As the popularity of RFID technology has grown over the past few years, so has its reputation as a highly versatile method of adding business value. RFID readers can be integrated with other tracking systems, such as barcodes, to create a truly customized solution. While most people who are familiar with RFID technology probably associate it with inventory tracking and fixed asset tracking, RFID is being used in many other creative ways. Here are just 16 of the different ways that RFID is being developed and used to improve business and organizational processes.
1. Reusable Assets
Why invest in reusable assets, only to lose or mismanage them? RFID technology can help companies get the most use out of their reusable assets by keeping track of where they are, when they are scheduled for maintenance, and what condition they’re in. With RFID, shipping containers, pallets and even small plastic totes can be tracked and managed easily using RFID asset tracking software.
2. Yard/Lot Management
RFID is increasingly being used with yard management systems to track the comings and goings of vehicles and trailers in warehouse, manufacturing, and distribution environments. RFID technology can be used to track these things in real time, enabling companies to manage the flow of goods and maximize efficiency.
3. Work In Process
Some products are tracked during assembly through the manufacturing process — from parts to completion. RFID tracking can be used to set up checkpoints that register when parts or products reach certain steps along the production process. Affix an RFID label or tag to the items you need to track, and position your readers at critical points in the process to record the items as they pass by.
4. Luggage Tracking
One of the biggest downsides to cruises and air travel can be anxiety over the location of your checked luggage. RFID technology is helping airline companies and cruise lines improve their luggage transport operations. RFID tags are affixed to luggage, and strategically positioned readers scan tags as they go through checkpoints. This makes it possible to track the location of luggage from check-in to pick-up.
5. Tool Tracking
Hand tools like drills, grinders, and saws may be relatively small or inexpensive, but not having them at hand where and when they’re needed can have a big impact on manufacturing and construction operations. Companies that deal with tools numbering in the thousands are faced with a difficult task. How, on a large scale, can they manage the inventory of small, hand-held assets that are vulnerable to loss or theft? RFID offers multiple possibilities. RFID tags can be used to limit and track employee access to tool rooms by ensuring only the employees with proper credentials can access them. RFID tags can also be affixed to tools, with readers positioned at doorways to track these tools as they come and go.
6. Race Timing
If you’ve participated in any competitive running event in the past few years, you might have noticed the chip on the back of your race number. (You know, the one they strongly warn you not to remove?) That chip allows race administrators to keep track of your progress along the course, as well as your finish time. Readers set up at various checkpoints along the race route scan your tag as you pass. It associates a timestamp with the exact moment you cross the start line, and captures the precise moment you cross the finish line.
7. People Tracking
Science fiction scenarios might come to mind with this term. However, there are very practical — and far less invasive than conspiracy theorists would have you believe — applications for using RFID to track people. For instance, people tracking via RFID-enabled employee badges enables managers to automatically keep track of attendance at critical training classes to ensure that all employees are present. It can also identify any employees who aren’t present or who may leave the room before the presentation is finished. Tracking technology can also make it possible to monitor and limit employee access to secure areas.
8. Document Tracking
Keeping track of critical documents can be challenging, especially in secure environments where large volumes of confidential records are stored in hard copy (think law offices, accounting firms, healthcare facilities, and so on). RFID can be used to track physical records as they move through a building. It can also provide a history of who last checked out a document and where it was last read.
RFID can be used to manage controlled access to parking garages. Authorized drivers can place an RFID-enabled tag or sticker on their windshields. As they approach the entrance to the parking area, a fixed reader triggers the parking system to automatically raise the arm and grant access. If a driver’s tag is expired or payment is past due, they will be denied entrance. Or, if an attendant is present, an indicator light is triggered at the entrance, and the attendant can see who they are and what the problem is.
10. Self Check-In with RFID Technology
The hotel check-in process can be frustrating, especially when you arrive after a long day of travel. What if RFID could help you skip this step? Some hotels are working toward a system that would do just that. Frequent customers would receive an RFID-enabled card that would link through the property’s guest loyalty system to information such as identification, payment details, room preferences and more. Prior to arrival, the guest would receive a notification containing a confirmation of their reservation and their room information. Upon arrival, they could simply scan their card at a kiosk to activate their card’s ability to act as their room key, and head straight to their room.
11. Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) Protection
For manufacturers of high-end specialty products, the value of their products in the marketplace is critical. They need to know where their products are being sold, how retailers are marketing them, and what kind of mark-ups are associated with their sales. In the age of e-commerce, unauthorized retailers can pose a particular challenge. Some companies are using RFID technology to track their products through distribution channels and trace where product leaks are occurring. By affixing RFID tags to their products at the manufacturing level, they can establish point of origin and distribution chain of custody trails. When products are found being offered by unauthorized retailers, companies can determine from the RFID tag where these leaks occur.
12. Infectious Disease Control
In hospital or lab environments where something as simple as hand washing can be a matter or life or death, RFID technology can be used to ensure that employees are maintaining compliance with hand-washing policies. With RFID-enabled employee badges and readers stationed at sinks and hand-sanitizing stations, you can automatically generate a history of an employee’s hand-washing activities — even down to the amount of time they’ve spent at a station. To prevent or contain the spread of infectious disease or contamination, RFID technology can also be used to determine who came into contact with high-risk patients or situations and provide a location history of where they went next.
13. Student Tracking – School Bus
School administrators and bus drivers have the heavy responsibility of overseeing the logistics and safety of hundreds of kids, twice a day, five days a week. Statistically, this is a tough task. But many school districts are turning to RFID to ensure that every child gets home safely. RFID-enabled tags are given to children (affixed to their backpacks, worn on their wrists, or carried on a lanyard around their necks). Readers positioned at bus doors track when and where students get on and off, capturing their information and sending it to a central database. This ensures last known location details can be referenced quickly in case of an emergency.
14. Waste Disposal
Did you know that in some cities, more than 40 percent of garbage is comprised of recyclable materials? RFID technology could change that. Some garbage collection companies are putting RFID tags on garbage and recycle containers. As the containers are tipped up and emptied, readers on the trucks read the tags and capture the address associated with them. Companies can then analyze this information to identify households that are not recycling, gather data on the areas that are lagging behind in recycling, and concentrate education efforts and resources in the neighborhoods that aren’t recycling. This enables garbage collection companies to increase sales of recyclables and save on the cost of dumping trash into a landfill.
15. Event Management
Convention halls, concert venues and theme parks can all use RFID technology to optimize the way they manage events. Attendees are issued RFID-enabled wristbands that, when tapped to a reader, grant them access to an event or even to particular areas within a venue. The reader can capture and pass along data about each attendee that managers can later use to track who attended where, and determine which activities are most popular at different times. This information enables managers to track attendance, gather statistical data, and even follow up with attendees to get feedback on the event.
16. Field Asset Tracking
Since its beginning, RFID technology has been used to track items within a specific location — inventory in a warehouse, components through the manufacturing process, and even the comings and goings of assets throughout a building. But relatively recent advancements in RFID technology have made it more versatile, with a much broader scope of automated possibilities. Web-based software and wifi-enabled devices make it possible for field representatives to capture and transmit data from tags located on assets located just about anywhere. Using an RFID-enabled mobile computer, field techs can quickly and efficiently capture data regarding the location, condition and maintenance schedule of field assets. Depending on the capacity of the RFID tag used, they can even encode last maintenance date details to the chip, giving field service reps access to critical asset history information without needing to be connected to a back-end database.
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