You may have heard about RFID a.k.a Radio Frequency Identification many times while surfing through technology or business magazine. But here we will discuss all you need to know about RFID and why it matter to you. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. RFID is type of contactless communication that makes the use of electromagnetic waves to identify and track object, animal or people using tags. The tags contain the electronically stored data. It is preferred over bar-code because it doesn’t need to be in the line of sight, to be read.
How does RFID work? How it can help an organization to improve its productivity and performance?
A RFID system consists of three main parts:
- RFID Reader
- RFID Antenna
- RFID tags
A RFID tag itself consists of a microchip, memory and an antenna. RFID tags has many form factors and different memory size to hold data in it. RFID tags uses in many form factors such as RFID ID Card, RFID wristband tags, RFID labels, RFID inlays, RFID silicon tags, RFID PVC tags, RFID metal tags and tie tags.
A RFID reader is connected to the network and emits radio frequency waves that actives the RFID tags that are in the range of the reader. Once activated, the RFID tags send a wave back to the reader, where it is converted back into the data. In this way RFID reader uses radio frequency waves to transfer data between tags and itself in order to identify, categorize and track assets. The RFID reader is integrated with RFID software, which helps it to identify objects more quickly and accurately. RFID reader can be fixed, handheld, laser, imager, Bluetooth, UHF, HF, iOS/Android compatible.
Why was RFID invented?
The origins of RFID can be traced back to the World War II. The Germans, Americans and British were all using radars. The radar was used to track objects from miles away. The problem was that the enemy’s planes cannot be distinguished from their own country’s plane.
The Germans found out that if the pilots rolled their planes when returning to the base, it would change the radio frequency reflected back and they could identify that these were their own planes. This was the first passive RFID system.
Research and development in Radar and RF communications systems continued through the 1950s and 1960s. Researchers in the USA, Europe and Japan come up with new developments on how RF energy can be used to identify objects remotely. Companies began commercializing RFID systems with anti-theft systems that used radio waves to determine if an item have been paid or not.
Over time, companies started commercializing on higher frequencies. In the early 1990s, IBM developed and patented the UHF RFID system.
Companies particularly in Europe, began using it to track reusable containers and other assets.
In the time period of 1999 and 2003, the Auto-ID Centre with the support of more than 100 large end-user companies, plus the U.S. Department of Defense and many key RFID vendors opened research labs in Australia, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Japan and China. It developed technology for look up data associated with the RFID tag on the internet, two air interface protocols (Class 1 and Class 0), the Electronic Product Code (EPC) numbering scheme.
Few of the large retailers in the world, Albertsons, Metro, Target, Tesco, Wal-Mart—and the U.S. Department of Defence have said they plan to use EPC technology to track goods in their supply chain.
You would have heard of LF, UHF RFID tags. But what does it mean by these terms.
LF RFID tags: Low frequency RFID tags operate in the range of 125 kHz to 134,2 kHz. These kinds of tags are used for logistics and traceable applications. Because they are light and small, they can used with all types of materials.
- HF RFID tags: High frequency RFID tags operate on the frequency of 13.56MHz. They are used in traceability and logistics applications. Loop antenna can be printed on the substrates.
- UHF RFID tags: Ultra high frequency RFID tags operate in the frequency range of 860 MHz – 960 MHz. UHF RFID tags have dipole like antenna which can be printed be all kind of substrate. UHF RFID can be read from a distance of 6 meters to 8 meters.
What rfid can be used for?
- Logistics and supply chain visibility: With real time data on the status of individual objects, we can reduce supply chain errors and increase efficiency.
- Item level inventory tracking: With RFID technology, you can track objects not only through supply chain, but all the way to the point of the sale.
- Race timing: Marathons and races are one of the popular uses of the RFID.
- Attendance tracking: With the help of RFID, you can reduce the long queue at events and regular offices days.
- Materials management: In construction industry, tracking material is very necessary, and improves the whole process.
- Access control: Certain areas of the organization need to be protected from access to everyone. RFID based access controls can be used to give pre-approved access.
- IT Asset tracking: RFID gives a easy way to track inventory of IT assets and make sure everything is in place.
- Tool tracking: With various tool tracking systems, RFID can help you find which tools are out in service, which employee took them, and which tools haven’t been returned to the tool crib.
- Libraries systems: With RFID, taking inventory of books is faster, and efficient, as it doesn’t need to be in direct line to sight to be read.
- Laundry management: Large organizations and companies have to mange thousands of employee uniforms. With RFID, you can find which uniform was assigned to which employee, number of times it was washed, and so on.
- RTLS: Sometimes you need to track the real time location of assets, employees, or customers. RFID systems provide visibility in any number of locations.
Why RFID ?
RFID have many benefits, some of which are:
- The solution doesn’t require the line of sight access to read the tagged items.
- Scanning and data logging doesn’t require the intervention of humans.
- Each item can be tagged individually.
- The system provides high level of security.
Why RFID over bar-codes?
RFID are preferred over bar-codes because unlike bar-code it can read many tags at the same time and also the tags don’t need to be in direct line of access. It saves a lot of time, and human effort.
What is the Future of RFID?
With the advent of Industry 4.0, and the emergence of IoT , the line between the physical space and online space is diminishing creating cyber physical spaces and RFID is the foundation of this. RFID is enabling everyday things to be able to be connected to the internet. We will see RFID being implemented at many tasks across industries. RFID will matter more in coming years as it will be in everything.