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Digitalization and location of asset flows achieved with battery-less tags

UWINLOC has developed a new generation of antennae

A new generation of compact integrated antennae for wireless energy harvesting tags in industrial warehouse environments, efficiently designed with electromagnetic HF simulations using Ansys HFSS.

Scheme of the UWINLOC solution implementation
Uwinloc tags in warehouse developed with Ansys HFSS

A unique IoT indoor location solution that utilizes battery-less tags

UWINLOC, based in Toulouse (France), provides a unique indoor location system. It’s the only IoT indoor location solution that utilizes battery-less tags. This enables plant and warehouse managers to tag assets, reduce delays, track large product volumes, and optimize stock flows. The solution uses a combination of battery-less tags with wireless beacons, and a software platform to reduce costs and increase efficiency of commodity flow management for all industries.

Get the best of passive and active tags for cost-effective warehouse management

Barcodes and QR code tags as well as RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags are widely used to manage production flow within the warehouses, although having a few weaknesses, such as short read ranges, or, in some cases, poor read accuracy. RFID is usually thought of as being a passive technology, generally with no batteries, simply reflecting radio waves after being excited by an energy source. However, it can also be active, which allows for greater transmission distances, facilitating information such as asset position and movement. This is usually achieved with a transmitter powered by a built-in battery. Active RFID in Real Time terms is more effective. However, it is also more expensive as it requires frequent costly labor-intensive maintenance, with associated battery exchanges. There are also sustainability issues around battery disposal, which attracts further costs and environmental questions.

UWINLOC has adopted the best features of passive and active technologies in order to create a patented energy harvesting tag that enables highly accurate indoor asset flow management and location. This tag is a cost-effective battery-less device. It uses UWB (Ultra-Wide Band) Beacons as the air interface to receive the Tags emitted signal. UHF exciters are used to remotely power the tag. Finally, the system is completed by a user-friendly software platform with a rich API with front-end and back-end functions.

Simulation is a key success factor for UWINLOC and ultimately guarantees Customer Satisfaction

CADFEM France provided support and services to ensure that UWINLOC could make the best use of simulation. Ansys supplied the appropriate simulation licenses.

Thus, UWINLOC seamlessly developed the UWB technology, which is both a passive and active solution, but without a battery. Reception and transmission are done via the same tag, receiving UHF radio energy sources with its 868 MHz antenna, while transmission is done on 4 GHz via UWB. The UWB beacon, which receives the information from the tags, is also produced by UWINLOC.

The technology relies on a ground-breaking ability of the tag to harvest energy from wireless RF energy sources. This ability can also be used in an industrial environment to power IoT devices, or even low consumption sensors in day-to-day low energy consuming objects like TV remote controls or home digital thermometer/hygrometer sensor devices, effectively eliminating the need for expiring environmentally non-sustainable batteries.

Founded in 2015, UWINLOC now supports major industrial companies such as AIRBUS, MICHELIN and ALSTOM, which all digitize their flow of goods with cost-effective, battery-free tags to significantly increase the productivity and robustness of management solutions in their factories and warehouses.

How HF simulations enhanced the development of UWINLOC tag solution

One of the challenges in developing this technology was the reduction of the number of power sources to achieve the same performance within the warehouse. Another challenge was to reduce the size of the tag with its internal antennae while maintaining the same performance. Developing an integrated antenna was a complex and challenging project. Time to market and costs are always critical. The goal was to design the smallest antenna with the highest energy collection capability range, considering life cycle, quality, and product reliability.

This challenge was undertaken by UWINLOC in collaboration with CADFEM and Ansys, taking advantage of their expertise in simulation and reliable simulation solutions with Ansys HFSS. René Stoll is the lead R&D Engineer for RF/UWB and the Antennae Expert responsible for the development of the UWINLOC tag solution. He has significant experience in this technology. Back in 1991, René Stoll was hired by the HP to help support the first pre-release version of HFSS, which he had already used during his university years.

ANSYS HFSS enables us to develop next generation compact integrated antennas to drive wireless energy harvesting to a new level.

René Stoll | R&D Engineer for RF/UWB and Antennae Expert

The goal was to develop a complex conjugated antenna both for UHF and UWB

For René Stoll, good simulation tools are essential for developing antennae integrated into housings (including plastic ones) since metals and dielectrics have a direct influence due to their proximity. Depending on the wavelength, the surroundings of the boxed antennae also significantly influence the radiation properties. The latter must be analyzed in detail, since the connection margin in harvesting is much smaller than in a normal communication system.

René Stoll also says: “If you start with parameterized models, a sweep of geometric position can easily reveal optimum placements.”

The development of the battery-less tags would have been much more expensive and would have taken much more time without the Ansys simulation tools. By reducing the number of prototypes by 80%, money was saved and thus the development time was significantly shortened.

René Stoll summarizes the challenges UWINLOC faced in developing the new tags: “I would not have been able to design what I set out to do, without a simulation software like HFSS”

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31200, Toulouse, France
+33 7 87 60 68 49

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