Research Magazine 2006

UT Arlington a key spoke in area’s RFID hub

That grouping of little lines on products you purchase has been around since 1966 when Wrigley first put the lines on a pack of gum. These uniform product codes won’t be going away anytime soon, but a new technology is challenging scanned bar codes in industrial uses.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) places a passive transmitter, called a tag, on the product or a group of products packaged together. When the tag is near an external transmitter/receiver, a signal is sent enabling it to relay information—product name, number of items in a box, number of boxes in a larger container, manufacture date, etc. Thus a retailer, wholesaler or shipper can quickly track inventory.

Knowing where and how many of something you have is only a snapshot of the RFID big picture. In the Fort Worth-Dallas area alone, more than 120 companies are developing RFID technologies. The area is marketing itself as the “RFID Hub,” with UT Arlington a major player.

Engineering Associate Dean for Research Richard Billo is leading a coalition with UT Dallas, the University of North Texas and North Lake College in developing the Texas RFID Systems Research Center, to be located at UT Arlington.

“We want to enhance RFID adoption, and education is a great way to accomplish this,” Dr. Billo said. “As we send new leaders out into the job market, we want to make sure they know about RFID and what it can do to streamline businesses.”

UT Arlington will hire recognized leaders in RFID research. One of the recent additions is Daniel Engels, formerly with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Engels is well known for his expertise in RFID systems and applications; wireless mobile technology, ad hoc and sensor networks; and advanced identification and sensing technologies applied to health care. He was director of research at MIT’s Auto-ID Labs and also director of MIT’s Healthcare Research Initiative.

In the past three years, Engels has been associated with more than $7 million in RFID research program funding. At UT Arlington he will direct the Texas RFID Systems Research Center and be an associate professor of electrical engineering.

“Dr. Engels’ role will be to mobilize the faculty of the four-institution coalition to work with Texas industries to develop new RFID products, provide technical and management education in RFID, and support the national standards bodies in developing technical standards for emerging RFID technologies,” Billo said. “In short, his mission will be to make the center the preeminent RFID research site in the U.S.”



— Roger Tuttle