After several false starts over the past two decades, RFID is back and this time it just may stick. Several factors are driving the comeback of RFID including continued improvements in the technology, but more importantly, the availability of lower cost RFID labels and tags.
In an article written by RFID Journal's, Mark Roberti in May 2017, Roberti sees RFID finally starting to go mainstream.
"Manufacturers and logistics firms were asking fewer questions about the cost of the technology and whether it would work, and more about the benefits that could be achieved. This year, in every call I received, the company reaching out for help believed the technology would work in their application and would deliver real business benefits."
Where does it make sense to consider an RFID solution?
- With high-value assets
- Where there is a requirement for high-level data integrity and security
- Where use with other systems helps to improve the manufacturing process and/or product quality
Open-Loop and Closed-Loop Systems
In the early days of RFID, open-loop systems were employed in an effort to provide visibility, control and compliance in the supply chain. Open-loop defined as a system being used across multiple facilities. Conversely, closed-loop RFID is contained within a single facility. While both systems have their pluses, closed-loop systems offer some distinct advantages. Users of self-contained, closed-loop systems have complete control over their systems, and can tailor a solution to meet their specific needs.
With most things, one size generally does not fit all. The same holds true for RFID. Many types of RFID technology are available including:
- LF (Low Frequency)
- HF (High Frequency)
- UHF (Ultra-High Frequency)
- Wi-Fi Locationing
- NFC (Near Field Communications)
- Ultra-Wide Band (UWB)
In a white paper published by Zebra Technologies, the advantages of UHF RFID in the manufacturing, warehousing, retail and healthcare environments are numerous. Here's an excerpt:
"Today’s Gen 2 UHF RFID tags make RFID an affordable reality. Unlike active tags, these passive tags do not require their own power source — the reader provides the power to initiate the transmission of data. Since less technology is required in the tag, their cost is very low. A low cost RFID tag means you can tag and increase visibility into more of the goods, products and assets which drive your revenue stream. . . "
In addition to the cost of the technology decreasing, the types of RFID tags available has increased significantly. Below is an overview of the types of the tags available and a comparison of their performance characteristics.
The variety of tags now available and the overall decrease in the cost to implement RFID, has elevated the technology to a place where it is comparable to traditional bar coding, as it is a viable solution in a broader set of applications.
Here at ADI, we are experiencing a renewed interest from our industrial customers for RFID solutions both inside and outside the four walls. Here are a few of benefits to using RFID:
- Line of sight not required
- Many objects (items, cartons etc.) can be read at the same time
- Data can be "locked" with a password, making tag information very secure and tamper proof
Planning is a key part of any successful implementation, but taking the time to map out the type and quantity of the items being tagged, desired read distances, and the environmental factors present, will go a long way to ensuring your RFID solution delivers the desired results.
Intermec (now Honeywell) is a leader in RFID and holds many patents on the technology. Read their white paper: The ABC's of RFID
Fixed RFID Readers
Honeywell - the IF2 is a compact, cost-effective network reader designed to support diverse RFID applications in both enterprise and industrial environments that require a scalable RFID system with a low cost per read point. IF2 Datasheet
Zebra - The FX7500 Fixed RFID Reader introduces advanced Zebra RFID radio technology designed for faster read rates, more accurate data capture and more consistent performance even in challenging business environments. FX7500 Datasheet
Handheld RFID Readers
Honeywell - The IP30 add-on handle for passive UHF RFID is a cost-effective, compact, EPCglobal-certified solution for adding mobile RFID read/write capability to Intermec's latest generation of mobile computers, including the CK71, CK70, CN70/70e, CK3B, and CK3X.
Zebra -The MC9190-Z is a high-performance, highly rugged RFID handheld reader targeted for use in very demanding applications and environments. Designed for medium-to-long range RFID read applications, the MC9190-Z delivers best-in-class RFID read range and accuracy in an ergonomic, integrated RFID and bar code device.
Zebra - The MC3190-Z enables fast, easier and accurate data collection to help retailers and businesses better manage inventory and assets for improved productivity. Built on Zebra’s advanced, high efficiency RFID reader engine, the MC3190-Z delivers fast read rates and high throughput for improved productivity.
RFID First Used In World War II
Source: RFID Journal
It’s generally said that the roots of radio frequency identification technology can be traced back to World War II. The Germans, Japanese, Americans and British were all using radar—which had been discovered in 1935 by Scottish physicist Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt—to warn of approaching planes while they were still miles away. The problem was there was no way to identify which planes belonged to the enemy and which were a country’s own pilots returning from a mission.
The Germans discovered that if pilots rolled their planes as they returned to base, it would change the radio signal reflected back. This crude method alerted the radar crew on the ground that these were German planes and not Allied aircraft (this is, essentially, the first passive RFID system).
Under Watson-Watt, who headed a secret project, the British developed the first activeidentify friend or foe (IFF) system. They put a transmitter on each British plane. When it received signals from radar stations on the ground, it began broadcasting a signal back that identified the aircraft as friendly. RFID works on this same basic concept. A signal is sent to a transponder, which wakes up and either reflects back a signal (passive system) or broadcasts a signal (active system).
Need some help getting started?
Contact ADI for an RFID consultation at 937-436-2343.