- Seek new partnerships with other agencies such as universities or research centres to develop a new product
- Seek out the possibility of government grants and assistance for your product
- Patent your product to gain an edge over your competitors
Lack of visitor data during snow season
Mount Buller’s alpine village handles 60,000 cars, 2000 buses and over 1000 annual season passes during snow season. With only a manual pass-checking system in place and a need to expand the resort’s capacity, Mt Buller Mt Stirling Resort Management Board (RMB) decided it was time to think smart technology.
Sarah Egan, the Resort’s Customer Service Manager says that the Resort wanted to be able to monitor and locate vehicles when they were parked in the village under 10 centimetres of snow or ice. They also wanted to collect visitor statistics to inform improvements and development plans.
'We get a lot of cars accessing the village but we don’t know much about who comes, when they come, what they do, how long they stay.'
Finding solutions with a business-university partnership
FE Technologies, a Geelong-based technology company, offered a potential solution with a chip-based Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) pass. RFID is a wireless, intelligent tracking system that involves a tiny chip capable of carrying 2000 bytes of data, which is embedded in a barcode-like tag. It uses radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer the data to readers that do not need to be near or in line of sight to work.
Working with Dr Nemai Kamakar, from Monash University, FE Technologies developed a tag that could be read at a distance by long-range, hand-held readers, collect visitor statistics, monitor compliance and print infringement notices.
An innovative product at a lower cost
In September 2012, the team demonstrated the enhanced capabilities of chipless RFID tags. The technology was still in the early stages of development but already heralded the next step in the 20-year development of RFID.
'The Market Validation Program gave us a chance to work in an area where we have a lot of expertise and a chance to extend the research and development for the chipless RFID. We’ve been working with Monash University on this technology and the chipless tag was the innovation we brought to the project,' says FE Technologies CEO Robert Reed.
The chipless RFID eliminates the need for an embedded microchip as it can be printed directly on paper or plastic with a special metallic ink, creating a passive microwave circuit. This gives the innovation one of the greatest advantages over traditional RFID - cost.
Exploring the potential of the product
FE Technologies continues to trial this product with both local and overseas clients involving the tracking of blood vials and blood bags. The potential of the chipless RIFD tag is huge - membership passes, parcel tracking and airline baggage handling are also possibilities.
'Airline baggage handling is done by optical barcodes but this is not very accurate, with a 20 per cent failure rate,' says Nemai. 'So if you track five pieces of luggage, one piece of luggage is missed and the aviation industry loses about $3 to $4 billion per year. When they implemented chipless RFID, they got 99.9% accuracy.'
'This is very much true innovation. We have a few patents around this now. One patent has been accepted, two are provisional and another has been rolled out around the world,' Robert says.
This project was funded under the Victorian Government's Market Validation Program (MVP). The new Driving Business Innovation program builds on the MVP.
The ability to validate their technology in a real market using this program gave FE technologies a real edge. Their chipless RFID is now in further trials and patents are in place globally, with others in process.