RFID tracking system is tracking system that uses small RFID devices for identification, tracking and managing purposes. The RFID tracking system consists of RFID tags (transponders), RFID readers and RFID software. RFID readers along with RFID software make tracking and identifying RFID (tagged to objects) faster, cheaper and efficient.
You need to know about RFID technology as widespread digitization in industries, along with the advent of internet of things, RFID is proving itself to be the building blocks of the digital world.
How RFID tracking systems work?
In RFID systems, every object is tagged with RFID tag (or transponders), the tags can be active tags or passive tags. Active tags contain batteries, and always transmit data. Passive tags doesn’t contain any power source, but get activated when it comes in range of the RFID readers.
RFID readers can be either mobile or fixed at the strategic business areas like entry gates, exit gates, inventory area, etc. The reader track and identify every single object tagged with the RFID chip. The data received from RFID tagged objects by RFID reader is then sent to the cloud software where data is analyzed and processed according to the business processes.
How accurate is RFID tracking?
Talking of accuracy, there are two types of accuracy that need to be considered with RFID.
One is read accuracy. It measure how many RFID tags RFID reader would be able to identify when there are many tagged available in the range of the RFID reader. Read accuracy depends upon the type of material being tracked, how it is arranged, and the system being used, and so forth.
With the active RFID tags, the read accuracy is 100%, as the tags continuously broadcast their information like a cell phone. Passive tags are subject to interference, if the tags are blocked by some metal, the tags cannot be tracked.
The location accuracy is the distance the RFID reader can point the tracked object. It also depends upon the RFID system you use for tracking. With a passive high frequency(HF) tags you can track objects within 3 feet of the reader. With a passive ultra high frequency (UHF) system you would know a tagged item is there within the 25 feet of the RFID reader. With the active RFID tags, you can identify objects within the 300 feet of reader.
How to implement RFID tracking?
- Managing expectations: The companies should only implement RFID tracking if it provides immediate or projected profit to the company. The first step of any RFID project therefore should be to evaluate the business expectations versus what the RFID can provide.
- Evaluation of the processes: Second most important step of implementing RFID is to understand the key business processes, and find the place of RFID within the system. RFID should be always seen as something which improves the processes. Before implementing RFID technology as much information must be gathered from multiple stakeholders – end users, IT team, business management and maintenance staff, to find out which aspects can be improved by implementing RFID solution.
- Making a requirement document: Either your project is small scale or big, requirement document is necessary. The requirement document should contain your company preferred process flow and the specified requirements to implement the processes. Some of things that must be taken into considerations are hardware, software, RFID tags (transponders), environment factors and security issues. The requirement document can serve as the basis for accepting project after project completion, and can help avoid future errors.
- Performing the site survey: The next step is to do RFD site survey. The purpose of this survey is to first do RF-spectrum analysis to search any interfering signals in the area, and second do physical survey to help plan the location of readers and antennas.
- Think of designing hybrid systems: Include combinations of technology to implement your RFID solution. Make a system which utilizes RFID tags with bar codes, along with human readable data. This will be helpful not only when RFID fails, but also when it doesn’t make sense to use RFID like finding a single item from multiple items.
- Selecting a tag: Tags comes in all forms and configurations. It is best to select tags according to environment and work to be done. Select several tags and test against the parameters to find what suits best for a particular project.
- Find if onboard data is required: RFID tags can store data in their memories. That is one of the big advantages of using them. In most cases the RFID will be used to tag items, and license them with unique code, which can be referenced in a database. In that case the project requires storing data in cloud for management of data and business processes.
- Cabling the RFID solution: Cabling is an important part of RFID solution which can affect the performance of the system. Each connection point causes losses; the cables should be kept as short as possible.
- Testing the system: A system is not complete until it has been tested with the end users in the real world scenarios. Always test the system with all the stakeholders before going live.
What is RFID software?
RFID software is always on; software that connects the RFID readers and connects the RFID tags data to the database. It can be stored on server, cloud, or a computer that is always on.
RFID tracking in healthcare:
In healthcare industry, RFID is used in inventory tracking, people/attendee tracking, surgical tools tracking, access control and laundry tracking. Healthcare industry is investing more and more in RFID technology because of sheer number of applications it can benefit.
Hospitals have always ever-growing demand for the supply of medicine. Traditional inventory tracking solutions involves manual count and barcodes which takes large amount of staff to count. With the RFID the time spent on counting can be reduced, and it can be ensured that correct amount and types of drugs are supplied.
Some pharmaceutical companies and hospitals use RFID tags to prevent the counterfeiting of the medicinal supply. This is done by placing a RFID tag inside the medicine bottle and encrypting it with some code, so that hospitals and pharmacies can verify that medicines they sell are authentic.
Hospitals also use active and passive RFID to track patients and staff throughout the hospitals. Passive RFID are used to maintaining and verifying patient records on wristbands. Many lives have been lost due to switching of files. RFID wristbands can save each patient data securely.
RFID is also used to track surgical tools like scalpels, scissors, clamps, and retractors. These tools need to be timely sterilized and disinfected. RFID ensures that each tool was sterilized before use.
RFID for tracking employees:
With RFID the companies and organizations can track and manage their employees and assets. The employees are given badges fitted with RFID tags. The receivers are installed at strategic points like entry gates, exit gates, hallways throughout the work area which tracks these badges.
The RFID system can show the location of badges in the overlay of company building map. Each employee is shown as a moving dot on the map, with the basic information like employee name and identification number. It is also possible to upload site map, create automatic updates, geo-fences, and create reports.
RFID for tracking vehicles:
RFID can be used for access control, vehicle identification, and vehicle tracking.
The RFID can be implemented to allow or deny access to specific vehicles having specific RFID tags.
Identifying vehicles is beneficial for companies like car rental agencies, car dealerships, and even car wash facilities. Car washes can put RFID to uniquely identify cars to enhance loyalty programs and automate transactions.
Tracking a vehicle on long routes is not possible with UHF RFID. But if checkpoints are set up along the route, location of the vehicle can be found out when it passes the each check points.
RFID for tool tracking:
Tool tracking solutions are very widely used in mining, construction, oil & gas and many other industries in quickly and efficiently to maintain real time data regarding tool locations maintenance history, and inventory. These systems are very useful in harsh conditions that help find tools covered with dirt in such conditions.
RFID in manufacturing:
RFID systems makes real time visibility of materials and assets needed to keep your manufacturing operations functional. The mobile assets and tools are available when needed and fixed assets are quickly accounted for at the audit time.
RFID tracking for cattle:
The record keeping has become very important with the growth in the number of countries exporting animals to other countries. RFID is mainly established as a record keeping mechanism.
While most country are not using the international standards for animal tracking, but some countries like Australia, Canada, Europe and United States have. These countries with the adoption of wishing to export animals to other countries must have proper tracking and tracing with the compulsory use of RFID.
With each animal tagged with RFID tag, data collection becomes easy and fast. Each unique RFID tag will carry the specific information related to animal such date of birth, breeding specifications and more. This information of tags than can be stored in a centralized database for robust record keeping.
RFID tracking in schools:
With RFID movements of students can be tracked inside the school building. The RFID readers can be installed in halls, classrooms, etc. The RFID can be also be installed in school buses that helps tracks schools each student is getting off the right bus stop. The system generates a message on the parent’s phone that their children have reached the school. The RFID system can also take automated attendance which can save teacher’s time. The RFID can also be used to track visitors, and track their movement inside the school.
RFID towel tracking:
With the help of RFID hotels, resorts and fitness clubs can track large number of towels. This can reduce the towel theft and reduce the staff labor in towel management. The real time data of towels can help costumers effortlessly track towel usage.
RFID for tracking dogs:
RFID enabled dog callers can be put on the dog to identify the dog owner. This system works best when installed alongside the GPS. With GPS and RFID microchip, the dog’s location as well as the dog information can be found on the device.
RFID in event tracking:
Many event organizers are using RFID to track attendance and movement of attendees in the events. With RFID it becomes easy to track all the attendees as they navigate through the event. The name and id of each attendee can be tracked at each event location.
RFID tracking system cost:
Basic passive RFID: 10 cents USD each – Good for paper or other non metal, and liquid material.
Metal passive RFID: $1 each – Works for servers, metal equipments and data centers
Active RFID: $15-$20 each – Active RFID is fully automated and highly accurate. Gives automatic notification if things goes around
Handheld reader: Manual handheld reader cost around $3000 each.
Fixed position passive RFID: Portal readers are installed at the door and detect assets moving through. It costs $10,000- $20,000 per portal for hardware, installation, and configuration.
Active RFID readers: Zonal readers can cover about 3000 square feet and can detect active RFID tags in that area. It costs around $1,200-$1,500 each