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RFID Technology Tracks Conditions Under the Big Top

April 17th, 2018 News - Logistics - Transportation
By Claire Swedberg
One Cirque du Soleil troupe has begun using a wireless solution from Blulog to ensure that temperature and humidity levels are comfortable and healthy for aerialists wherever they perform. Blulog has also released a new, low-cost version of its NFC data loggers for a very different industry

International entertainment company Cirque du Soleil takes its circus performers and equipment around the world, and at each new location, it must quickly set up a workplace for its employees that is safe and comfortable, but also temporary. The company's Kooz show is now using an RFID-based solution to ensure that conditions are optimal for performers and other workers wherever the tents are set up. The system consists of data loggers deployed at each new site where employees congregate, which transmit temperature and humidity measurements to a hub.

Blulog, a specialized cold chain monitoring solutions company, is providing the circus troupe with RFID-enabled data loggers that can be installed in hard-to-reach places, such as at the top of the tent in which acrobats perform. The technology is also being used in office areas and workout spaces. The solution, says Jrmy Laurens, Blulog's cofounder and CEO, is designed to be easy to set up and take down with each new installation throughout a show's tour.

Blulog's Jrmy Laurens
Kooz, which premiered in Montreal, Canada, in 2007, features aerial acrobatics including performances on straps and hoops 30 feet above the floor, as well as high wires and the Wheel of Deatha pendulum with a hamster-style wheel in which performers jump, leap and skip rope. The show has traveled throughout Asia, North America and South America, and will next go to Europe.

The challenge for the touring group is to ensure that each temporary installation at a new hosting site provides healthy working conditions for performers and personnel. Because the troupe travels internationally, they face a variety of climactic challenges and thus need to adjust the temperature and humidity levels inside tents or other temporary structures accordingly.

The conditions 30 feet in the air, at the top of a tent, can be very different from those at ground level, however. That means aerialists could be uncomfortably warm or cold, even though the ground-level temperature may be just right. Humidity can affect the conditions as well, explains Daria Roszczyk-Krowicka, Blulog's sales and marketing director. Therefore, the Kooz tour group decided last year to come up with a solution. The technology company offers RFID-enabled wireless data-logging solutions for companies in a variety of sectors, including medical, pharmaceutical, food and logistics.

In the case of the Kooz installation, Blulog provides seven to 10 of its data loggers that measure ambient temperature and humidity levels with average precision of 0.2 degrees Celsius. "They're similar [in size] to a credit card," Laurens says, "and you can hang them with wires or attach them to walls or flat surfaces." The data collected is then forwarded to a single Blulog gateway, known as a BluSand hub, via an active ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID transmission. That hubconnected to the Internet via an Ethernet cable, Wi-Fi or GPRScollects data from all of the loggers and forwards it to Blulog's cloud-based software via a cabled connection. The data can then be shared with management, or be displayed in real time on the company's BluMobile app.

Workers can download the BluMobile app on an Android-based device. They can then view, in real time, the humidity and other conditions at the top of the tent, as well as the conditions in the office area and the workout area behind the stage. That data can be used not only to ensure the healthy environment for performers and workers, but also to monitor the sound equipment, which could be sensitive to temperature and humidity changes.

Ultimately, Roszczyk-Krowicka says, the RFID deployment benefits the health and comfort of employees. "The employee's health and satisfaction is important to them," she says, and that "can have an impact on the entire show."

In the meantime, Blulog is expanding its product offerings in the fresh food supply chain market. The company's Near Field Communication (NFC) data loggers are already in use for multiple-use or one-time-only applications in which a data logger is placed in a shipment to track conditions throughout the transportation of a temperature-sensitive product. In some cases, however, the price tagtypically 10 ($12.26) or lessis too high for food companies and shippers that have a high volume of goods to ship.

Therefore, the company says, its latest offering provides a lower-cost option. The new data logger is also designed for a single use and costs 5 ($6.14) or less, depending on the volume ordered. It features a smaller memory capacity than its higher-priced predecessor (it can store about 1,000 measurements) and its temperature tracking is less precise (within 0.5 degree Celsius). The lower-cost version is currently shipping in samples, Laurens reports, and is now being tested in Europe, the Middle East (Turkey and Egypt) and South America.