Companies Are Adopting RFID. Here’s What Your Business Should Know.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) is spreading rapidly around the world as the next-generation technology for tracking inventory and valuable assets. In fact, as of 2021, there were over 100 billion RFID tags that had been purchased and used around the world, and that number is growing every day. Much like barcoding gained widespread adoption beginning in the 1970s, ushering in decades of digital and automated inventory management, RFID is changing the way we identify and track assets for the better.
RFID allows organizations to tag, track and locate assets wirelessly and remotely, without requiring manual barcode scans or line-of-sight access to barcodes. Its ability to wirelessly locate items at rest and as they move through key processes is a game-changer for many organizations, allowing them to gain better and more accurate visibility into their supply chain as well as better control over assets. And it all happens with less manual labor and typically much less cost.
Why Now is a Crucial Time to Investigate RFID
Ultimately, RFID provides a more automated, efficient, and accurate way to track and locate your inventory and assets. It can be a remarkably cost-effective way to achieve inventory accuracy as high as 99% while allowing you to digitally see and track the status, location, and history of your assets. You can use RFID to dramatically reduce the time, labor, and cost to conduct cycle counts, manage your inventory, and find and retrieve virtually any asset when needed.
As RFID continues to gain widespread adoption, companies need to be aware of its potential applications and benefits, plus its potential impact on your industry and competitive position.
Many industries, regulatory bodies, and forward-thinking companies are implementing RFID and new track-and-trace requirements that take advantage of this breakthrough technology. Any company that currently uses barcode-based tracking and manages inventory, assets, and a supply chain should take some time to investigate RFID, to make sure you’re up to speed on what’s happening with this technology and what it potentially means for the future of your business.
Eventually we’ll see a move away from exclusively barcode-based tracking systems and toward tracking and locating systems that are based in whole, or at least in part, on RFID. So now is the time to get ahead of the curve and learn more about RFID.
The Basics of How RFID Works
RFID is a wireless technology that works much like Wi-Fi. It uses wireless radio signals to track items, pallets or other assets tagged with an RFID tag. Each tag contains a chip with a unique identifier, as well as two micro transmitters to transmit information wirelessly. Once tags are printed and encoded, such as with a Zebra RFID printer, RFID readers work together with antennas and software to read tags wirelessly and remotely, from ranges determined by the type of RFID tag and technology you are using.
RFID tags use either active or passive RFID technology. Active tags are more costly because they contain their own battery, so tags can automatically wake themselves up and power themselves at defined intervals, sending their signals to nearby readers. Passive RFID tags, which are by far the most common, are less expensive and rely on RFID readers to send power to the tag and wake it up using a wireless signal.
Readers are available in two types: as handheld devices or as fixed-position readers that are placed in strategic locations. As the handheld device scans for tags within range or as tagged items move past a fixed reader, tags are read wirelessly and remotely, without needing line-of-sight access to a barcode or even direct, physical access to the items in question.
Multiple RFID tags can be read in seconds, so an entire pallet, aisle or room of goods can be detected and identified in very little time, without manual scanning. In addition to identifying items, their locations are also pinpointed to within a few feet, as the readers communicate with RFID antennas located in the area. RFID readers are typically combined with RFID software to automatically identify items and transmit and update relevant data such as their location, status, or other details you wish to track. This way, you can easily track, query, retrieve and analyze each item’s current or last-known location and maintain time-stamped records of its status, updates, history and more.
Components and Costs of a Typical RFID Tracking System
RFID systems are usually comprised of readers, antennas, software, RFID printers to print and encode tags, and the actual tags and inlays. Zebra Technologies is one of the global leaders in RFID solutions and is the company we partner with in all of our RFID deployments.
The cost of an RFID system depends on how many readers, antennas, printers and tags you’ll be using, along with the type of RFID technology involved. Costs can range from a few thousand dollars for a small-scale solution using passive UHF RFID tags to many thousands of dollars for a sophisticated fixed RFID system that tags and tracks your inventory and assets automatically using active RFID.
Beyond the core hardware that each system uses, there is typically a cost per tag that ranges from as low as 10 to 25 cents per tag for passive RFID to as much as $15 to $25 or more for active RFID tags. This is why passive RFID is by far the most popular, with wide use in inventory and supply chain management.
However, for tracking high-value assets such as expensive products or equipment, where the value of avoiding losses, theft or replacements vastly outweighs your tag costs, active RFID can be worth the investment.
How to Learn More and Assess RFID for Your Business
To explore RFID further and make sure you have a firm understanding of the technology, its use cases, benefits, and how it’s being used in your industry, start by connecting with our RFID experts at Barcom. As experts in enterprise tracking and data capture since 1991, we’ve worked with RFID since its inception. And we have hands-on experience with RFID solutions, applications, hardware, software and deployments in manufacturing, warehousing, retail, transportation and logistics, government, healthcare, and more.
We can also conduct on-site assessments and testing to determine if RFID is suitable for your environment and workflows, and we can even provide evaluation equipment and kits to help you test and explore RFID.
To learn more and get started, contact Barcom now to schedule a discovery call, and we’d be happy to help.
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