Asset Tracking with RFID: A Brief Introduction
Radio frequency identification, or RFID, is now used across many industries and numerous applications, including asset tracking with RFID, to identify and track valuable assets and equipment.
In manufacturing, it’s used to track tools and equipment as well as materials, finished goods, and shipments.
In healthcare, hospitals are adopting RFID to track high-value equipment such as beds, defibrillators, and IV pumps. Some are even using it to identify and track admitted patients for better patient safety.
In education, RFID is being used to track books, IT equipment, and other school property. RFID-enabled ID cards are also being used to control access to school entrances and verify the identities and locations of students and staff in the event of an emergency.
But what exactly is RFID, what are its benefits, and what are the components of a functioning system? We have the answers in this quick introduction.
How Asset Tracking with RFID Works
Ultimately, RFID is about automating data collection, so assets and even individuals can be located and tracked automatically for everything from supply chain and asset management to facility security and emergency planning.
To achieve this, RFID uses wireless radio signals to transfer data and automatically identify and track assets equipped with an RFID tag.
Each RFID tag contains a radio chip and dual antennas to receive and transmit data. The tag also stores a unique identifying number, which is matched up with the same number in an electronic database to verify and identify the tagged asset.
The database also contains all other information and details about the asset, which can be queried or updated by using a simple software application.
RFID offers significant advantages over using barcodes to identify and track assets. This is because RFID doesn’t require line-of-sight or item-by-item scanning of barcodes.
Instead of searching for and scanning barcoded items individually, RFID allows multiple tagged items to be located, identified, and tracked automatically and remotely.
In fact, in many applications, RFID uses ultra-high frequency (UHF) radio waves, which allow tag data to be transmitted from a range of near-contact to over 320 feet.
In addition, fixed RFID systems can be created to track tagged items or individuals automatically as they enter or leave a particular location or move through a facility.
Components of an RFID System
An RFID system starts with an RFID-enabled printer, which encodes the RFID chip inlay on a smart label. The label also includes barcodes and alphanumeric characters as needed or desired.
RFID readers are used to transmit and receive data from RFID tags. They come in two types:
- Handheld RFID – Handheld RFID readers, like the Zebra MC3330R – are small, handheld devices that are often both scanning devices and mobile computers. They can be carried around to scan items, but they also run the software applications needed to connect with a database and retrieve and update information about each tagged asset.
- Fixed RFID – Fixed RFID readers are used to track assets automatically as they move into or out of specified areas. They’re placed above doorways or in other strategic locations.
An RFID antenna uses power from the RFID reader to create a field that allows the reader to transmit and receive signals from RFID tags. They come in varying types, sizes, and levels of ruggedness depending on whether they’ll be used indoors or outdoors.
Looking to Explore RFID Further?
At Strategic Systems & Technology Corporation, we’re experts in RFID systems design, serving more than 3,000 customers across North America. And we offer a proven method to systematically determine if RFID is right for your company, both technologically and from a business standpoint.
Contact us now for a free, no obligation RFID assessment.