Electronic Device Tracks Wood Floors Over Time

Vienna, Austria, March 31, 2009--RFID chips are being imbedded in wood flooring to help flooring contractors measure floor temperature, timber moisture and subsoil humidity over extended periods of time.

Jilg Parkett, the inventor of the measurement system, has been laying wooden floorings (or parquet) in homes, commercial buildings, museums and palaces across Austria for decades. He's also been called as an expert witness when projects go bad.

Jilg decided in 2004 to develop the fidbox (floor identification box), a tool. The data it measures can be used, in the event of a claim, to help determine which party is at fault.

The fidbox contains sensors that periodically measure the temperature and humidity in the floor above and the subfloor below, then transmits that information to standard readers via RFID.

Measurements are performed at user-defined intervals—usually every eight hours—for as long as 10 years. To measure humidity and temperature, the fidbox wakes up, takes the measurements and then goes back to sleep, thereby preserving battery life. If the sensors record data outside the predefined parameters, the fidbox will collect information at more frequent intervals. This data can then be used to show the environmental conditions around the floor and, if necessary, to establish quality assurance or to settle warranty claims.

Jilg has been selling the trademarked fidbox since the beginning of 2008. During the unit's development stage, he says, he worked with Austria's University of Applied Sciences Burgenland, which conducted research on specific building materials, such as concrete and wood, wood-research institute Holzforschung Austria and Tricon, an RFID software provider and integrator.

Jilg and other users of the fidbox install the device under flooring by carving out a small pocket on the underside of a piece of parquet, then using peel-off adhesive tape to attach the sensor tag. The wooden flooring, along with the embedded fidbox, is then laid on top of finished concrete.

To install the fidbox sensor tag, a worker cuts out a small rectangle in a piece of flooring and places the device into the resulting pocket.

A sensor on the side of the fidbox that is flush to the parquet measures the temperature and humidity of air inside a chamber created when the unit is attached to the parquet. A sensor on the fidbox's side that is flush against the cement does the same.

The data can then be utilized to calculate the amount of humidity in the wood, as well as the source of the humidity—either above or below the floor. If the humidity is determined to be coming from below, a floor finisher or the company that laid the parquet might be responsible for any damage. If it comes from above, however, the user of a room or building may be liable for damage as a result of improperly regulating the floor or room temperature.

If a person reports a fault in the floor after the fidbox was installed, a worker uses a handheld RFID interrogator to collect sensor data.

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