RFID FAQs—Answers to your Frequently Asked Questions
The development of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is nothing short of revolutionary. Tasks that were once laboriously time-consuming and expensive are made quick and easy. This is the technology that benefits companies from any business sector, with no end to the variety of applications. In fact, companies discover new, groundbreaking uses for this tech every day. Regardless of the ways you choose to utilize RFID, you’ll maximize efficiency and save money.
To understand how RFID innovations, speed up productivity, our team of experts offers answers to your most frequently asked questions:
To understand how RFID innovations, speed up productivity, our team of experts offers answers to your most frequently asked questions or RFID FAQs:
1. What is RFID?
RFID belongs to a group of Automatic Identification & Data Collection (AIDC) technologies that help computers identify objects. The goal of AIDC is to reduce human errors and increase efficiency—Employees are free to perform more valuable duties than manually entering data into a computer.
RFID tags and barcode labels are both AIDC technologies. However, unlike standard barcode labels, RFID tags don’t rely on a line-of-sight visual scan for transmitting data and don’t require a scanner to “see” a barcode to read it. Instead, an RFID tag acts as a transponder, transmitting data by radio waves to a reader. The reader then converts the radio waves into digital information that can be viewed, analyzed, and stored on a computer.
2. How does RFID work?
There are just two components to a passive RFID system, consisting of the tag and the reader. The tag contains an integrated circuit with embedded data along with an antenna that transmits and receives signals. The reader features a transceiver, or interrogator, that transmits an encoded signal that activates the tag. The tag then converts the received radio signal into usable power to respond back to the reader. In this way, the RFID reader functions as a two-way radio transmitter-receiver.
3. What’s the difference between active and passive RFID tags?
When RFID tags are placed on assets, they allow you to find a “needle in a haystack”. Attach tags to assets that are frequently misplaced or are difficult to locate. Motion sensors embedded within active tags will then notify you when an object is moved.
The traditional RFID system utilizes passive tags that collect electromagnetic energy from a reader antenna, but they cannot emit energy on their own. Because they need to be placed relatively close to readers, the read range can be as short as 6 inches. Installing an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) transponder can increase the read range of up to 20 feet, but this is only in the free air (when the tags are not attached to objects).
These small RFID tags are often attached to small units, and they are best used on lower cost assets within restricted movement patterns.
By contrast, active RFID tags rely on battery power to activate their internal transponder to push the signal to an antenna within its read zone. This gives them a much longer range than passive tags of 300 feet or more. Therefore, active tags enable easy tracking of highly valued assets with variable or unpredictable movements. Since assets with active RFID tags can be tracked across a larger area than passive tags, use them across warehouses and throughout your company’s workspace floor.
Here at ID Integration, we searched for the most reliable and efficient state-of-the-art technology to handle real-time tracking of movements while cutting costs to our clients. We found a solution that is available at nearly half the price of passive RFID systems, and no antennas and infrastructure are necessary—Only the gateway device is required at installation. V-Tag™ Active RFID tags, from InfinID Technologies, seemed like the perfect solution. But we weren't ready to offer them to our clients without vetting them out for ourselves.
We first ran several successful pilot programs for tracking tools and work-in-process in the aerospace and government sectors using V-Tag™ Active RFID location tracking system. We were so impressed with the results that we teamed up with InfinID, the makers of V-Tags™, to offer them to our commercial customers in all business sectors, from military and government to hospitals, general manufacturing, and MRO (Maintenance, Repair & Operations) industries.
The reusable V-Tags™, about the size of a box of Tic Tacs, “talk” to each other to create an ad hoc mesh network, which can enable tracking of items to up to a half mile. When coupled with AssetWorx!™ Active RFID software, the movement of tagged assets are seen in real time, appearing on a virtual map of your facility. Every time an asset is moved, the map refreshes on your computer desktop, tablet, or smartphone screen. Quick installation, plus low cost tags (as little as $35 each) make V-Tag™ Active RFID technology the popular solution for locating assets for any business sector application.
Watch videos of V-Tag™ Active RFID asset tracking in action. Discover how to dodge RFID costs by downloading our free “Avoiding the Expense of RFID Asset Tracking Infrastructures” white paper.
4. Many companies boast about the read range of their RFID systems. In reality, how much range can you get?
The answer to this question depends upon where you place the RFID tag and/or where the tagged item is stored. Much of the popular read range hype is a myth, because the physics of radio frequency are unchangeable, and many variables must be taken into account.
For instance, is the tag affixed to metal? This may change the read range potential, because metal mounted tags don’t read as far as those for non-metal tags.
As another example, we conducted a test at our ID Integration office. First, we placed an RFID tag on the front of a label printer device. Next, we placed an RFID tag on the back of the device. Surprisingly, we experienced a better read range when the tag was placed on the backside of the device. Here’s why: Our building has metal studs inside the walls and the RF signal bounced backwards and then forwards, causing the signal to amplify.
As an experienced system integrator, we understand the many variables involved with read range and can offer multiple solutions—even hybrid solutions—to fit your unique needs. Reach out to our RFID consultants, and we’ll take your environmental variables into account for a customized system approach. Feel free to call us at 425-438-2533 to talk with one of our RFID experts.
5. Can both passive and active RFID systems be combined, along with standard barcode tags?
Passive RFID tags are best applied to tracking specific parts as in serialized asset tracking, where assets pass through checkpoints in a work in process environment. Active tags are best used for getting a quick picture of the location of assets for audits and tracking. And standard barcode labels (for military applications or for FDA applications, for instance) may be the best choice when using line of sight verification with a scanner. Your industry may demand the use of all of these solutions for smart manufacturing production efficiency.
For example, assets that are frequently moving will benefit most from RFID location tracking. However, stationary assets that rarely move (furniture, large equipment in shop, etc.) are easily located with asset tracking labels featuring both RFID and barcodes. Inventory audits using integrated RFID labels can be as simple as scanning for locations of RFID tracked assets without requiring any line-of-sight or physically scanning the integrated RFID labels on stationary equipment with a barcode scanner.
Combining these solutions makes sense from a production efficiency standpoint, but the roadblock is analyzing disparate data. Our partners at InfinID have the perfect solution—AssetWorx!™ Software. The same software that works seamlessly with V-Tags™ to produce a real-time software map of asset movements is capable of much more—AssetWorx! Software is instrumental for creating a hybrid RFID tracking database.
Find out more about applying hybrid RFID solutions to maintenance and repair facilities, inventory tracking, and consumables tracking in our free white paper, “The Holistic View of RFID Location Tracking: How to Increase Efficiency and Maximize Savings”.
AssetWorx!™ Software sorts out incoming data to present the full picture. As your systems integrator, ID Integration offers the complete package of software, hardware, and services, including on-site training, to set up a hybrid solution for top production efficiency. Contact us today to talk about customizing the perfect smart manufacturing solution to match your company’s needs: 425-438-2533.
6. Is there a system for RFID tool tracking that goes beyond the walls of my workplace and functions outdoors?
The newest cost-cutting RFID innovation from InfinID is their V-Tag GPS™ RFID technology. Like their V-Tag™ Active RFID tags, these GPS tags talk with each other, eliminating the necessity of installing expensive antennas and infrastructures. The groundbreaking V-Tag GPS™ System takes RFID asset tracking a step further, enabling tracking beyond the walls of your facility. Now track equipment and tools between buildings, across several parking lots, and across acres of land, where tags stand up to harsh environmental conditions.
The new, groundbreaking V-Tag GPS™ tag technology, from InfinID, is perfectly suited to the outdoors. These rugged RFID tags are designed to withstand the rigors of wide temperature and humidity fluctuations found in outdoor environments. They’re equipped with beepers that sound off at 75 decibels to pinpoint exact locations of assets. Receive hourly sensor reports, and activate notifications by cell phone or tablet, while you’re on the go with Android or iOS operating systems.
This system is the affordable RFID Location Tracking System (LTS) build for the rugged outdoors. V-Tag GPS™ is affordable, too. Forget about monthly fees and set-up fees, and bothering with installation of Ethernet cables, mounting brackets, power, and transponder antennas.
Add GPS V-Tags™ to your hybrid RFID solution: AssetWorx!™ RFID Tracking Software ties it all together. The location of each tag shows up on a dynamic map of your business facility, indoors and outdoors. Learn about RFID solutions that are on the horizon, ready to herald in a new future to asset tracking: Download our free white paper, “Leveraging IoT and Cloud Manufacturing to Revolutionize Asset Tracking & Audit Prep”. To get in-the-know about our cloud-based solution for your wide-range RFID location tracking needs, contact our RFID consultants at 425-438-2533.
7. Do I need to use a combination of readers, or can just one reader track a large number of high and low value assets at a time?
Use the Internet of Things (IoT) technology to do it all! Just as IoT is available for voice-controlled speakers (from Amazon, Google, and Apple), self-driving cars (from Tesla), and home monitoring apps (Thermostats from the Nest), RFID is now IoT-ready.
ID integration now offers the new Brady® CenSys RFID Reader, the first IoT RF reader that makes RFID asset tracking affordable for office and home use. Your investment is just 15 to 20 cents per paper tag and less than $1000 for the reader. Connect with your Wi-Fi without installation hassles. This easy-to-use cloud-based reader requires no cables or IT knowledge. It’s RFID cloud-based plug-and-play at its simplest.
Program the reader to light up and beep anytime an asset is picked up or moved. Get a text message when movement occurs. Use the mobile app to view the asset’s location at a moment’s notice, and review an asset’s location history. The CenSys RFID Reader is the quickest way to monitor and manage the location of thousands of assets!
Set-up is a breeze. Find out if the Brady® CenSys RFID Reader takes care of your needs. Our RFID consultants are available to answer your questions at 425-438-2533.
8. Which RFID solution is the best fit for my business application?
RFID can be used for anything from tracking tools that are checked out and locating assets for audits to keeping tabs on work orders and determining the status of parts ready to be shipped. The applications for RFID technology are infinite and limited only by your imagination. If you have a tracking problem, we have the RFID solution to fix it.
Consider working with a subject-matter expert, SME, to walk you through. There are a wide range of variables to consider.
Are you performing item-specific (specific part or serial numbers) asset tracking throughout a product lifecycle? We choose between a combination of active, passive, and even hybrid RFID technologies for applications including:
• Smart manufacturing applications—Keep an eye on the location of small parts within a restricted area, while reducing the need for human interaction to supply asset status maintenance status.
• Supply chain applications—Track critical inventory, raw materials, and finished goods.
• Chemical use and storage applications—Track where lubricants and cleaners are received, stored - when they are used, and who used them.
Are you tracking valuable tools and assets indoors, across a warehouse floor? Employ the original V-Tag™ Active RFID System at half the cost of passive solutions and at only $35 per tag. It’s the solution for:
• RFID work order processing—Seeing a work order through receiving production, packaging, and shipping.
• Audit applications—Government parts suppliers and consumer parts manufacturers easily locate assets, tools, & equipment needed for inventory reviews.
• Workflow application—Follow the work in process (WIP) of parts, assets, and tools, fixtures, and jigs in production or undergoing maintenance.
• Storage applications—Track the placements of high-valued assets in storage.
• Office and home applications—Keep a complete inventory of important items at the ready in the event of a loss in a disaster.
• Gallery applications—Fine art is safe from theft when you can track any unauthorized movements.
Are you tracking parts, products, tools and equipment between buildings, across several floors of buildings, between parking lots, and across acreage? V-Tag GPS™ RFID Location Tracking System (LTS) is the solution for:
• Warehouse shipment applications—Track Incoming and outgoing shipments, and monitor delivery and receiving of pallets of materials
• Building, construction, and landscaping applications—Know when equipment is moved from the yard and who moved it.
• Healthcare (hospitals and medical clinics) and pharmaceutical applications—Know where ventilators, wheelchairs, and other mobile equipment can be found throughout your hospital. Keep a ready inventory of medications available at a moment’s need.
• Car lot tracking applications—Locate rental vehicles within and between parking lots.
• Location of parts and tools for aerospace applications—Discover where to find materials across hangars
• Government and military applications—Get the big picture of locations for Item Unique Identification (IUID) for uploading to the FDA or DoD Registry.
• Clubhouse and school applications—Check out sport equipment and monitor its return to avoid loss.
• Chemical tracking applications—Keep drums of hazardous chemicals under close watch by monitoring their movements within restricted areas.
• Port and harbor container applications—Oversee incoming and outgoing shipments awaiting Homeland Security inspection.
Are you interested in cloud-based IoT asset tracking for thousands of items via Wi-Fi? The Brady® CenSys RFID Reader System is the solution for:
• Work order process automation applications—Using next-gen RFID, quickly locate and track orders while you are on-the-go with your mobile device (smartphone, laptop, or tablet).
• Chemical applications—Know the status of chemicals that are about to expire by setting up alarms to notify you through your favored digital device.
9. What is the best way to begin implementing an asset tracking program?
We highly recommend starting with a pilot project or proof of concept project so that you can become familiar with the specific variables that apply to your location, process, and needs.
We recently completed a new white paper that's focused on the benefits of leveraging emerging IoT and cloud manufacturing technologies to revolutionize asset tracking and audit preparations. If you're like many other companies, your biggest question is where to begin.
Download our free paper for a complete overview of how these technologies are improving manufacturing and streamlining production.
10. How do I know that the best RFID solution for my business application will perform properly in my workplace?
Here at ID Integration, we never recommend cookie-cutter solutions. Instead, we’ll help you choose the RFID system, or augment your present system, to fit your specific purpose. Contact our RFID team, and we’ll perform a thorough assessment of your needs and the environment where you will be implementing your RFID system. In this way, we ensure that your customized RFID system performs perfectly for your application.
Do you have more questions about RFID system cost, installation, and implementation? Give us a call at 425-438-2533. We look forward to guiding you in your choice to use RFID technology.