THE BASICS OF RFID
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a digital system of keeping track of objects and people using radio waves that are transmitted between and received by tags and readers. It essentially acts as an electronic tagging system to keep track of assets or employees asRFID_Blue they move around indoors or in a constrained area.
Working in the same way as a barcode or a credit card’s magnetic strip, RFID provides a more versatile and unique identifying device for the object it is attached to.
Just as barcodes provide unique asset identification, RFID is most often used in the tracking industry, where businesses can generate and assign tags to assets or employees. This form of tracking is a means for businesses to ensure they maintain their supply chains and work processes, whilst also undertaking successful and regular maintenance and upkeep.
Since its small scale introduction in the early 1970s, RFID tag and tracking has become a favored method for businesses looking to keep control over their assets, products and employees. With easily accessible and up-to-date information, it has also become an essential component in how businesses manage and run their work processes and supply chains.
How is an RFID system constructed?
A RFID tracking system brings together three parts:
- An antenna that scans and receives incoming data;
- A reader that sends out signals and interprets the incoming data;
- A tag that is placed with the asset/employee.
RFID tags, which combine an integrated circuit that deals with and interprets RF signals, and a signal transmitting/receiving antenna, comes in either one of two forms:
- Active – which have an inbuilt battery and a more extensive signal range.
- Passive – which do not have inbuilt batteries (hence they are smaller and cheaper), and do not have as wide a signal range.
Once programmed with the asset/employee’s identification details and generated, RFID tags work in tandem with RFID readers. The latter can either be handheld portable devices or fixed receivers located at significant points around a site, depending on the needs of the user. The tag’s inbuilt chip and antenna system allows the chip to transmit the identification details to the nearest reader, which converts the radio waves coming in into digital data.
The data gathered by the readers is then passed on, in real-time, to the web-based or mobile-based app used by the business, providing management with easily readable data. The more receivers there are located around a site, the more accurate the information sent through to the app. This data ensures that business management can make on-the-spot decisions affected by the most up-to-date information relating to their business needs.
Unlike barcodes, RFID tags do not need to be visible to the reader for the data to be scanned, making it easier for “hidden” tags to be read. They can also be up to 20 feet away, depending on the strength of the radio waves they emit. An added benefit of RFID tags is that multiple tags can be read at the same time, reducing the time spent on inventory taking.
Why businesses need RFID?
It isn’t just about creating a technologically advanced company. RFID tracking has tremendous time- and costs-saving benefits for businesses that rely on fast, accurate data for their decision making process.
By bringing on RFID as part of its business management model, a company ensures they:
- Can accurately view all inventory details;
- View employee location as part of safe evacuation procedures;
- View key insights and effectively oversee workflow and supply chains;
- Avoid unnecessary equipment purchase.
It doesn’t end there either. Since its mainstream introduction in the late 1980s, RFID technology has come a long way – and with its development, its uses have also expanded. RFID tracking has proven to be an excellent way for businesses to track:
- Components used to construct vehicles or other heavy-duty and high-value items during the assembly process;
- Vehicles, such as those used in a fleet, when the company depends on efficient delivery;
- Tracking workmen whilst they are out on the job;
- Jewelry, to ensure high value products remain secure, and to avoid potential financial loss;
- Access management and site security;
- Movable in warehouse assets when companies depend on tracking stock levels;
- Ensuring stock levels in warehouses remain at the levels needed, especially in retail settings;
- Healthcare assets, to maximize usage, decrease unnecessary costs, and update maintenance and upkeep;
- In store items, particularly useful for companies selling easily hidden items such as books or clothing;
- Pets, particularly when they move across borders.
RFID also has a serious security element to it. With each asset or employee being tagged, businesses know when assets or sites have been moved or accessed without the proper authorizations. This is particularly useful when trying to create a safe working environment or prevent thefts of high-value items.