Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a form of wireless communication that uses radio waves to identify and track objects. RFID takes the barcoding concept and digitizes it for the modern world providing the ability to
- Uniquely identify an individual item beyond just its product type
- Identify items without direct line-of-sight
- Identify many items (up to 1,000s) simultaneously
- Identify items within a vicinity of between a few centimetres to several meters
- RFID can identify individual objects at rates of over 1,000 tags per second.
HOW DOES RFID WORKS?
RFID belongs to a group of technologies referred to as Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC). AIDC methods automatically identify objects, collect data about them, and enter those data directly into computer systems with little or no human intervention. RFID methods utilize radio waves to accomplish this. At a simple level, RFID systems consist of three components: an RFID tag or smart label, an RFID reader, and an antenna. RFID tags contain an integrated circuit and an antenna, which are used to transmit data to the RFID reader (also called an interrogator). The reader then converts the radio waves to a more usable form of data. Information collected from the tags is then transferred through a communications interface to a host computer system, where the data can be stored in a database and analyzed at a later time.
RFID TAGS & SMART LABELS
As stated above, an RFID tag consists of an integrated circuit and an antenna. The tag is also composed of a protective material that holds the pieces together and shields them from various environmental conditions. The protective material depends on the application. For example, employee ID badges containing RFID tags are typically made from durable plastic, and the tag is embedded between the layers of plastic. RFID tags come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are either passive or active. Passive tags are the most widely used, as they are smaller and less expensive to implement. Passive tags must be “powered up” by the RFID reader before they can transmit data. Unlike passive tags, active RFID tags have an onboard power supply (e.g., a battery), thereby enabling them to transmit data at all times. For a more detailed discussion, refer to this article: Passive RFID Tags vs. Active RFID Tags.
Smart labels differ from RFID tags in that they incorporate both RFID and barcode technologies. They’re made of an adhesive label embedded with an RFID tag inlay, and they may also feature a barcode and/or other printed information. Smart labels can be encoded and printed on-demand using desktop label printers, whereas programming RFID tags are more time consuming and requires more advanced equipment.
Radio Frequency Identification) is used to identify and detect individual objects, including products and items. The technology is controlled by radio waves that communicate between a tag on the product and the reader.
For retailers, RFID technology for inventory management has a number of advantages:
- RFID tags are serialized, enabling unique identification of each item in your supply chain, inventory, and store
- High read rate. An RFID reader can count several items per second
- Line of sight not required. An RFID reader can identify items several meters away – even if the item is behind a wall or in a cardboard box.
Managing and locating important assets is a key challenge for almost any business. Time spent searching for critical equipment can lead to expensive delays or down time, missed deadlines and customer commitments, and wasted labor.
Companies have traditionally addressed this problem by managing assets using serial numbers and spreadsheets, or tracking equipment with barcode labels. However, both of these methods require a significant amount of manual labor. One way to quickly improve asset management is by utilizing radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to automatically track those assets.
An RFID asset tracking system uses electromagnetic fields to transmit data from an RFID tag to a reader. Whether you are talking about office equipment in a multi-story building, wheelchairs and IV pumps in a large hospital, tools and equipment in a factory, or pumping equipment in far-flung oil fields, RFID can provide accurate, real-time tracking data for fixed and mobile assets.
The typical RFID-based controlled access solution consists of 1) tags that contain unique identification data capable of granting or denying access to restricted areas, and 2) a mechanism for reading the RFID tags at the access control points. RFID tags can be placed on objects, or they may be embedded into paper or plastic ID cards. They can even be embedded under human skin, but this is highly controversial. When the tags are read at the access control points, their data are validated against a database in a centrally controlled security system, and access is either granted or denied.
Not only is the central security system capable of using identifying information to control access, it can be integrated with other applications as part of a comprehensive security solution. For example, the RFID security system can be configured to automatically log the number of access attempts per ID and trigger security cameras after a threshold has been reached. If a person tries to access an area to which he or she does not have permission, the system detects this and can both initiate video surveillance and send alerts to security or other authoritative personnel. Even when an individual does have permission to access the area, video recordings can still be initiated to monitor the person’s activities while inside of the restricted area.
In addition to the security benefits of controlling access with RFID, such an application has economical benefits as well. Relative to other RFID applications, the access control application is well understood, and system components like tags and hardware are widely available. Prices of tags and equipment are falling, too, which is encouraging to organizations needing to upgrade their security systems.
Despite the advantages of controlling access to facilities with RFID, there are a couple of disadvantages that ought to be considered when implementing such a system. The first is that the system can be bypassed if an unauthorized person “tailgates” an authorized person through an access point. It should be noted, however, that this is also a shortcoming of the traditional access control systems mentioned earlier. A second disadvantage is that the system can be defeated: RFID tags can be cloned with readily available equipment. Anyone with an RFID reader can “skim” the data from a tag of interest and make a new ID badge with the desired access permissions. Note that this type of identity theft does not require the target badge to be physically stolen from its rightful owner. If the badge is in fact stolen, and the victim is aware of it, the tag — and therefore all clones of the tag — can be deactivated. Because of these caveats, it is recommended that any RFID access control system be complemented by an integrated video surveillance system to minimize tailgating, theft, and other undesirable activities.
Supply chain managment
Supply chain management and logistics are considered as the most fertile field as far as the applications of RFID is concerned.
RFID in the supply chain plays a major role in enhancing the visibility right from the point of manufacturing, via supply chain, and most significantly from the back room to the floor, and ultimately to the exit door.
RFID has a major say when it comes to inventory management, warehouse management, and retail sector. Let’s see in detail about them all.