Implementing RFID

WHAT IS THE VALUE PROPOSITION OF RFID?

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.

WHAT DO I NEED TO INTEGRATE A COMPLETE RFID SYSTEM?

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.

CAN YOU COMBINE RFID WITH CARD IMAGING TO CREATE SMART CARDS?

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.

WHAT ARE THE “PAIN POINTS” OF IMPLEMENTING AN RFID SOLUTION?

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.

WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR THE NETWORK WHEN IMPLEMENTING RFID?

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.

Source: www.Zebra.com

RFID Pilots

HOW SHOULD YOU PLAN TO PILOT THE PRODUCTION ENVIRONMENT?

A number of early adopters have used the strategy of emulating their barcoding systems as a first step to understanding the physical or mechanical aspects of RFID. This is a first step to understanding how tags and readers work, antenna/reader placement, and how one should physically lay out an RFID system.

The following steps provide a good approach to an RFID implementation:

  • Assemble a cross-functional RFID implementation team
  • Assign an executive sponsor
  • Identify the business problem(s) to be addressed
  • Read, learn, communicate, educate
  • Define project scope
  • Identify key area(s) to target with pilot implementation
  • Map existing processes that will be affected
  • Identify key targets for process improvement or effectiveness of meeting compliance initiatives
  • Prove out a few key learning outcomes
  • Assess the ability of the solution to be scaled and deployed
  • Pick product(s) to be tracked
  • Characterize product readability with various tag technologies
  • Research and interview key technology suppliers; this should include tags, readers, middleware, WMS, ERP product offerings
  • Determine whether integration will be internal or outsourced
  • Interview potential systems integrators
  • Purchase sample equipment for internal evaluation
  • Define the use of RFID data, and how you will use new RFID data in a familiar manner
  • Define the pilot test, including site, product, methodology, and criteria for judging success
  • Commence the pilot
  • Monitor the progress. Be prepared to modify the pilot implementation in order to achieve optimized results and be prepared to deal with the unexpected
  • Watch for ways to change current processes during the course of the pilot
  • Review results, share lessons learned
  • Define improvements for next phase/pilot
  • Remember that RFID is the enabler, not the total solution

We cannot stress enough, though, that each pilot will end up being a highly individualized experience based on your products, environment, systems capabilities, etc. So the information above represents one basic approach that can be considered. Of key importance is to use RFID suppliers with solid RFID track records whose products and services have been successfully used in real-world implementations. The experience of these “trusted advisors” can make or break the success of your pilot.

Source: www.Zebra.com

RFID Tags Characteristics

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN POWERED AND NON-POWERED RFID CHIPS (ACTIVE AND PASSIVE)?

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.

HOW MUCH MEMORY CAN A TAG HAVE?

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.

HOW IS THE INFORMATION STORED ON AN RFID TAG?

The majority of passive tags use EEPROM memory. Some are laser programmed at the silicon level. Many active tags utilize battery-backed SRAM.

HOW CAN A PASSIVE RFID TAG ACCOMMODATE ALL THE DATA DESIRED?

It depends on the amount of data required. Some passive tags can store up to 1 kilobyte of data on the tag.

WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FREQUENCY AND TAG/ANTENNA DISTANCE?

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.

WHAT ARE THE SMALLEST TAGS/LABELS AVAILABLE TODAY?

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.

HOW RESISTANT ARE THE TAGS TO TEMPERATURE?

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.

CAN THE UHF TAG WITHSTAND HIGH-PRESSURE PASTEURIZATION?

This would depend on the tag’s construction. Most moulded tags can withstand fairly high pressure.

Source: www.Zebra.com