RFID or radio frequency transmission has been in use inside various industrial tools, products and equipment for data collection, tracking of assets and for internal operations. RFID is as old as the 2nd World War as it was used by British Aircraft to find their home base. The simple to use strength and range of RFID signals makes them perfect for use in asset tracking systems.
A typical RFID system is composed of two kinds of systems. The electronic device that sends the radio signal is known as readers and tags or labels with information coded on them (using unique patterns or serial numbers). When the radio sent by the readers hits the unique pattern and sends out a unique reflected signal which is recorded. This simple idea revolutionized the world of tracking of assets and equipment. Check-in / check-outs which used to be such time-consuming endeavors became streamlined and easy. Automation took over the world of asset and inventory tracking with the introduction of RFID tags and other similar Coded-tag technologies. Added to this, the recent inclusions of digital technology such as cloud computing and data analysis have transformed most industrial processes including asset and inventory tracking. Today there are many kinds of RFID tags available which come in various ranges and with multiple capacities for information storage and transmission.
New developments in RFID Technology
Initial RFID technology was based on low-frequency transmission and had a maximum range of only 4 inches. The tags were expensive and immune to other radio interference. Today there are ultra-high frequency RFID tags and readers available that provide ranges of 40 feet or more and have very inexpensive tags. While the UHF tags have been around for a long time, they have seen an explosion in use only in the recent times.
This has been primarily brought about by the retail and manufacturing industries who have seen widespread use of the technology in asset tracking. Inventory tracking initially took entire days and were done manually. With RFID, the goods were simply scanned when brought in for storage and scanned again when they left the inventory. This automated the entire process and provided accurate data to inventory and asset managers. UHF tags are a more inexpensive solution to the typical RFID tags that are used. The tags contain less information and can be tracked for long range of distances. This can allow large scale warehouses and inventory stocks to be managed from a single or limited number of systems.
Today there are also always-on RFID tags and readers that are constantly communicating to provide live update of data. This combined with cloud computing can allow inventory managers to receive updates and manage assets at any time and from any given location. RFID tags can automatically send data to cloud databases which will be uploaded and updated by the software. Such databases can then be accessed via suitable portals on smartphones and laptops. This doesn’t require constant physical supervision and saves time and capital.