Taiwanese City Replaces Metal Manhole Covers with RFID Cement Slabs

Taipei-metal-manhole-cover-cement-slab-RFID-blogCity workers in Taipei are replacing metal manhole covers with cement slabs buried beneath the road’s surface. With RFID technology, they can easily locate those manholes at a later date. This makes roads safer for scooters and other vehicles.

Approximately 20% of Taipei’s manholes have been paved over since the project began in 2009. The goal of the Taiwanese federal government is to replace all metal manhole covers across the entire island with buried versions made of cement, and to include an RFID tag with each cover, to be read when necessary by road or utility workers using handheld readers.

The project uses RFID tags, handheld readers and software that manages RFID-read data and stores each manhole’s GPS coordinates, as well as its tag’s unique ID number, to be viewed by staff members. So far, approximately 35,000 of Taipei’s 175,000 manholes now have buried RFID-enabled covers.

Statistics from Taiwan Ministry of Transportation Department have shown that in 2008, the quality of the roadway—which can include the slick, uneven surface created by metal manholes—contributed to 17.3 accidents per month. In 2009, Taipei was the first Taiwanese city to launch a system intended to address this problem. The aim is to produce a smooth, even road surface with no exposed metal manhole covers that can create breaks in the asphalt and pose a slippery surface causing tires to slide. To accomplish this goal, the city needed to pave over the manholes. However, when utility workers need to access the holes, they must be able to find them, and that requires RFID technology.

The city had several requirements. It needed an RFID tag that could be read through the road’s surface, and that would pose no environmental hazard. Moreover, the city rejected the idea of a system that employed RFID readers installed on vehicles to accomplish the reads, and did not want its workers to have to bend over the road to bring the handheld interrogator close enough to read the tags. Therefore, they use an external reader antenna in the form of a wand long enough that workers could plug it into a handheld device and walk over the road without bending over, interrogating any tags embedded beneath the surface.