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Source: Zebra Technologies Youtube
Source: Zebra Technologies Youtube
One really needs to look at this on a case-by-case basis to get at specific benefits for, say, a particular industry. And that is why there is a need for committing to a pilot to create a robust business case for utilising this technology. But clearly, automated reporting of real-time, accurate data can provide tremendous advantages in all kinds of industries from express parcel delivery, to healthcare and life science. In addition, RFID’s ability to support asset tracking is of great interest to a number of industries.
The basic but critical elements of an RFID system include tags, printer/encoders, reader/encoders (interrogators), sensors, middleware (for data-filtering and data-flow management), and, if needed, some software adaptations to enable legacy applications and systems to receive RFID-generated data.
RFID adopters should seek out companies that have had IMPLEMENTED an RFID System as they can greatly assist and expedite RFID adopters through their pilots and early adoption learning curves.
Yes. Cards are just a form factor. “Smart cards,” as they are called, are used in a variety of applications, including security/access control, employee identification, contact-less payment systems, and customer loyalty programmes, among others. Zebra provides a wide variety of card printers.
The biggest “pain point” with RFID is its potential to change your existing business processes because ultimately, you can collect much more relevant data and have it in real-time. RFID is an enabling technology. You can’t extract all the benefits of this technology without fundamental business changes, system changes, and data changes.
The networks that exist today to support barcodes will more than likely be able to support RFID. RFID and barcodes are both technologies that deliver data to a host system; however, there is a main point of difference. barcodes utilize one-way serialized and periodic data. RFID is two-way. Data passes from the tag to the reader/encoder and then can pass back again, depending on the application or need to update the tag. Data can be delivered from multiple tags effectively in parallel, and by virtue of not requiring human intervention can provide more data in real-time.
There needs to be bridge software, or middleware, incorporated into the overall architecture to prevent the amount of data that hits the system at the same time from overwhelming it. So RFID requires data filtering and data-flow management, to turn parallel, two-way data into the serialized data that a legacy system can handle. These functions can be also partially handled by the printer/encoders and readers.
Another consideration is the need for more bandwidth in the network depending on how much RFID increases the overall amount of data flow within the network. If existing networks can handle the additional traffic with the speed required by the applications, they should not necessarily need to be upgraded or be any more complex.
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is a technology with a big future. In essence, it is a simple technology that uses electromagnetic fields to track tags attached to objects. However, it is the information stored in those tags and the applications it can be used for that are transforming everything from health care to retail. To illustrate this, we’ll look at six ways RFID is reshaping the future.
RFID is set to revolutionise the way we try clothes on in fitting rooms. The new technology equips the cubicles with interactive RFID kiosks that scan the clothing and give the shopper access to helpful information. They can find out more about the item they are trying, check to see if different sizes or colours are in stock, find similar items or search for matching accessories.
The outcomes for retailers who are already using this technology have been very positive. Helping customers find the right outfit has led to increased sales and improved customer satisfaction. At the same time, the system’s ability to receive customer feedback has been instrumental in allowing stores to understand more about what their customers want to wear.
Disney World, Florida, has been reaping the benefits of RFID by replacing paper tickets with RFID plastic smart cards. As visitors no longer need their tickets to be swiped by an assistant when lining up for a ride, they have shortened queueing times, the one thing everyone hates about theme parks, and reduced the number of staff required.
In addition to happier customers, Disney has also benefitted from the valuable data that the ticket chips provide. They now have a much clearer understanding of how different visitors move around the theme park, which attractions they go to, where they eat and drink, and how long they stay. This has helped them to better manage the park and its attractions so that it offers an even more enjoyable customer experience.
What’s particularly exciting about smart card RFID technology is that it is readily available to all businesses. Manufacturers, like Universal Smart Cards, not only supply smart cards but also smart wristbands and keyrings.
A range of companies now employ RFID reading drones in their warehouse to undertake the stock taking work once done by staff. The drones, which can be programmed to access all parts of the warehouse, have many advantages over their human counterparts. They are quicker at moving around, can take data readings instantaneously and are not at risk from falling off ladders.
To increase the safety of humans working beneath them, scientists at MIT have now developed a solution called Rfly which enables much smaller and safer drones, made of plastic, to be used. Instead of having a scanner attached to them, Rfly drones are fitted with a small relay that sends signals between remote RFID labels and the readers.
RFID embedded chips are now being used by many casinos. One of their main advantages is to prevent theft. When an armed gunman recently stole $1,5 million worth of chips from the Bellagio in Las Vegas, he didn’t realise that each chip was individually tagged. Should he ever try to cash them in, they’ll be scanned first and he’ll be put behind bars. The use of tagged chips means all the Bellagio actually lost were a few pieces of plastic.
However, RFID chips do more than prevent theft. They let the casino know how much gamblers spend and what they gamble on. This provides information to help the casino keep them gambling for longer; for example, they might provide the customer with free drinks just when it looks like they’re about to walk away from the table.
Losing a golf ball in the rough is par for the course, most amateur golfers lose around four balls each round. However, RFID technology might be about to make that a thing of the past. Dutch company, Prazza, has now created a ball that can be scanned and found within a range of 100 yards. It means there’ll be much less time wasted on the fairway and a little extra cash spare to get a round in on the 19th hole.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, golfing giant, Calloway, is now developing RFID smart balls that can give players vital information about their playing style. A chip in the club activates the ball on contact and readers embedded in the course collect data about where it lands. This provides information about the golfer’s swing technique, aim accuracy, and distance. The hope is that these balls can give more accurate information to improve technique and assist with club customisation.
Hand hygiene is essential in hospitals to prevent the spread of infections such as MRSA. Using RFID, it is now possible to provide all hospital staff with tagged wristbands that can monitor the frequency of their hand washing regime. By putting a reader next to a tap or an antibacterial gel dispenser, it can log where and when they wash their hands.
RFID technology is making its mark in all sectors, in this post alone we’ve seen examples from retail, sports, entertainment and healthcare. Whilst the technology is quite simple, what is impressive is the innovative ways that people are finding to use it and the other technologies to which it can be applied. One only has to wonder what great things are to come in the future and how people and industry can benefit from them.
Active tags have a battery on the tag. The battery may be used to boost read/write range, allow for larger memories, or add sensory and data logging capabilities, such as temperature sensing. Passive tags receive all of their energy from the read/write device that “powers” the tag to allow it to transmit data.
Passive tags (non-battery) typically have anywhere from 64 bits to 1 kilobyte of non-volatile memory. Active tags, such as those used in military tags, have memories as high as 128 kilobytes.
The majority of passive tags use EEPROM memory. Some are laser programmed at the silicon level. Many active tags utilize battery-backed SRAM.
It depends on the amount of data required. Some passive tags can store up to 1 kilobyte of data on the tag.
Passive high-frequency (HF, typically 13 MHz) and low-frequency (LF, around 125 kHz) systems typically has a read range of less than 3 feet. With HF and LF tag systems, the size of a tag (and hence area of antenna) will have a significant impact on read range. Some applications limit the read range to around 6 to 8 inches. Some newer technologies (UHF systems) do have a longer read range that can be 20 to 25 feet, but these systems are intended for pallets and shipping crates. Read range depends on many factors, but the size of the transponder’s antenna, the size of the reader’s antenna, and its output power are the main factors to consider. With battery-less transponders, long read range and small size are mutually exclusive.
The smallest smart label form factors are about 1 inch by 1 inch (25 mm square). Specialized RFID tags have been available in sizes as small as 2 mm by 2 mm.
The typical operating temperature for an RFID inlay (tag) found in most smart labels is between -25°C and 70°C. Storage temperature typically is between -40° C and 85°C. These values will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and will depend on the tag’s components. There are industrial tags available in the market that will withstand temperatures as high as 250°C, which could, for example, stand up to heat sterilization requirements for medical items.
This would depend on the tag’s construction. Most moulded tags can withstand fairly high pressure.