RFID technology has many applications for today’s businesses – but how does it apply to your business? As a CIO or other technology executive, you may be wondering how it can give you an edge over your competitors. Is it a useful technology, or just a lot of hype?
What Exactly is RFID Technology?
RFID is a technology that most people have used, even if they don’t know what it is. The most common application that the average person knows about is security.
For example, if you have gone to a department store and had a clerk remove a plastic security tag from your clothes, you have used simple RFID tech. This same rudimentary technology is also what is used at the local library to make sure books are properly checked out. If a book is not checked out, an alarm will go off at the door.
RFID stands for “Radio Frequency Identification.” The technology has its roots in the invention of radar. In fact, some tech historians have dated its emergence back to World War II.
Initial RFID technology simply involved a small transmitter that would alert radar as to the presence of an object, such as a plane. This so aircraft could be identified as “friend or foe.”
Advanced RFID technology has had a bit of a rocky start with retail. Walmart started an initiative in 2003 to apply the technology to their supply chain management, but the data was simply not detailed enough.
Now, the advanced technology provides that crucially needed data and it works better too. It comprises the following:
1. Encoded Information
If you want to fully benefit from RFID, you need data. The new RFID technology uses encoded information that is written to the RFID chip or tag embedded in the product or packaging.
2. RFID Readers
RFID readers “scan” the information on the technology’s chips and send that data to a program to be tracked or monitored. “Scan” is not quite the right word, as these chips do not need to be visually scanned in the way barcodes do. But the idea is similar in that the chip is “read” via the radio frequency.
3. Passive vs. Active
RFID chips or tags come in two basic versions: a passive or active chip or tag. A passive chip does not have its own power source. It only becomes active in the proximity of a reader that sends it energy to “wake up.” An active RFID tag or chip has its own battery or power source.
Example Applications of RFID Technology
While RFID still has a strong association with bulky shoplifting deterrents on store clothes, its chips today can be tiny and as thin as a sheet of paper. This means they can be used for a variety of applications that would not have been possible with past technologies. These include:
1. Printing Applications
An RFID printer can add information to a wafer-thin tag that can be incorporated into labels. This is the next generation of the ubiquitous store tag. These printers give manufacturers and retailers a simple way to manage their inventory and better handle supply chain management.
2. Medicine and Pharma
RFID technology has many important applications in medicine and the pharmaceutical industry. Tracking patient information, as well as medicines, is one important way it improves modern medicine. For specialty medications, which are made in smaller batches and often have very short shelf lives, RFID tracking is critical and potentially life-saving.
RFID technology is already being implemented in ingenious ways in the aerospace industry. One application is to prevent terrorism through the use of RFID chips embedded in airplane kitchen utensils.
Tags are attached to knives that are kept in smart RFID-enabled cabinets. If knives go missing, the system can provide an alert. Additionally, the system can track who uses the knives and when.
RFID manufacturing technologies are evolving quickly to reduce costs through innovations that improve processes, speed shipping, and enhance logistics. For example, the technology is helping track equipment maintenance information for dangerous oil exploration sites. Rather than manually keeping up with the status of drill pipes, it can manage this information much more quickly and safely.
Implementing RFID Technology in Your Business
In many ways, we are just seeing the start of the RFID revolution in business. DME can help your company find ways to creatively apply RFID concepts and tools to solve common business problems. Contact DME to learn how we help companies grow.