RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. It’s a technology that uses radio waves to identify and track tags (or transponders) that are attached to objects, individuals, or animals. The tags have a chip inlay that stores information. An RFID reader allows for the automatic identification of the information stored on the chip. There are two main types of RFID tags:
- Active RFID tags actively broadcast a signal to nearby RFID readers and require a power source. Typically that power source is a small battery.
- Passive RFID tags, on the other hand, require no power source. They only broadcast a signal when they are activated by a nearby RFID reader.
RFID tags are used in many different applications and industries (commonly retail stores and supply chain management), but there are many uses of RFID technology for everyday life and in various industries. Here’s an overview of some of the top ways organizations use RFID technology for real-time data collection, analysis, and decision-making.
Retailers can use RFID tags to track items, employees, and inventory.
Managing inventory is one of the ideal uses for passive RFID tags. Retail stores have large quantities of items to track. RFID technology means that managers can be aware of what products are arriving at the store, when they are due, when the products arrive, and when they’re moved onto the shelves.
E-commerce giants are practically built on RFID technology. Since they operate only with warehouses and distribution, tracking products is essential to know where all items are.
One advantage of using an RFID system for customer tracking is that it helps prevent theft by keeping tabs on everyone who enters or leaves the store with merchandise in their possession.
Healthcare and Patient Identification
RFID is used in hospitals to track patients and their medical records, as well as the location of supplies and equipment. An RFID system can be designed to monitor almost everything: food deliveries, surgical tools and supplies, pharmaceuticals, patient rooms, and even the waste stream.
RFID tags can be used in healthcare facilities to monitor patients that are at risk of wandering, such as those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The tags immediately alert staff if the patient passes beyond a certain point. In hospitals, tags are used to match newborns with their mothers.
Logistics and Supply Chain Management
RFID is used for tracking and tracing products in various industries. With automation becoming more commonplace in modern warehouses, RFID enables humans to keep an eye on the movement of goods from one facility, or part of a facility, to another. The most common use cases include:
- Inventory tracking and management
- Logistics & supply chain management
- Tracking pallets, containers, trucks, and container shipments
- Tracking shipments and deliveries of goods
- Reusable asset management, such as pallets, totes, and containers
Agriculture and Livestock Management
RFID is also used in agriculture and livestock management. It allows for the tracking of cattle and other livestock, as well as the monitoring of feed and water usage. The technology can track animal health, track animals’ movement, and identify animal births and deaths.
Manufacturing and Production
RFID can be used to track materials and parts in the manufacturing process, known as asset tracking. These tags are affixed to products. As they move through the production line, RFID readers record their location so that you know where everything is at all times.
RFID also tracks assembly lines in the factory. If you have one of these systems installed, your employees can scan inventory as they work on it without needing a physical tag — just an RFID-enabled fixed reader within range.
Since RFID tags can be encoded with information, they can hold valuable information about pieces of expensive equipment, such as the serial number, date of installation, and maintenance record.
Access Control and Events Management
Access control is the ability to control who has access to a property. It’s most commonly used in places like offices, schools, hospitals, and other facilities where large groups of people come together regularly. Normally, these spaces involve several different areas that need controlled access for safety reasons.
Since RFID tags can carry information, different individuals or staff can carry tags that provide different levels of authentication. The provider of RFID-enabled access can not only control which persons can access certain spaces, but also know who is going to what areas — and at what time they are going there.
Libraries and Museums
Libraries and museums are two places where RFID is used to track items. In a library, an RFID tag can be attached to a book or other item that is borrowed by a customer. The location of the item is tracked so that it can be returned when the borrower has finished with it.
In museums, RFID tags monitor the location of valuable items to prevent theft or damage from vandals. They can also be employed to provide additional information about a piece of art, heightening the visitor’s user experience.
If you’ve ever used a tap-to-pay system at the checkout, then you’ve used RFID technology. However, this is a very specific type of RFID technology known as near-field communication or NFC. The technology allows customers to simply wave or tap a card for contactless payment at a point-of-sale kiosk. RFID credit cards are very secure since the RFID reader creates a new password for every transaction.
RFID Solutions for Your Business
The use of RFID technology advances by the day, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s easy to implement and can be used for many applications across various industries. Plus, it’s not limited to line of sight applications, as is the case with barcodes with a limited read range of about three feet.