Developing an autonomous electronic tag

Challenge

Creating a re-usable, smart and human-readable electronic tag to autonomously detect adverse environmental conditions.

Disciplines
  • Design
  • Electronics
  • Human Factors
  • Innovation
  • Software & Electronics

Impact

  • Avoid costly asset 'write-offs'
  • Monitor 'health' conditions of valuable assets during transportation
  • Quickly identify potentially damaged assets
  • Optimise supply chains through failure detection and analysis
  • Re-configurable and re-usable - environmentally friendly
  • Fully customisable to user need

Applying new technologies in novel ways

Combining e-paper display technology with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and environmental sensors, we formulated a concept for a device with the potential for a diverse range of applications.

A photo of four bag of blood transfusion bags with barcodes

Smart asset monitoring

Combining various sensors the device can be configured to meet the needs of different assets with different requirements. For example, monitoring the temperature of an item during transit, monitoring any shocks and impacts, or the duration an item is in a particular orientation.

Three members of the engineering team in a lab, looking at a microscope.

Multi-disciplinary teamwork

In developing the concept our team drew on many areas of expertise. We explored the underlying technologies to ensure the concept was not only viable but could also be miniaturised into a thin label form. We then optimised the internal component arrangement and integrated everything into a thin ‘label’ enclosure.

Visual language

We gave the concept a visual language and optimised the presentation of critical information on the display. We added user-configurable thresholds and timestamped recordings of events and useful sensor data before bringing the concept to life by prototyping and then manufacturing the design.

Electronics miniaturisation

A key challenge was to miniaturise all the electronics into a thin label form. From big evaluation boards we were able to shrink the electronics, battery and e-paper display into an area of 60x60mm – less than 3mm thick.

A man with glasses working in an electronics and software lab, working on two screens and a laptop.

Software design

Benefitting from a wealth of experience in connectivity and low power devices, we developed a custom protocol for transferring data and configuring the device over the NFC interface. We added code to acquire shock and temperature sensor information, setup user-configurable thresholds, log the event data and write content to the display. All this, whilst conserving battery power to ensure a long life from a tiny coin cell battery.

Find out more?

Discuss how KD can help you to take advantage of our concept in your logistics challenge. Contact our Head of Industrial, Ben Webb.