in many errors. Another problem experienced by car manufacturers is ensuring that the right tools are in place as a specific car with specific requirements shows up on the assembly line. The legacy of Henry Ford - "streamlining production" - is even more acute today and delays and errors can be costly.

BMW employed a HF "car ID-tag" solution to solve these problems already in year 2009 and reported that the system gave them the opportunity to streamline their production, reduce production errors and lower manufacturing costs.

Other examples of car manufacturers that are using UHF RFID for tracking cars and/or spare parts as well as for increasing transparency in distribution and the supply chain are Volkswagen, Renault and Porsche. Renault reports that RFID technology has made it possible to cut work time, receive real-time visibility and improved traceability of their assets. The material flow has been improved, planning optimized and the transport process streamlined.

"CAR ID-TAGS" ARE USEFUL IN THE DISTRIBUTION CHAIN

As mentioned in the previous section, "car ID-tags" do provide concrete added value to the manufacturing process. But, they also make the next steps; storage, transportation and distribution of the cars, a lot easier. This matters for car manufacturers since many handle parts of their distribution and sales themselves.

Assistor, a Finnish vehicle and spare part logistics company, equips passing-through-cars with UHF RFID tags to identify them during the transportation and storage processes before they reach their new owners or distributors. Challenges like ice and snow, huge areas to cover and a large number of vehicles (350 000 vehicles per year) make quick non-visual identification a time and cost saver for Assistor.

Shutterstock _22669402_cars -with -snow _web


As more and more car distributors are equipped with mobile and fixed RFID readers, the threshold for implementing the system is getting lower and lower. There is no doubt; cars will have RFID "car IDs" in the future. The question is: What system will prevail; tagging at production or tagging at some point of the distribution chain as in Assistor's case? To me, it seems that the answer is obvious; tagging at production. This way, car manufacturers themselves can enjoy the benefits of the long range "car ID-tags" and the information available on the tags will be all the way from the date-of-birth.

WHAT IS GOOD FOR THE CUSTOMER, IS ALSO GOOD FOR THE BRAND…

…. and "smart cars" are truly convenient for car owners. We posted an article about this subject, which you can find here: RFID tagged cars - Part 2. But since I find this so important from the manufacturer's point of view as well, I will repeat them shortly here.

Car manufacturers that equip their cars with UHF RFID tags will gain advantages by being able to offer their customers:

  • More effective protection against car theft
  • Payment convenience and preselected personal settings and preferences in parking halls, car parks, road tolls, drive-in restaurants and car washes.
  • Better control and transparency of repairs and spare parts
  • Cars as individuals in a "social media" network

CONCLUSION

Most car manufacturers are already using or planning to use long range AVI (automatic vehicle identification) in their manufacturing processes and distribution, at least on spare parts. Many already have a system of HF "car ID-tags" that help them produce customized cars with fewer errors and delays.

The additional effort of starting to use UHF tags as "car ID-tags" is extremely small in proportion to the benefits that this would bring the car manufacturers, as well as the other interest groups later on in the product life cycle. HF tags have a short reading distance and demand workers to know exactly where the tag is located on the car. The change to UHF RFID tags would open the doors to start using fixed RFID readers that automatically scan the car tags as they pass by. That, if something, is AUTOMATIC vehicle identification and would improve man-hours efficiency significantly.

But the biggest benefit of switching to UHF RFID tags instead of HF tags is; the same UHF tag could be used throughout the cars life cycle - also in applications where UHF RFID readers are a must. And, as long as the tags and the back-end system are smart and flexible, the application possibilities are end-less. So, the key to success is; "keep your system future-proof".

RELATED ARTICLES:

RFID in cars - Part 1 - From the car owner point of view
RFID in cars - Part 2 - From the car service provider point of view
RFID in cars - Part 3 - From the police and safety authorities point of view

SOURCES AND RECOMMENDED READING

http://manufacturing.gaorfid.com/
http://www.rfid24-7.com/2012/06/20/porsche-and-renault-roll-out-rfid/
http://www.centrenational-rfid.com/docs/users/file/focus%20renault%20english(3).pdf
http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?5104
http://www.tgdaily.com/trendwatch-features/41842-ibm-brings-rfid-to-volkswagens-entire-supply-chain

2 comments on “If cars were tagged - Part 4”

  1. Posted 20 October 2015 at 23:28:33

    I also suggest the following reading, wherein I acted as the RFID specialist:
    From the Joint Auto Industry Forum:
    Global Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Item Level Standard
    Version 1, Issued 11/2011,
    and
    Global Guideline for Returnable Transport Item Identification
    Version 1, Dated 09/2010,
    as well as ODETTE standards LR01, Odette LR02 and Odette LR05.
    These are all Global and European standards for the use of RFID in the automotive industry.

  2. Posted 19 April 2017 at 08:53:03

    So many car manufacturers used rfid tags, like tire tag, high temperature resistance rfid tag, rfid windshield tags,help car manufacturer efficient and save labor.

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