Smart Enclosures using RFID for Inventory Management

Available On Demand until July 21, 2017

The NASA Johnson Space Center has developed a method for tracking collections of items in a smart container using radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags with a high level of read accuracy. Automating the tracking of a collection of items (particularly small items) represents a major industrial hurdle due to both tag size and cost. This technology promises to successfully address these hurdles. The smart enclosure innovation can track individual items in the smart containers or receptacles regardless of item placement. The NASA-developed patent-pending technology is available for licensing.

The smart enclosure innovation employs traditional RFID cavities, resonators, and filters to provide standing electromagnetic waves within the enclosed volume in order to provide a pervasive field distribution of energy. A high level of read accuracy is achieved by using high electromagnetic field levels within the smart enclosure.

With this method, more item level tags are successfully identified compared to approaches in which the items are radiated by an incident plane wave. The use of high-level electromagnetic fields reduces the cost of the tag antenna; making it cost-effective to tag smaller items.


Dr. Patrick Fink, Chief Technologist, WirelessCommunication Systems Branch, Johnson Space Center

Dr. Fink leads technology efforts in several areas, but he is mostly well-known for his work in radiofrequency identification (RFID) systems, which he is applying to NASA’s efforts in autonomous logistics management (ALM). ALM can be summarized as the capability to know the location of all items, the health and status of the items, and the availability of spares. He has worked for NASA for more than 20 years, where he is currently the chief technologist for the Wireless and Communication Systems Branch.

John ‘Jack’ James Lead, Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer, NASA Johnson Space Center

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