What is RFID Asset Tracking?Amal Sunny
Modern problems require modern solutions
Have you heard about the story of cell phone giant Nokia and their sell out in 2013? When every cell phone brand worldwide moved to the Android OS, the mulish decision of Nokia to stick with the Symbian OS was the prime reason for their failure.
In 1994, when the barcode was introduced by Wrigley’s, it was the beginning of a revolution in the customer service sector. From the herculean task of using punching cards and long serial numbers to manage inventory, barcode has made the process quite easy and efficient.
As the barcode became a pretty common technology, the competitive advantage it imparted is diminishing as time passes by. The requirement of a more advanced mechanism is inevitable for getting a competitive edge. The RFID tags are an improved alternative for the barcode mechanism. Unlike barcodes, RFID utilizes radio waves and smart label technology to deliver an efficient asset tracking system. RFIDs mitigate the drawbacks faced by the barcode system, taking asset tracking to the next level.
RFID – The next generation Barcodes
In Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, the electronic tags transmit the encoded digital data to the receiver via radio waves. From a layman perspective, both RFID and barcode asset tracking works similarly. They both use scanners to retrieve data from the tags/labels. However, RFID asset tracking technology is more advanced and can perform a couple of extra functions in addition to barcodes. The most remarkable advantage of RFID is its ability to read the label outside the line of sight, whereas barcodes should be aligned with the scanner. Moreover, integrating RFID with GPS technology facilitates the tracking of a product’s live location.
A peek into RFID technology
RFID operates by the principle of Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) technology. By using radio waves, RFIDs can automatically identify items, gather information about them, and can feed that information directly into the computer system with very little or no human intervention at all.
Now delving deeper into the hardware side, the RFID asset tracking system consists of mainly two parts: tags and reader. Tag is a small electronic label, which contains a control & memory unit, rectifier circuit and an antenna. The reader, on other hand, could vary from a hand-held reader in stores to door-sized readers placed at the entrance of shopping malls. It contains a microcontroller, signal detector/receiver and a radio signal generator.
The working principles are different for low, high and ultra-high frequency RFID systems. Both low and high work on the inductive coupling effect, whereas ultra-high use the electromagnetic coupling effect. In either mechanism, the controller unit in the RFID tag uses the load modulation principle to generate the signals matching the data stored in the tag. The RFID reader captures this signal and decodes it with the help of a computer system.
A walk-through RFID varieties
RFID for asset tracking has become very popular for its ease of use and advantages over barcode technology. Although RFID tag is a familiar term in almost all industrial sectors, not all RFID tags have the same application. Based on the inclusion of an internal power source, RFID tags are available in three categories.
Passive RFID tags
As mentioned above, RFID tags transmit signals to the reader and capture and decode them. So, how does that happen? The passive tag obtains the power required for sending the signal from the reader. The reader transmits radio waves, which induces a voltage in the tag’s circuit, providing the signal’s energy. However, the lack of this internal power source enables the compact design and cheap manufacturing of passive tags. But at the same time, it limits the utility to close range operations.
Active RFID tags
Unlike the passive one, these tags have their power system. The tags can transmit a weak signal (backscattered signal) in response to the radio waves from the reader. This makes active tags more suitable for long-range applications. Nevertheless, having a power source makes it less compact and more expensive compared to passive tags.
Semi-passive RFID tags
The addition of a battery and the absence of a self-powered transmitter is what makes semi-passive tags different from passive and active tags. The battery enables the tag to power extra features like sensors, real-time tracking and audio notes. Also, the battery not powering the transmitter reduces power consumption, thus increasing the tag’s longevity. However, it restricts the tag’s utility only to close-range applications.
Exploring the world of possibilities
What attribute makes RFID useful? A computer-operated RFID reader system can detect and decode every single tag associated with it. This entanglement between tags and the reader gives every tagged product a unique identity. In a market filled with billions of products, RFID allows you to pinpoint the desired item accurately, which otherwise is an impossible task for a normal human being.
The manufacturing sector can utilize RFIDs in every single level of its operations. Even a micro-enterprise accommodates thousands of products in the form of finished/semi-finished/raw materials in their inventory. For tracking these items and analysing their consumption rate, RFIDs are the most suitable choice. Also, even after their dispatch, you can track the entire journey of a product using GPS integrated RFIDs. In addition to this, employee ID cards incorporated with RFID technology enables accurate identification and quicker access to the organisation’s facilities.
Shopping malls are the best places to spot different types of RFIDs. Have you noticed grey plastic tags attached to clothing items? These are anti-theft tags. If you check out the store without removing the tag, the reader at the exit will detect it and activate the burglar alarm. RFIDs are also used instead of barcodes. They are more durable and allow multiple scans at once, making the billing procedure fast and efficient.
Travel and Transportation
In 2020, the Indian government made FASTags mandatory for all vehicles. Now every vehicle with a FASTag sticker on the windshield and sufficient money in the FASTag account can pass through the toll booths without using paper money. Ever been curious about how it works? If you’ve read about RFIDs, knowing FASTags are passive RFID stickers can easily make you understand the working principle.
RFIDs serve various platforms besides road transportation. The season e-card you tap on metro counters, the tags tied to airport luggage, passports, etc., makes use of RFID technology for storing and tracking information. The widespread acceptance of RFID technology has reduced checkout time, paper usage and unnecessary manpower to a large extent.
RFID Solutions – How Technowave transforms your business
The notable efficiency and broad-spectrum utility are what makes RFIDs spread like wildfires in the industrial world. RFIDs have already established their presence in almost all industrial sectors. RFID is no more an emerging technology, rather it is becoming a necessity for running the business.
But it is essential to ensure that your organisation’s RFID asset tracking is not compromised in any areas. Any errors during product installation may affect the entire operation. So, selecting an experienced service provider is necessary to ensure product quality.
As per Aldo Gucci, the founder of Gucci, “Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten”. This motto of putting quality first helped many million-dollar companies to reach their success.
Technowave believes in quality and strives to deliver the best for its customers. Unlike other service providers, Technowave collaborates with globally recognised brands like Zebra and Datalogic to provide RFID solutions. Moreover, easyTRACK solutions by Technowave have been assisting many organizations in warehouse management and asset tracking at the wholesale/retail level for the last 20 years. Technowave plays an important role in delivering RFID asset tracking in Indian industries. If you’re interested in RFID solutions, proceed to the next step and contact RFID experts at Technowave.