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The lifecycle of an RFID "smart home"

Radio frequency identification (RFID) might soon be available for homeowners, offering them greater convenience in their everyday life as well as protecting them from unexpected costs and damages.

 

Author: Marcela De Vivo

 

Today, RFID tags are being used for a variety of applications. While RFID technology is becoming more and more popular in the retail industry, one of the biggest benefits of RFID technology that is less talked about is in-home use. In fact, houses equipped with RFID technology may be beneficial for many interest groups; including builders, building inspectors, house insurance companies, service providers and homeowners.

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RFID CREATES BETTER AND SAFER HOMES

From RFID front door keys, washing machines and refrigerators, to keeping track of when the plumbing needs to be fixed. RFID technology will be a part of the homes of the future making sure that your life is easy and convenient, but also that your house is built right and taken care of and disposed of properly.

1) Building homes with RFID-tagged materials

Even as a house is being built sensor tagged building materials could be used to ensure correct building and avoid human errors. Sensor tags incorporated in the building materials could alert house builders about the material's origin and how they have been treated during the supply chain, as well as inform the builders if they are being used in an incorrect manner. Whatever happens to the tag, stays in the tag's memory, thus, homeowners will be able to find out if the concrete floor wasn't given enough time to dry because of a tight schedule, resulting in a moist floor.

Building inspectors in charge of ensuring that buildings are safe as well as issuing building or renovation permits can be informed of the presence and condition of building materials and construction solutions that are not visible to the naked eye. It is possible that building inspectors and insurance companies will demand some RFID tags (in critical building materials, constructions and machines) in the future. Ultimately this saves money and time for everyone, as well as reduces the risks of owning a house. 

2) RFID could make repair and maintenance easier 

RFID technology can be used inside homes to provide information about all types of standard concerns. For example, RFID sensor tags could be placed inside a home to measure humidity, temperature, air circulation etc. in places where these could be a concern. By having the tags scanned regularly by a property caretaker, maintenance or repair personnel, homeowners could be notified of and fix the problem before it becomes costly. Parts that need maintenance in certain intervals could inform the RFID reader when it needs to be replaced or cleaned the next time. 

Sensor and alert systems, per se, do not necessarily need RFID technology to work. A sensor with a transmitter connected to a back-end system could basically do the same (much like in a car). But, the benefits of using RFID for this are:

  • Repair and maintenance personnel are already equipping themselves with RFID readers that they bring along on the field
  • Smart houses will demand a large amount of tags and sensors. Sensor tags cost less and have a smaller footprint than traditional sensors with transmitters
  • Passive tags are not depending on batteries
  • No cable wiring to the tags is required
  • Future homes might be equipped with mobile and/or fixed RFID readers for other comfort and convenience purposes. Mobile smart phones will shortly all be equipped with NFC. In some cases combination tags (NFC and UHF RFID) could be used to enable reading with both smart phones and UHF RFID readers.

Providing that future homeowners are equipped with mobile and/or fixed RFID readers, RFID technology could be taken a step even further and also be implemented to give alerts in real-time when something happens. It could inform homeowners about how to perform certain renovations or quick fixes when the need arises. The information on the tags could include everything from how to actually perform simple repairs to how to stay true to the original style of the home. With RFID tags basic maintenance issues, like changing a slowly leaking pipe in the kitchen, could become an easier task as a sensor tag could actually catch the problem, give an alert and explain to the homeowner how to fix them and whether they should consult an expert.

For homeowners, that means a reduced risk of serious repairs being needed, since the RFID tags will help notify the owner of a brewing problem. It should be emphasised, though, that we need to look far into the future before we see RFID applications, where house owners are scanning their own houses in this purpose.

3) Comfort and everyday living with RFID

Homes with in-built RFID technology in the construction can be beneficial for homeowners, but the household machines can also be equipped with RFID technology. Items like smart refrigerators, washing machines, laundry baskets, smoke detectors and even coffee makers, that tell you how to brew the ideal cup of coffee, thanks to a tag on the coffee package, can make life easier and more convenient for homeowners. 

RFID readers can be placed in washing machines making them able to read the care label instructions on the tags of the garments inside. The washing machine then calculates the optimal washing conditions, based on what types of clothes are put into the machine. 

When equipped with an RFID reader, smart refrigerators can read and report its content to the owner. So, you will not have to check physically what items are in the fridge before you begin planning a meal or what to get at the grocery store. When you are out and about, this technology can send you reminders to pick up certain grocery items via text messages or emails.

 

Smartphone -shopping -list

 

While the possibility of this type of use of RFID technology is very real, few companies are using it as of 2013. However, this might be the way of the future, and some grocery producers and retailers are testing RFID technology as we speak.

4) House demolition in a safe, ecological and economical way

RFID tags can be beneficial for homeowners making repairs and for service providers doing renovation work, but they may be just as helpful when it comes to demolishing a house when it is beyond repair. Homes equipped with RFID tags will be able to show demolition crews how to tear down a house properly piece by piece, allowing for optimal safety.

Homes equipped with RFID tags can also be torn down in an environmentally-friendly fashion, and the tags can even be used to inform builders what parts of the home are recyclable or sellable and which ones are not, as well as how and where to get rid of them.

MAKING RFID MORE EASILY ATTAINABLE

While RFID technology may not be standard in homes yet, it could very well be the wave of the future, since it could make home maintenance more affordable and household machinery more user-friendly. But we do need more research and practise, before this becomes reality in full-scale. 

RFID-enabled household machines might not be as far off in the future as RFID-tagged construction materials, but it will take time. First garments, grocery items etc. need to be tagged so that the washing machines, coffee makers, toasters, laundry baskets and the refrigerators have tags to read. But, until then, let's keep visioning.

 

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from California, whose writing covers a range of industries, including home improvement, DIY and home security. As a business owner, not only does she believe RFID technology would be great for homes, but possibly for businesses who are looking to renovate.

3 comments on “The lifecycle of an RFID "smart home"”

  1. Posted 11 June 2013 at 15:56:14

    Its wonderful how RFID can play an important role in every part of human life.

    Qvantel Software solutions is a company that provides feasible enterprise solutions and make deployments easy , simple and economical. Experts in rfid fo rmany years.

  2. Gravatar of Peter BrooksPeter Brooks
    Posted 09 October 2015 at 23:48:56

    Any news of developments in this area in the past couple of years?

  3. Gravatar of Graham BarronGraham Barron
    Posted 12 October 2015 at 05:58:35

    Have any pilot houses been established using RFIDs?
    If so can someone provide details

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