At the Sensors Converge 2021 Conference and Expo in San Jose, Fierce Electronics presented the Best of Sensors Awards, which recognize 13 outstanding companies and products that promise to change the industry.
This year, the finalist in the COVID-19 category was Powercast for its Wirelessly-Powered RFID Temperature Scanning System.
Powercast designed its new Temperature Scanning System to take advantage of proven technologies that can be quickly and easily implemented by companies of all sizes so that they can get back to work, safely and without a huge imposition to workers, according to A Powercast’s chief operating and technical officer, Charles Green, Ph.D. “This is one of many ways we are applying wireless power to solve real-world problems and eliminate some of the limits of other alternatives,” Green said.
The system comprises three main components: a TV monitor, an RFID reader, and a wirelessly-powered temperature-scanning fob. Each employee receives a keychain fob personalized to them, similar to an employee keycard for entering buildings. The fob quickly charges when held near an RFID reader and then measures body temperature when employees scan their foreheads with the fob. Employees are then permitted or denied entry to the building based on the reading, which appears on the TV monitor.
In addition, larger buildings and organizations can set up multiple readers to record employees’ locations for the purposes of contact tracing, should the need arise. Once employees enter the building, they can keep their fobs in their pockets and don’t need to remove them again for location tracking — the fobs have an RFID range of up to 3.5 meters. In the event of a COVID-19 exposure, the company can use timestamped information to automatically track and notify potentially exposed employees.
A key part of the Powercast temperature scanner is the wireless RFID-charging technology. Rather than relying on batteries, the fobs are powered by Powercast’s PCC110 Powerharvester® RF-to-DC Converter Chip, which can convert radio frequency (RF) energy to direct current (DC) using PowerSpot® or Powercaster® RF wireless power transmitters, as well as standard RFID readers. Each fob is able to automatically harvest RF energy whenever it is in the range of an RF transmitter—up to 15 cm for optimal charging. This means that the Powercast Wirelessly-Powered RFID Temperature Scanning System can work accurately anywhere—without the need to worry about replacing low or dead batteries.
The Powercast Wirelessly-Powered RFID Temperature Scanning System is already set up at Powercast’s headquarters and integrated into the company’s check-in counter. After taking 300 readings over the first 12 days of operation, the system was found to be as accurate as traditional handheld thermometer readings. Furthermore, the Powercast Scanning System reduces germ transmission through shared devices and is much faster than other systems that require employees to stop and write down their information.
Powercast was established in Pittsburgh in 2003 by a small team seeking to develop true wireless power solutions to eliminate batteries and enable untethered wireless devices free of the need for charging surfaces. Since 2007, the company has helped its customers solve a wide range of remote wireless charging challenges involving powering wireless sensor networks, waterproof designs, reusable smart bands, and RFID tags. In 2017, Powercast launched its first products and solutions designed to power consumer electronics devices. Along the way, the company has won several awards, created significate intellectual property, and stuck to its mission to increase the range and efficiency by which RF energy is converted into DC power, which can be harvested from dedicated and ambient sources.
For the complete list of finalists in the Best of Sensors 2021 Awards go online.