Texas Radio Frequency Center Pushes the Wireless Frontier
by Mark Johnson, RFID Tribe
Arlington, Texas (May 4, 2007) – Have you ever wandered what happens when wireless technology meets product innovation? Take a peek at a Texas-based university research center and see products created from the intersection of wireless, academia and industry in the Dallas-Ft.Worth area.
Everything is big in Texas, including the name for the research center – the Texas Radio Frequency Innovation and Technology Center. Most people shorten the research center’s name, referring to it as the “Texas Center.” The multi-disciplinary, multi-university research program is headquartered at the University of Texas at Arlington’s College of Engineering. The Texas Center focuses on bringing emerging communication capabilities, sensing, telemetry and intelligence to objects and devices.
Daniel Engels, associate professor of electrical engineering at UT Arlington, is the Center’s director. Dr. Engels was formerly the director of research at MIT’s Auto-ID Center. “Our primary mission at the Texas Center is to provide research and development services for small-to-midsize companies that don’t have the necessary resources, manpower and expertise in-house,” said Engels. “We take ideas, evaluate them and develop prototypes and techniques that will have immediate use in the marketplace.” The Texas Center provides companies access to Ph.D.’s and graduate students who can develop products and perform services such as antenna design, antenna simulation, sensor fabrication and wireless product testing.
Current projects at the Texas Center involve development of medical devices that use wireless radio frequency technology. One such device is a wireless acid reflux sensor. The device measures acid reflux (commonly known as heartburn) in the esophagus of patients. Passive radio frequency identification (RFID) technology eliminates the need for a battery to power the device, reducing the size and weight of the sensor. “There are no comfortable, yet accurate methods for diagnosing acid reflux in patients” says Jung-Chih Chiao, associate professor at UT Arlington. This sensor enables medical professionals to insert a temporary sensor using a simple procedure. The sensor monitors acid levels in the esophagus for 24-48 hours, after which the sensor is removed.
Another project is an implantable oxygenator designed to provide oxygen support to human lungs. The device has a wireless sensor, which is implanted into the large vein leading to the heart. The sensor monitors blood oxygenation that occurs through the device and communicates this information to the attending physician.
In addition to product development, the Texas Center serves as a platform for long-term research projects funded by a business, consortium or government. “We are exploring high-risk, high-gain devices and techniques” Engels added. Because the Texas Center is based in an educational setting, it can leverage seed monies and matching funds for sponsored projects.
UT Arlington leads the Texas Center with participation from other universities and colleges - the University of Texas at Dallas, UT Southwestern Medical School, the University of North Texas and North Lake College. The Texas Center at UT Arlington has no legal or contractual structure with other Texas colleges and universities. The Texas Center relies on collaboration via relationships with educational institutions rather than via contracts. There have been two joint proposals to date for Texas Center funding lead by UT Arlington. One proposal was a State of Texas grant request and the other proposal was a federal funding request. Richard Billo, associate dean for research at UT Arlington anticipates future joint proposals with the universities that participate in the Texas Center. “We enjoy working together with educational institutions and developing relationships with those active in this field” said Dr. Billo.
The Texas Center develops a RFID-knowledgeable, qualified workforce. Students at participating institutions are involved with projects and work closely with funding organizations, gaining “real world” experience and problem solving skills. “We are training students in RFID technology and working with the Texas Center finding applications for RFID technology” said Ruben Johnson, professor of logistics technology at North Lake College, one of the institutions that participate in the Texas Center.
Since researchers in the Texas Center create a wide variety of devices and applications, they serve as a clearing house for standards and policy. Texas Center researchers provide advice and direction regarding a wide range of RFID policy issues ranging from the social implications of wireless applications to setting directions for technology standards.
The 25+ faculty working in wireless technology at the UT Arlington support many aspects of RFID technology development and implementation. Affiliations with computer sciences, robotics, psychology, neurosciences, medical school and business school allow researchers to tap the knowledge base from multiple disciplines. Additional capabilities include RFID product testing through the Texas Center’s Deployment Laboratory and the large anechoic chamber available through the University’s Wave Scattering Research Center; CMOS tag development through the university’s Nanofabrication Center, antenna design and simulation, and RFID software development.
Universities around the world run RFID-related labs and research programs. On May 1, 2007, eight RF labs around the world announced their participation in the RFID Global Lab Alliance, lead by the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville laboratory. Leading RFID-related programs that are not part of the announced RFID Global Lab Alliance are found at the University of Pittsburgh, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Ohio University, the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Kansas. The Texas Center joins the community of the world’s university-lead RFID programs.
The Texas Center is a research engine to create a stream of products and services that capture the potential of wireless technology devices. Texas Center leaders envision a bright future for the wireless innovation.
Texas Radio Frequency Innovation and Technology Center
RFID Global Lab Alliance
About RFID Tribe:
RFID Tribe, a global organization with local chapters, is the world's association for radio frequency identification (RFID) professionals. The group of industry experts colllaborates on RFID and sensor technology, standards, venture capital, products, applications, industry trends, people and events. RFID Tribe serves as an engine for ideas, people and capital. www.rfidtribe.org
RFID Tribe - Where the World's RFID Community Shares Ideas
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