Interactive tags take radio frequency identification concept to a new level of safety improvements

Paul Boughton

Barrels of chemicals that ‘talk’ to each other to improve safetyand smart shelves that automatically log inventory changesare just some of the ways businesses stand to benefit from new sensor network technology currently being developed in Europe.

The IST-funded Cobis project is going a step beyond existing radio frequency identification (RFID) systems – the generally passive smart tags used to identify goodspets and even people – to create Collaborative Business Items (Cobis) that can shift a substantial part of business processes from resource-intensive back-end systems to systems embedded in the products themselves.

With sensorswireless communication and computing components attachedthe goods or equipment become smart: chemical drums will warn operators when the storage limit in a warehouse is reachedif a leak occurs or if one is placed in the wrong location.

“What we are doing is making sensor network technology useful to businesses by creating a system that responds to the need for real-time information. It allows goods to act and react automatically to changes at the local leveland warn operators of the change” explains Cobis co-ordinator Stephan Haller at SAP Research in Germany.

Though Cobis has a potentially unlimited number of usesthe project is concentrating on employing them in the petrochemical industrywhich is likely to be an early adopter of the technology.

The system will be tested at a BP plant in HullUKlater in 2006where the sensor nodes will be attached to barrels of chemicals and used to monitor compliance with safety regulations on the storage of hazardous materials.

If all goes wellHaller estimates that the full system – including middleware components and an application development environment – could be adopted commercially in the industry within three to five years.

In the chemical sectorwhere even the slightest mistake in managing an inventory of volatile materials could mean disasterthat will undoubtedly lead to increased safety.

For more informationvisit


Recent Issues