RFID Technology or Radio Identification Frequency Technology has many benefits over other data-capturing options. In fact, so many benefits that it has gained great popularity with many organizations that choose to integrate it into their operations.
Read on to learn how to make the switch and tap into the accuracy, tracking, and efficiency associated with such systems. You’ll also learn what’s needed for the transition and the factors that guarantee a smooth transition.
Fill out our contact form to start talking with a technology expert who specializes in RFID Technology.
- What Is RFID?
- How It Works
- How RFID Technology Is Used
- How Much Will a Transition Cost
- Important Tips for Transitioning
What Is RFID?
RFID is a technology that uses radio waves to track and identify individuals and objects wirelessly. To work, you need RFID tags, which consist of an antenna and a microchip. These are embedded or attached to objects that require tracking. The information is received and transmitted through electromagnetic fields.
RIFDs can be used in different industries and products like logistics, transportation, accessories, clothing, warehouses, and pharmaceuticals. They function similarly to barcodes. However, the main difference is that the RFID tag doesn’t need to be in the reader’s line of sight to be tracked. These gadgets come in a wide range of sizes. They can be as small as a couple of centimeters or larger than 20 meters.
How It Works
When inventory RFID tags pass in the range of an RFID reader, the antenna located on the tag captures the reader’s signal energy. This is used to power up the tag’s circuitry. When this happens, the tag sends back a unique code to the reader.
At this point, the reader looks up the identifier in the database and accesses information on the tagged item. This includes data like history and location.
This technology has been evolving rapidly with many newer potential uses today. For instance, the tags are not created equal. They can be passive or active.
- Passive: These are powered by the signal of the reader.
- Active: Such options have an onboard source of power.
The active ones are more expensive than the passive ones. However, they tend to offer a wider read range and are capable of tracking larger items. The passive tags are ideal for smaller items or tagging a large number of items. They are much cheaper.
RFID systems rely on frequency waves to work. The three main types of such systems include low frequency, high frequency, and ultra-high frequency.
Low-Frequency (LF) Systems
The systems range from 30 kHz to 500 kHz. However, the typical LF is between 125 kHz to 134 kHz. In such systems, the reading range can be as far away as 6 feet or touch-based. Applications include:
- Security control
- Animal tracking
- Manufacturing systems with high metals and liquid volumes
- Car key fob
High-Frequency (HF) Systems
The HF RFID systems range from 3 MHz to 30 MHz however, the typical HF range is 13.56 MHz the reading range can go from several feet away or be touch-based. They are higher priced than their LF counterparts. Applications include:
- Library books
- DVD kiosks
- NFC applications
- Gaming/poker chips
- Personal ID cards
Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) Systems
These systems may range from 300 MHz to 3000 MHz. However, the typical range of UHF is 433-960 MHz. The UHF system reading range reaches over 25 feet. They can be passive or active.
The active UHF RFID systems range from 433 MHz to 2.45 GHz within the extremely high-frequency range. The reading range in such a system can range from 30 meters to more than 100 meters. Applications for the active UHF RFID include:
- Asset tracking
- Automated process manufacturing
- Vehicle tracking
For the passive UHF RFID systems, the range is from 860 MHz to 960 MHz, and the reading range is from near contact to up to 25 meters. The common applications for the passive UHF systems include:
- Supply chain tracking
- Race riming
- Lean inventory management
- Electronic tolling
- Asset tracking
How RFID Technology Is Used
Today, RFIDs have wide uses in different applications. The most common ones include:
The tags can be used to deny or grant access to some areas within the organization. A good example is using the technology to unlock gates or doors.
In retail outlets or warehouses, RFID tags can be included to monitor inventory levels and for movement tracking. It makes it easier to improve the stocking levels and manage purchase orders with great accuracy.
You can utilize RFID systems for security purposes. A good example is designing tags for accessing a secure area within an organization. This can be granted to certain individuals depending on their ranking.
Other areas where the RFIDs can be utilized include:
- Supply chain management
- Tracking equipment and tools
- Real-time location systems
- Tap and go credit card payments
How Much Will a Transition Cost?
The transition cost depends on different factors like the implementation scale, specific organization needs, and the infrastructure needed. Several things determine transition costs and they include:
- RFID hardware: The cost that needs to be covered includes the purchase of antennas, readers, and all other equipment. The price depends on the type of technology you choose (either passive, active, or semi-passive), the durability, the read range, and the number of units needed. The tag’s price range depends on the functionality and features included.
- Integration and software: Implementing RFID may require integration to an already existing system like access control, supply chain, or inventory. Software costs depend on the integration complexity, licensing, fees, and customization needs.
- Infrastructure upgrades: Making the transition may demand an infrastructure upgrade capable of supporting the system. This may involve the installation of cables, antennas, and RFID readers. Cost depends on the deployment size, modifications required, and infrastructure complexity.
- Education and training: It may be necessary to train your employees on how to interact and use the RFID system for a smooth transition. The training workshops and sessions may cost money and time to make sure the technology is well understood and utilized.
- Implementation services: These services may be needs of the transition is very complex. RFID implementation specialists or consultants may have to be hired to help with the design, planning, and deployment.
- Support and maintenance: RFID systems may require long-term maintenance and support costs.
The overall transition cost varies based on the organization’s needs.
Consulting With the Experts
When considering implementing RFID solutions in a company or any organization, it’s wise to talk to our EE experts first. This way, you’ll get valid advice and recommendations on the best path to take, making the transition phase smoother. Our experts will guide you on the available solutions to help meet all your RFID objectives and goals.
You’ll also be directed on the parts needed and informed of the possible benefits of transitioning. With their vast knowledge in this field, our experts can offer an accurate estimate for better planning.
7 Important Tips for Transitioning
Transitioning to the RFID technology needs careful planning for a smooth integration. If you decide to purchase and set up RFID, some important tips should be considered.
1. Choose the Right Components
The first and most important thing has to do with selecting the pieces. Some of the most important components that are needed for an RFID system include:
These small devices bear an antenna and microchip. This is what is attached to the objects that need to be identified or tracked. They are available in different forms like specialized enclosures, cards, and adhesive labels.
These devices employ radio waves that make communication with the RFID tags possible. The RFID readers capture data that’s within the tags when they are in range. Such readers can be handheld or fixed. They vary in communication capabilities like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, power output, and the read range.
In RFID technology, antennas are used for receiving and transmitting radio waves between the readers and the tags. The configuration of such antennas depends on the requirements of the application. This includes things like environmental conditions, coverage area, and the read range. The units can be integrated into the reader. In some other cases, antennas come as separate entities connected to a reader using cables.
This software sits between the data processors and the RFID readers. Its main task is to filter and manage the RFID data and handle data transformations. This makes it possible to integrate the existing databases or systems. The middleware can include features used for device management, reporting, and data analytics.
Depending on the use case or industry, you may require some specific software applications to be bought and installed. The most common software applications required in different industries include:
- Custom-developed applications for RFID systems
- Access control software
- Asset tracking software
- Inventory management software
For seamless communication and connection between all the RFID components, a robust network infrastructure needs to be installed and activated if not already in place. You may need cables, routers, network switches, and enough network bandwidth to deal with data traffic that’s generated from the system.
Some RFID readers and active tags need a power source. As such, you need to make sure there is access to an electrical power supply. You may also consider getting battery-operated readers. This mainly depends on the deployment scenario. Pick an option that will be most convenient for your operations and needs.
Hardware for Mounting and Installation
Mounting brackets, fixtures, or enclosures may be needed in some applications to install the antennas and readers at the desired locations. Consulting with system integrators and RFID vendors can help you determine the required configurations and specific components to use in the RFID system. Specialists can guide you on the environment, budget, and requirements of the system.
2. Get Information About the Latest Innovations and Pick the Right Vendors
RFID as a technology keeps evolving. With the regular innovations and advancements, you should gather knowledge regarding the current industry standings. This should still be done even after you make the transition. Engage the experts in the field and attend conferences to gather important insights regarding new developments. Being informed helps you leverage new functionalities and features during the initial stages and in the future.
Once you know the trends, research the RFID vendors for selection. This should be very thorough. Find vendors who offer solutions as per the requirements. Check the reputation and take time to compare products, variety, capabilities, and pricing.
3. Define Your Objectives Clearly and Assess Readiness
Before you begin the transition process, you need to have a clear idea of all your organizational objectives. It’s important to know exactly how this switch will benefit the business as a whole. Are you targeting inventory management improvement? Is it about the supply chain? Are your needs aligned with streamlining asset tracking? Having a clear plan helps in tailoring a solution that meets that need specifically. There is a better chance of success in this way.
Once the objectives have been laid down, the organization’s readiness to implement the system needs to be conducted. This means looking at the infrastructure that’s already in place, the new processes, and staff capacity to handle gaps and roadblocks that may come up. Doing this helps in the planning phase, as it’s easier to tell the infrastructure upgrades, the resources, and any training programs needed to transition to the new system.
4. Pick the Ideal RFID System and Begin a Pilot Project
To get the desired outcomes, the right system should be introduced. In this case, you need to assess your operations and consider the read range, the tag totem integration capabilities, and frequency. You should work closely with RFID solution providers with industry knowledge for tailored solutions that are in step with the needs of the business.
Once the right system is picked, a pilot project should be launched before a fill transition. Doing so gives organizations the time to test the system within a controlled environment. Pick a process or area where the system can make an instant impact and evaluate how it performs. You should also look into its compatibility with the current system. The approach is a good identifier of potential challenges early enough. You can then make some adjustments before going all out.
5. Establish Data Management and Train Your Employees
One thing about this technology is the large amount of data that it generates. Without proper management, it becomes overwhelming. Robust data management procedures need to be put in place for the collection, storage, analysis, and interpretation of the information. Data cleansing and validation procedures should be implemented for reliable and accurate data. With the right data, organizations are better placed to make the right business decisions.
For proper implementation of the system and data breakdown, consider educating and training the workforce. When they know how important RFID is and how the new processes work, things get easier. Proper operation of this technology can elevate the organization to new levels.
6. Integrate RFID With the Existing Systems
RFID technology can be combined with some systems such as Warehouse Management Systems or Enterprise Resource Planning for a seamless operation. External vendors and your IT team should collaborate to create a smooth data flow, updates, and compatibility of other business applications and the new RFID system.
7. Monitor Performance, Optimize, and Expand
Once the system has been put in place, it’s important to monitor the performance regularly while tracking all the key metrics. This way, it’s easier to measure effectiveness and identify areas that may be improved. Review processes and troubleshoot different issues. Being in touch with the market trends allows leveraging the functionalities as soon as they are available.
Scaling up and expanding should only come once the initial phases have been successfully transitioned. All lessons learned along the way make the process here seamless.
Making the transition to RFID is complex and it needs careful collaboration and planning with all the involved stakeholders. Ongoing evaluation and improvement determine how well the system will work for the organizations. Engaging experts to leverage the knowledge they have in the decision-making phases also helps maximize achievable benefits.
Talk to the Experts
For a seamless transition, it’s wise to consult experts. Adopting RFID technology comes with many benefits across industries and that should be considered. Talk to EE experts for guidance on the best system to match your unique needs. With years of experience in the field, our experts can help you achieve the best from RFID technology to improve your operations.