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Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-14-061    Date:  August 2014
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-14-061
Date: August 2014


Radio Frequency Identification Applications in Pavements


Anonymous (2002). "Tracking Concrete Cubes for QA," RFID Journal, August 18, 2002. Available at http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/194.

RFID tags embedded in concrete test cubes were evaluated as an alternative to manual tracking to reduce human errors and costs for tracking QA test data. This "Cube Info" application employed passive 13.56 MHz tags with 228 bytes of storage. The tags were approximately the size of a quarter and were encapsulated in a hard plastic protective casing. A handheld reader/ writer was employed to scan the cubes at the job site and encode them with field information. Fixed reader/writers attached to the laboratory weigh scales and compression test machines were used to record QA test results. Read range is not reported in the article, but from the accompanying figures, it appears to be on the order of 1 m (3.28 ft).

Concrete mix information for an individual mixer truck was entered into the handheld reader/ writer via a barcode attached to the paper load slip. After a slump test was performed at the sight, the encapsulated active RFID tag was placed inside the freshly prepared 6-inch (152-mm) test cube. The handheld reader/writer then wrote the mix information, slump test results, and date to the active RFID tag. The cube was then sent to laboratory for curing. After curing, it was weighed, and the weight data were transferred from the weight machine RFID reader/writer to the tag embedded in the cube. A compression test was finally performed, and these results were also transferred by the associated RFID reader/writer to the tag. The protective plastic casing enabled the RFID tag to be retrieved intact after the test for download of the complete dataset. The encapsulated tags could be reused (more than 20 times). After verification of the test results, they were posted to a materials database and/or sent via email to the concrete producer and others.

The pilot implementation of the Cube Info system was reported as giving good results. No major technical problems were reported. Nonetheless, acceptance of this system does not appear to be speedy or widespread.

AXCESS, Inc. (2006). "AXCESS' Active RFID Solution Utilized by Bechtel to Automate HAZMAT Truck Payload Management," press release, May 9, 2006. Available at http://www.axcessinc.com/press/050509bechtel.doc.

In this application, RFID was used to monitor environmentally hazardous material movement with minimum hindrance in its transport. Active RFID tags were installed on trucks and drums. When the truck passed a weigh station, its load, contents, and other information was scanned and automatically uploaded to a database.

Collins, J. (2004). "Case Builds for RFID in Construction," RFID Journal, January 5, 2004. Available at http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/720/1/4/.

RFID technology was evaluated as an alternative to bar coding for tracking the shipment and delivery of metal pipes from a fabrication plant in Texas to a construction site. The RFID system consisted of active UHF (915 MHz) RFID tags from Identec® and Phase IV Engineering, an Identec® handheld reader connected to an iPaq™ personal digital assistant (PDA), and a CargoWatch® stationary reader. Read-write range in noninterfering environments was approximately 328 ft (100 m). Only tag identification information was evaluated.

The focus of the study was to determine whether reliable readings could be obtained when the RFID tags were placed on a pipe surrounded by a large number of other pipes on the back of the truck. The tags were mounted on the pipes after loading onto the truck to avoid damage by the loading process. Two read modes were evaluated. Stationary loaded trucks were scanned by a worker with the handheld reader who moved around the truck trailer. Moving trucks were scanned as they were driven past a stationary reader location.

Tag reads for stationary trucks were 100-percent accurate up to a range of 10 ft (3.05 m). Accuracy dropped slightly for a moving truck passing the stationary reader. However, it rebounded to 100 percent when the truck stopped briefly near the stationary reader.

Ergin, E., and Hendrickson, C.T. (January 2007). "Utilization of Radio-Frequency Identification Tags for Transportation Infrastructure Management: Tracking Engineered-to-Order Elements and Materials Throughout Their Life-Cycles," Transportation Research Board 86th Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, Paper No. 07-2788.

Information flow related to materials and components used in transportation infrastructure systems and their supply chains are plagued with inefficiencies caused by inadequate or late deliveries and installation of components at wrong locations. This paper provides a vision of how RFID tags could be used as a means to track components from long distances, store information on these components, and allow multiple parties to access this information. A requirements analysis and a limited set of field tests were performed to explore the technical feasibility of using RFID technology for these purposes. The experiments demonstrated that it was technically feasible to add intelligence to the components in transportation infrastructure systems to collect status information automatically within the supply chain.

Goodrum, P.M., McLaren, M.A., and Durfee, A. (2006). "The Application of Active Radio Frequency Identification Technology for Tool Tracking on Construction Job Sites," Automation in Construction, 15, 292-302.

The objective of this study was to improve the tracking of handheld power tools on construction sites to make them more easily available to a worker when needed. Commonly used tools (corded hammer drill, portable band saw, reciprocating saw) at three construction projects were identified and tagged. Active UHF (915 MHz) RFID tags with lithium/thionyl chloride (Li/SOCl2) and 32 Kb of memory were employed. The tags, approximately 1 by 5 inches in size, were mounted internally within the plastic tool housings. A handheld reader connected to a PDA was used to collect data.

Contractors were allowed to move tools freely according to their needs. Readings were taken every week at the job sites. Readings were taken while the tools were stored in top-opening metal gang (tool storage) boxes with the lid open. Reading distance and direction from the tools in the gang box were noted. Evaluation included read range, integrity of stored inventory and maintenance data on the tag, and ability of reader to update that data.

Readings in environmentally controlled laboratory conditions were successful up to ranges between 49.2 to 82 ft (15 to 25 m). This range dropped in the field to between 9.84 to 19.52 ft (3 to 9 m). The variation in the field read ranges was attributed to temperature influences and metal interference. The electromagnetic field produced by the tool itself did not affect the RFID signal. It was also noted that the active RFID could be short-circuited when drenched in water.

The largest read range decrease occurred at one site where temperatures fell to 10 °F (-12 °C). Battery performance in the active RFID tag was adversely affected by these low temperatures.

International Road Dynamics, Inc. (May 2004). "Wireless Concrete Maturity Meter," news release. Available at http://www.identecsolutions.com/fileadmin/user_upload/PDFs/case_studies/News_Release_ird_-_Wireless_Concrete_Maturity_MonitorV2_Eng.pdf.

Concrete maturity time was predicted using measured temperatures from an embedded RFID sensor and as input to predictive techniques such as the Equivalent Age (Arrhenius) and/or Nurse-Saul models. The RFID technology for this application consisted of an Identec® i-Q™ active UHF tag and a handheld reader. The system can read tags up to 8 inches inside concrete. This system, in conjunction with the predictive models, gave estimates of the compressive strength of concrete onsite. This was more accurate than laboratory techniques that did not share the same environmental and other conditions (e.g., volume) as onsite.

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (January 2005). "New Sensors Promise to Drive Down Highway Maintenance Costs," news release. Available at http://www.jhuapl.edu/newscenter/aplnews/2002/highway.asp.

In this study, an RFID tag was combined with a conductivity sensor to monitor the corrosive environment in reinforced concrete bridge decks. The "Smart Aggregate" was a passive RFID tag roughly the size of a quarter that was encapsulated in a high compressive strength ceramic. During preliminary field trials, the Smart Aggregate tags were embedded in the concrete bridge deck for the Johns Hopkins/Gorman Road bridge over US Route 29 in Maryland. Results of these trials had not been located as of the time of this writing.

Jaselskis, E.J., Anderson, M.R., Jahren, C.T., Rodriguez, Y., and Njos, S. (June 1995). "Radio-Frequency Identification Applications in Construction Industry," Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, ASCE, 121(2), 189-196.

This early paper on RFID applications in construction engineering begins with a basic description of the various technology options available and their respective advantages and limitations. Current and potential applications of this technology are then described. Although many of these applications are speculative, they suggest a broad impact of RFID technology in the construction industry.

Jaselskis, E.J., and El-Misalami, T. (November/December 2003). "Implementing Radio Frequency Identification in the Construction Process," Journal of Construction Engineering and Management,. 129(6), 680-688. (see also Jaselskis, E.J., and El-Misalami, T. (2003). "RFID's Role in a Fully Integrated, Automated Project Process," Construction Research Congress in Construction: Wind of Change: Integration and Automation, ASCE.)

This paper is, in essence, an update of Jaselskis et al. (1995). The basic concepts and advantages and limitations of available RFID technologies are described. Key outcomes from a construction industry-RFID supplier workshop held to disseminate information and generate suitable application ideas in construction are summarized. This workshop generated one pilot application that was conducted to demonstrate the applicability of RFID to the material procurement process at a construction site. The pilot tests showed that RFID tags reduced the time required to download data into a company's material tracking system and reduced the potential for duplicate data entries. The application demonstrated the benefits of the technology in the materials receiving process.

Jaselskis, E.J., Grigas, J., and Brilingas, A. (September/October 2003). "Dielectric Properties of Asphalt Pavement," Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering, ASCE,15(5), 427-434.

Electromagnetic wave absorption, reflection, and transmission through asphalt concrete depend on the dielectric properties of the material. Asphalt concrete samples of different densities were studied in the frequency range from 100 Hz to 12 GHz to determine the temperature and frequency dependencies of the real and imaginary permittivity components. The principal findings were: 1) permittivity and loss depend on frequency and temperature, 2) permittivity increases with increasing pavement density, 3) permittivity slightly increases with temperature, 4) moisture strongly increases permittivity and loss at low frequencies and only slightly at high frequencies, and 5) the penetration depth of electromagnetic waves in asphalt pavements is about 4.72-5.51 inches (12-14 cm) at 8 GHz and only about 1.57 inches (4 cm) at 30 GHz. Although the focus of this study was on microwave transmission (frequencies between about 1 GHz and 300 GHz) to determine the density of in-place asphalt concrete, the data and results are also relevant to ground penetrating radar (frequencies between about 100 MHz and 1.6 GHz) and UHF RFID (frequency of approximately 900 MHz).

Naresh, A.L., and Jahren, C.T. (September 1997). "Communication and Tracking for Construction Vehicles," Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, ASCE, 123(3), 261-268.

This survey article describes the potential efficiency benefits of advanced communication and tracking systems for construction vehicle fleets such as dump trucks, concrete trucks, low boy trailers, and scrapers. Three advanced systems are covered: signaling systems, continuous communication and tracking systems, and RFID. Implementation and potential value of these systems for construction fleet management are described in conceptual terms only.

O'Connor, M.C. (2006). "RFID Cures Concrete," RFID Journal, October 30, 2006. Available at http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/2673.

The time taken for concrete to mature depends on volume and temperature. As a consequence, test cylinders overestimate maturity time. The objective of this study was to measure the actual concrete maturity time onsite by employing temperature-sensing RFID technology.

The RFID technology employed in this application was an Identec® i-Q™ 915 MHz UHF active tag with an integrated temperature sensor. The RFID tag was placed in the wet concrete during construction. The temperature readings of concrete were transmitted to the handheld reader, which downloaded the information to a handheld computer capable of running concrete maturity time algorithms that model the relationship of maturity to temperature during curing. The RFID temperature sensor tag found that the required concrete strength at the actual site was achieved in only one-third of the time predicted by cylinder tests. This could significantly shorten the construction time for a building.

Peyret, F., and Tasky, R. (2004). "A Traceability System between Plant and Work Site for Asphalt Pavements," Computer-Aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering, 19, 54-63.

This study, conducted as part of the European Open System for Road Information Support project, evaluated the linkage of RFID and GPS technologies for associating asphalt mix data collected at the production plant with location of the material on the roadway. Of all of the material reviewed from the literature, this was the most relevant to the present project.

In this prototype system, the mix properties of a batch were stored in the plant computer. When a loaded transport truck fitted with an RFID tag left the plant, the plant computer transferred the mix properties, temperature, and weight of the load via the reader to the active RFID tag on the truck body. The paver at the job site was equipped with an RFID reader, GPS transponder, and a computer. When the transport truck arrived at the job site and unloaded into the paver, the paver instrumentation read the tag ID and other information and combined this information with GPS coordinates to record the starting and ending times and latitude/longitude coordinates along the roadway for that specific load

The RFID technology employed in this application consisted of an active UHF (866 MHz) RFID tag having an approximate size of 0.15 by 0.03 by 0.02 m. Reported read ranges were 49.1 ft (15 m) effective and 98.4 ft (30 m) nominal. The 13- by 0.82- by 1-ft (0.4- by 0.25- by 0.3-m) plant and paver antennas had coverage angles of approximately 120 degrees. An OMNISTAR® Differential GPS mounted on the paver was used to determine latitude, longitude, and time data.

During the prototype implementation, some minor information was lost from the tags, but this was judged to have no significant impact on the test results because such losses were anticipated in the prototype. There were some occasional difficulties obtaining an accurate GPS reading when the satellite signal was obstructed. The software for the prototype system was not fully integrated, and therefore the data reading and recording processes were not fully automated. This was to be remedied in future phases of the project. However, it is unclear whether these future phases were ever conducted. The authors have been contacted via email to learn whether any additional work on the system has been completed, but no reply had been received at the time of this writing.

Sawyer, T. (2004). "Researchers Are Getting Serious About Electronic Tracking Tags," Engineering News Record, 253(23), December 13, 2004, pp. 28-29.

This article describes how large construction firms have been employing RFID technology for a variety of applications, including automatic inventory control, automated tool check-out, and tracking of construction components in storage yards.

Song, J., Haas, C.T., and Caldas, C.H. (September 2006). "Tracking the Location of Materials on Construction Job Sites," Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, ASCE, 132(9), 911-918. (See also Song, J., Haas, C.T., Caldas, C.H., and Liapi, K. (2005). "Locating Materials on Construction Site Using Proximity Techniques," Construction Research Congress 2005: Broadening Perspectives, ASCE.)

This paper presents an approach by which construction materials can be tagged and then automatically identified and tracked on construction sites without interfering with regular site operations. A construction supervisor equipped with a portable RFID reader and a GPS transponder roved the site. A combination of proximity of reads from discrete ranges allowed the construction material item to be located within a two-dimensional grid overlaying the construction site. Off-the-shelf RFID passive technology was employed in this study, but specifics were not provided regarding operating frequency or other parameters.

Stone, W.C., Pfeffer, L., and Furlani, K. (March 2000). "Automated Part Tracking on the Construction Job Site," Robotics 2000, ASCE Conference on Robotics for Challenging Environments, Albuquerque, NM. Available at http://fire.nist.gov/bfrlpubs/build00/PDF/b00003.pdf.

This system design exercise was conducted as part of a National Institute of Standards and Technology initiative to develop Web-based techniques for tracking prefabricated components on construction site in real time. The basic concept was that each component to be shipped to a site was identified with a unique bar code or RFID tag. The bar code/RFID tag was scanned, and the identification information downloaded to a laptop when the component arrived on the job site. The component ID was then sent from laptop to the project database, where it was joined with the whole description of the component, e.g., from the manufacturer's specification book. The site inspector also entered the 3D coordinates of the component's onsite storage location using a 3D coordinate measuring tool. The component was tracked by sensors that automatically updated the project database. The project database information could be sent via the Web to a distant project management office, where all activity could be viewed in real time in three-dimensional space.

A pilot test monitored site activity from an office located approximately 0.621 mi 1( km) away from the job site. However, only barcodes were used in the pilot. Although not implemented, the author anticipated much better performance using RFID technology.

Swedberg, C. (2006). "RFID Markers Track Buried Cables at Atlanta Airport," RFID Journal, September 12, 2006. Available at http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/2647/.

This application focused on locating underground cables and pipes at the Atlanta airport using RFID. Ball markers containing RFID tags were used to store identification, location, and other information for each utility cable and pipe. Different categories of utility cables and pipes were assigned different RFID tag frequencies. Passive RFID tags with 256 bits of memory and operating frequencies ranging from 66 to 169 MHz were employed for this application. The system was reported to work well, with tags readable up to five ft underground.

Violino, B. (2007). "RFID Rocks at Graniterock," RFID Journal, January 22, 2007. Available at http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/2905/1/4/.

RFID technology was employed to improve efficiency of movement of trucks at Graniterock quarries. The system was based on a TransCore® IP Ltd. passive RFID tag (approximate dimensions of 2 by 12 inches (5 by 30.5 cm) scanned using a fixed location TransCore® reader. A key focus of this implementation was integration of the RFID data with other Graniterock® business operation software and databases.

The quarry operations staff was informed via telephone about the RFID tag identification, trucking company name, and other information as the truck approached the entrance. This information was fed into the operations database. As the truck entered the quarry weigh station, the fixed reader read the tag ID and combined this information with the empty truck weight and other information that was correlated with the pre-arrival information already stored in the database. As the loaded truck left, it again passed the reader, the tag ID was again read, and the corresponding loaded weight was automatically uploaded to the database. A hardcopy receipt/billing slip was printed for the truck operator.

Although the details of the reader configuration and read range are not stated, the test trials of the system were reported as very successful. There was an initial problem distinguishing incoming and outgoing trucks passing the fixed reader simultaneously, but this problem was resolved through modification of the direction and power of reader. Overall, Graniterock® found that the automated RFID system dramatically reduced human input (i.e., staff time) and produced significant time savings.

Wasserman, E. "Construction's Building Blocks: RFID," RFID Journal. Available at http://www.rfidjournal.com/magazine/article/2922/1/394/.

A nontechnical survey article describing several applications of RFID technologies to the construction industry.

Wessel, R. (2006). "RFID Chops Timber Costs," RFID Journal, April 3, 2006. Available at http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/2220/1/4/.

RFID technology was integrated into a Log Tracking System (LTS) to minimize logs lost in the forest and to improve the efficiency of timber log deliveries to sawmills. An RFID tag encased in a plastic nail was hammered into the base of a freshly cut log in the forest. The RFID identification number was scanned and downloaded to a handheld computer where it was combined with other manually-entered characteristics of the log. These data were transmitted wirelessly to a central main database. After the trees had been transported from the forest to the roadside, the tag was again scanned, and the identification number transmitted to the main database. The main database compared the ID numbers of the cut logs from the forest against the ID numbers of the logs along the roadside to reduce the chances of leaving a log in the forest. The ID numbers of logs were again scanned at the time of loading into the haul trucks and when delivered to the sawmill.

The RFID technology employed in this application consisted of a passive 125 KHz tag encased in a special plastic nail. The plastic nail was made of polyamide reinforced with glass fiber and was approximately 0.2 inches (0.5 cm) in diameter by 1.4 inches (35.6 cm) long. A special hammer was used to drive the RFID nail. The handheld reader was attached to a wristband and was connected to a handheld computer. Maximum read range was 1.2 inches (3 cm), which seems marginal, but the nails were clearly visible in the ends of the logs at all steps and could therefore be easily located and read at close range. Other data regarding the log were entered into the handheld computer using a voice input system via a microphone attached to the logger's helmet. Data were transmitted wirelessly from the handheld computer using a wireless local area network connection or the GSM network.

The pilot implementation of this system was successful. No trunks were lost by using RFID. The LTS worked in rain and snow conditions. The RFID tags did have a small read range and stored only an identification number, but any enhancements would make the tags economically infeasible. One problem encountered early on was damage to the nails when they were hammered into the log, particularly if the log was frozen. A special hammer was developed to solve this problem.


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