Maybe your company could use RFID tags


POSTED: Monday, December 01, 2008

RFID, or “;radio frequency identification,”; is becoming one of the most popular technologies to be deployed in the past few years. While the basic technology has been around for years, RFID still has tremendous potential for future applications.

By now, most folks know that the main component in RFID is a microchip outfitted with a tiny antenna, known as a “;tag.”; This tag communicates information to a reader, which relays it to a computer system, which in turn performs a task. Pet identification, security badges, and toll road passes are all examples of RFID in widespread use today.

Advances in RFID today are coming on several fronts. First, tags are becoming smarter. Just as computers became better with advanced hardware, so, too, are RFID tags. Tags are being equipped with better circuitry and more memory. This allows for more data storage and better data manipulation.

Additionally, longer lasting batteries reduce the cost of tags, and “;hardened”; tags can handle extreme environments. Both of these improvements increase the reusability of a tag.

Tag antennas are also improving. More advanced antenna allow tags to be scanned from a much further distance than the original tags, which were limited to a few feet at best. So-called “;active”; tags, which have their own power supply, can be equipped with stronger antenna that can be read from hundreds of yards. This can be very handy when reading multiple tags at once, in a warehouse full of goods, for example.

While RFID has been around for more than 30 years now, it hasn't been ready for wide-spread use until recently. Interoperability standards have been established only in the past few years. Prior to such standards, RFID implementations were largely proprietary and closed. That is, organizations could use RFID internally, but extending that technology beyond their own walls would be problematic, if not impossible.

Nowadays, however, different organizations can use standards-based tags and readers to share information. This could be beneficial through a supply chain, for example. One tag can easily be tracked from source through shipper to destination. Information gathered along the way—such as wait times or temperature—can also be tracked.

New features are constantly being added to tags. Software can usually be developed for readers by a competent developer. The possibilities are limitless.

Although standards have been adapted, many questions need to be resolved to successfully implement an RFID-based solution. For example, what type of tags should be used? Active tags are much more powerful, but that power carries an expense. Does information need to be written to the tag during the process? What kind of readers should be implemented? How many readers will be necessary?

Such questions, however, are typical of any technology implementation. Organizations should strongly consider taking advantage of the benefits of RFID.