Smart Buildings

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Sep 20, 2010 @ 02:03 PM

Tags: RFID, Smart Buildings, Energy Conservation

Passive UHF RFID and the Smart Building Nervous System

A recent article published in R&D Magazine reports how North Carolina State University researchers have found that the communication range of passive RFID tags can be tripled when used in building ventilation ducts.

NC State HVACAccording to the article and Dan Stancil, head of NC State’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, using RFID tags with sensors in ductwork could support building temperature, smoke detector, carbon monoxide, chemical, biological or radiological monitoring systems without the need for wiring and associated wiring labor costs.  The group’s research will be published in the September issue of Proceedings of the IEEE.  The research abstract reads:

In this paper, the use of hollow metal heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) ducts as a potential communication channel between passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) radio-frequency identification (RFID) readers and tags is studied. HVAC ducts behave as electromagnetic waveguides with much lower signal attenuation compared to free-space propagation. This low-loss electromagnetic environment allows one to greatly increase the communication range of passive UHF RFID systems and build, for example, a long range passive sensor network spanning an entire infrastructure such as a large building. In this work, it is shown both theoretically and experimentally that the read range of passive UHF RFID systems can be increased by multiple times compared to operation in a free-space environment.

The combination and integration of technology, architecture, mobility systems and networked intelligence are creating adaptive interactive environments that can respond to human activity.   For example, smart homes with RFID enhanced ID-based access control, smart offices with automated user-matched lighting systems, and building security systems that leverage RFID to monitor individuals on the premises demonstrate how RFID can enhance residential and commercial architecture. 

With this recent finding by researchers at NC State, will RFID and HVAC ducts help create a new “nervous system” for building system communications?  What new opportunities do you think these findings will this drive in the areas of facilities management, system automation, and resource conservation?

[Photo credit: NC State Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering]

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