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Flexible smart tag for cold chain temperature monitoring
Karel Sima1), Tomas Syrovy2), 3), Silvan Pretl1), Jaroslav Freisleben1),
David Cesek2) and Ales Hamacek1)
Department of Technologies and Measurements / RICE, Faculty of Electrical Engineering,
University of West Bohemia, Pilsen, Czech Republic
Department of Graphic Arts and Photophysics, University of Pardubice, Pardubice, Czech Republic
Center of Materials and Nanotechnologies, Faculty of Chemical Technology, University of Pardubice,
Cs. Legii square 565, 53002 Pardubice, Czech Republic
Abstract: This paper describes development of flexible RFID smart tag for temperature monitoring.
The system is based on a single chip solution working at 13.56 MHz according to ISO 15693. This
standard is supported by Android API and Android smartphones with NFC periphery. The developed
prototype of the smart tag was realized by hybrid technology combining printed RFID antenna with the
SMD chip and flexible battery assembled using conductive adhesive. The size of the smart tag complies
with the ISO/IEC 7810 Card size ID-1 (85.60 mm × 53.98 mm). Measurement settings and data readout is realized by software developed for NFC-equipped mobile devices with Android operating system.
The whole system represents a cost effective solution to the cold chain temperature monitoring
of sensitive commodities within the logistic chain.
This application domain fits very well with the
technological concept of flexible printed electronics
based on hybrid combination of printed conductive
interconnections, antennas and simple components on
flexible substrates in combination with high
performance conventional components. In this paper
we describe the development of flexible semi-passive
RFID temperature monitoring tag realized by hybrid
manufacturing technology and development of mobile
application for the tag’s configuration and data
At present, the world’s industry is experiencing fast
expansion of smart devices and IoT technologies. This
trend is driven by growing interest in sophisticated
automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies also called “Industry 4.0”. Companies start to
collect massive amounts of telemetric and sensors data
for improving their quality control procedures. In the
future this will be the base for online dynamic process
One of the typical and highly demanded
applications is the temperature monitoring during
goods transportation and logistics operations [1].
Temperature belongs to the most often measured
parameters because of its critical impact on the quality
and shelf-life of food, drugs or volatile chemicals.
However, conventional temperature data loggers are
often expensive and have very bulky form. The
biggest problem is with their excessive thickness,
because in packaging everything thicker than 5 mm is
exposed to hazardous situations involving tearing
down. High interest has been therefore raised in costeffective, thin and lightweight temperature monitoring
smart tags [2].
978-1-5386-0582-0/17/$31.00 ©2017 IEEE
The presented smart tag can be used in three temperature logging modes: 1) dense mode, 2) out of
limits and 3) crossing limits. The dense mode is used
for continuous logging of all temperature points. In the
out of limits mode just the data outside the set lower
and upper limits are recorded. And finally, the
crossing limits mode allows recording of the
intersection points between current temperature and
the set temperature thresholds. Functionality of the
smart tags was verified by testing them both in the
climatic chamber and under real outdoor conditions. In
general, these tests confirmed satisfactory time-
2017 40th International Spring Seminar on Electronics Technology (ISSE)
The RFID antenna and conductive interconnections
were created by screen-printing of commercial Agbased conductive paste on the flexible PET substrate.
The final design of the RFID antenna was
experimentally optimized for matching the input
capacity of the integrated circuit (25 pF). According to
the Thomson formula, the corresponding optimum
inductance for the 13.56 MHz resonant frequency is
~5.5 µH.
temperature measuring capabilities of the hybrid smart
tag with low power consumption suitable for
application in cold-chain monitoring.
First prototypes of the temperature monitoring
smart tag were realized by conventional flexible PCB
technology on PI substrate (Kapton, thickness
125 μm). These demo boards were used for functional
verification of the selected RFID single chip solution.
The chosen integrated circuit contains preprogrammed
microcontroller unit, EEPROM memory and
temperature sensor. The size of the EEPROM memory
is 8192 bits and it is divided into 256 memory blocks.
The overall size of the Smart tag was defined to
meet the dimensions of standard ISO 7810 ID-1
format, i.e. 85.60 mm in height and 53.98 mm in
width. Final design of the conductive layout was
developed in cooperation with the University of
Pardubice and printing company OTK Group (Czech
Republic) with respect to a pilot plant production
within the Czech national project Flexprint focused on
commercialization of printed flexible electronics.
The communication technology used in this
integrated circuit conforms to the ISO 15693. On this
prototype it has been proofed the possibility of
RFID/NFC communication with a mobile device
running the Android OS.
The form and design of the printed prototype is
shown in Fig 2.
The form and design of the conventional prototype
is shown in Fig 1.
Fig. 2. Hybrid prototype of the printed Smart tag
Fig. 1. Conventional flexible prototype of the Smart tag
The prototype of the smart tag was equipped with a
flexible primary battery with 3.6 V voltage output and
60 mAh capacity. That is enough power for a whole
year of measuring temperature once in every single
minute in the crossing limits mode.
5.1 Mobile application
To create complex RFID temperature monitoring
solution, it was also developed a control application
for mobile devices with the Android operating system.
The application was application developed for
Android 4.0.3 (Android API 15) and higher version.
The application can read data from the smart tag
and store data to the internal database. Read or saved
data can be shared by email or Google Drive as *.csv
file. Naturally, the application allows to start and to
stop temperature logging of the Smart tag. Another
important feature of the mobile application is
In the next step the functional conventional
solution was transferred to hybrid form combining
printed conductive layout with conventional SMD
chip and flexible battery. The assembly was done
using the Ag-based conductive epoxy adhesive.
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2017 40th International Spring Seminar on Electronics Technology (ISSE)
automatic data transfer to the cloud NoSQL Realtime
database Firebase.
6.1 Antenna design testing
The visual form of application is shown in Fig. 3.
After designing of screen printed antenna its
resonant frequency was measured using the RLC
meter Agilent 4287A RF. In general, it has to be
higher than resonant frequency resulting from the
parallel connection of the antenna and the integrated
circuit. For the tested samples, the self-resonant
frequency was 50 MHz and the resistance of the
antenna was 100 Ohm.
Afterwards, the resonant frequency of screenprinted antenna connected in parallel to the 25 pF
capacitance was measured to simulate the connection
to the RFID chip. The resulting resonant frequency
13.56 MHz matched well with the calculation.
The results are shown in Fig. 5.
Fig. 3. Visual form of application
5.2 Web application
For easier data viewing and management it was
further developed web application based on
JavaScript. This application uses data from the cloud
database Firebase and is secured against public access
to data. The security is provided with login and the
users are paired with the mobile application. So every
user who installs application can create his own login
account. Under this login data the user can see just the
data read with his smartphone and uploaded to the
The visual form of web application is shown in
Fig 4.
Fig. 5. Resonant characteristic
6.2 Testing of hybrid tag in climatic chamber
To verify the functionality, the smart tag was tested
in the climatic chamber.
The test was performed using a stepwise
temperature profile growing from 10 °C to 50 °C with
a 10 °C step increment each hour and then decreasing
from 50 °C back to 10 °C in the same manner. In total,
this profile has been repeated three times in the course
of 24 hours.
Fig. 4. The visual form of web application
Printed tags, conventional tags and three types of
commercial tags were tested simultaneously.
After login, the application shows simple and
optimized graphical user interface containing charts,
lists of data and summaries of data from the smart
978-1-5386-0582-0/17/$31.00 ©2017 IEEE
This test confirmed the correct function of the
printed smart tag. Result for the conventional tag and
2017 40th International Spring Seminar on Electronics Technology (ISSE)
the printed tag within one period of the stepwise
temperature profile is shown in Fig. 6.
Fig. 7. Chart of the temperature measurement error
These results indicate that the temperature
measurement error of the realized printed smart tag
does not depend on the temperature level. This
behavior is similar to the commercial tag Blulog. For
all other tags clear dependency has been observed –
either positive in case of the conventional smart tag, or
negative in the case of commercial tags TempCheck
and TT Sensor Plus.
Fig. 6. Test in climatic chamber
Based on the climatic test results, the temperature
measurement errors of smart tags were calculated. On
the whole, 5 printed tags and 4 conventional tags were
measured together with the following three
commercial tags: Blulog, TempCheck and TT Sensor
Plus. The temperature measurement errors of all tags
were calculated as the difference of their average
reading against the climatic chamber. The average
reading was calculated as a mean value of all steadystate
corresponding tag and the chamber at each individual
constant temperature level. The results are in Table 1.
6.3 Testing of hybrid tag in outdoor
After testing in the climatic chamber (i.e. in
artificial conditions), the printed tags were tested in
real outdoor conditions. All tags were protected
against rain and placed in the outdoor environment for
24 hours together with a reference temperature sensor
(Sensirion SHTC1).
Table 1. The temperature measurement error
Printed tags
Conventional tags
TT Sensor Plus
Error in °C during stable temperature
10 °C
20 °C
30 °C
40 °C
This test confirmed the correct functionality of the
printed smart tags in outdoor environment (as shown
in Figure 8)
Chart with result of the temperature measurement
errors is shown in Fig. 7.
Fig. 8. Result of the outdoor test
978-1-5386-0582-0/17/$31.00 ©2017 IEEE
2017 40th International Spring Seminar on Electronics Technology (ISSE)
The presented hybrid NFC smart label for temperature measurement and the Android application creates
a complex sensor system, which demonstrates the
potential of the connection between the electronics,
innovative manufacturing approaches and IT
technologies, which is the basis for the “Industry 4.0”
and IoT domain.
This work has been supported by the Technology
Agency of the Czech Republic under the
FLEXPRINT, project No. TE01020022, and by the
Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech
Republic under the RICE – New Technologies and
Concepts for Smart Industrial Systems, project No.
The hybrid smart tag was based on screen printed
NFC antenna assembled with RFID chip and flexible
antenna using the conductive adhesive. Both synthetic
tests in the climatic chamber and outdoor test under
real conditions have proved substantial temperature
measurement performance of the hybrid smart tag
comparable to chosen commercial tags.
CZ.1.05/4.1.00/11.0251 “Center of Materials and
Nanotechnologies” co-financed by the European Fund
of the Regional Development and the state budget of
the Czech Republic are gratefully acknowledged.
The longterm stability and reliability of the
presented hybrid smart tag has to be subjected to
further tests in order to fully assess the usability of the
hybrid smart tags in real applications.
978-1-5386-0582-0/17/$31.00 ©2017 IEEE
[1] C. C. Emenike, N. P. Van Eyk, and A. J. Hoffman,
“Improving Cold Chain Logistics through RFID
temperature sensing and Predictive Modelling,” in 2016
IEEE 19th International Conference on Intelligent
Transportation Systems (ITSC), 2016, pp. 2331–2338.
[2] J. F. Salmeron et al., “Design and development of
sensing RFID tags on flexible foil compatible with EPC
gen 2,” IEEE Sens. J., vol. 14, no. 12, pp. 4361–4371,
2017 40th International Spring Seminar on Electronics Technology (ISSE)
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