RFID tracking has been a leader in the retail, healthcare, and manufacturing industries for the past 20 years. It is relatively more intelligent than traditional manual records. According to research, the global asset tracking market RFID share is estimated to reach $36.3 billion by 2025. Today, RFID asset tracking has become the technology of choice for major companies.

What is RFID Asset Tracking?

RFID asset tracking is a simple and fast method. It uses an automated physical asset management and location process to track physical assets. It works by placing a programmable RFID tag on the associated physical support and will associate the two through an application. The data can program includes anything from item name, quantity, and location.

The app allows workers to get details of tags on items scanned by RFID readers
The app allows workers to get details of tags on items scanned by RFID readers

The RFID reader captures the stored data through the repeated pulsing of the tag’s radio waves. The data obtained is transmitted to the asset tracking system in real-time. Companies can track and manage the data in this system.

The application of RFID effectively improves the ability of enterprises to automate tracking. It also enhances the ability of enterprises to manage their assets. It aims to end the traditional and highly error-prone methods used by companies. These methods include paper and pencil records and Excel spreadsheets.

The History of RFID Tracking

Historically, the original RFID is considered the “Thing” invented by Léon Theremin in 1945. It is a listening device that can retransmit extra audio information. Although it is not an identification tag, its use is like that of passive RFID tags. It is passive and powered by external radio waves. But it is not the first application of RFID tracking invention.

Retail giant Wal-Mart is one example of the use of RFID technology
Retail giant Wal-Mart is one example of the use of RFID technology

In fact, during the Second World War, there was an RFID tracking system. The Allies and Germany used it to track and identify the enemy plane.

In the following decades, RFID technology develops in a friendly way. RFID technology has been designed nicely. A radio wave-based passive transponder with data was manufactured. This device defines as the actual ancestor of modern RFID. In 1990, the first ultra-high frequency (UHF) reader was invented by IBM. In 1996, the first patent for a passive RFID tag with limited interference was developed. 2004, retail giant Wal-Mart increased its R&D funding for RFID projects. Nearly $500 million invests in its RFID program. Until today, RFID tracking using even more widely.

  • Some companies have updated their inventory management technology. They have adopted RFID tags to track and manage assets in the warehouse.The inventory quantities obtained using it can be 100 percent correct.
  • Air Canada uses RFID tags to track food trucks used at airports. The airline saves millions of dollars each year with this tracking technology.
  • The drug tracking sector uses RFID technology to screen and detect counterfeit drugs. According to 2018 statistics, this sector earned up to $778.88 million through this technology.

How RFID Tracking Works?

Typically, a sound RFID tracking system builds from four different tools. RFID tags, antennas, RFID readers, and a computer database with an asset tracking application. They serve different roles in the RFID asset tracking system. RFID tags store data. The antenna recognizes the RFID tag signal, and the RFID reader receives and stores the data from the RFID tag. The asset tracking database receives the data transmitted from the RFID tags and stores and manages it. Their workflow is also reasonably straightforward.

  • RFID tags with Electronic Product Code (EPC) data are attached to the physical asset
  • The antenna performs automatic identification (nearby RFID tags) of the signal.
  • RFID reader connects to the antenna via radio waves and receives and stores data from the tag
  • The RFID reader transmits the received data to the asset tracking database simultaneously.
  • Finally, the company can manage the received data in the asset tracking database.
RFID readers receive data transmitted by tags to achieve RFID tracking of inventory
RFID readers receive data transmitted by tags to achieve RFID tracking of inventory

While creating an RFID tracking system is relatively simple, many considerations exist. In particular, you need to consider different factors when selecting hardware. These include production environment, usage, and manufacturing costs.

Which RFID Labels can Use for Asset Tracking?

Most of the RFID labels on the market can use for asset tracking. It would be best if you chose the correct RFID label based on the physical asset and how the RFID label works. RFID tags divide into active, passive, and semi-passive forms.

The active RFID tag is the active form. It has a power source inside it that can continuously energize. It can actively send signals. It tracks assets in real-time—for example, the tracking and tolling of moving vehicles. Depending on the frequency at which the tag operates, it can have a communication range of up to 150 meters. Since it has a power source inside it, it is generally more expensive than passive RFID tags.

A passive tag is passive. It has no internal power source and relies on the RFID reader to “send” energy. It can only passively receive signals. It was highly sought for tracking inventory, supply chain management, and access control. It can receive alerts in a smaller range than active RFID tags. It has a signal range of only 5 meters. It is smaller, lighter, and cheaper because it has no batteries. It has a longer lifetime than active RFID tags.

The semi passive RFID tag is semi-passive in shape. It has a more small battery than a passive tag. The range of data it can read is smaller compared to active RFID tags. It can only use very close to the RFID reader. It operates in particular temperature-controlled transportation and condition monitoring environments. It runs more functions because it contains a battery inside. It can be tracked and used as a sensor in real-time. Compared with the other two, it is relatively moderately priced. But the features are also relatively few.

Earlier RFID tags have relatively more disadvantages. For example, it can not use in extreme temperatures, chemical contamination, and other environments. But with the development of RFID technology, people have long overcome these problems. Now many tags can work in those harsh environments. So how to choose the correct RFID tag? I think you can think of several aspects. These aspects can be the environment in which the product location, your data requirements, and the size of the items you need to tag.

Active vs Passive RFID Tag Tracking and Positioning Differences

Usually, both active and passive RFID tags can help companies manage their inventory better. They can both keep track of inventory. They can prevent thieves from entering and stealing, employees from misplacing merchandise, etc.
If your budget is relatively high, you can choose to buy active RFID tags. It is because it is more potent than passive RFID tags. It can provide real-time inventory information for businesses. Active RFID tags and real-time information systems (RTLS) complement each other. They can use it together. It also shows that you can better control your warehouse inventory data. If you are a startup or have a limited budget, passive RFID tags are the best choice because they are equally effective and need a lower budget.

Examples of RFID Asset Tracking in Various Industries

RFID Tracking for Cold Chain Management

The staff is collecting data on fresh food for RFID tracking
The staff is collecting data on fresh food for RFID tracking

Some unique supplies must go through notable routes in the logistics and transportation industry. Examples of these special items are fresh and processed foods and medical supplies. They must all be transported to their designated destinations through the cold chain.

In the cold chain, transportation links must be great to keep the food fresh or other products effective. In particular, operators must track the real-time temperature during transport at all times. Too high or too low temperatures can hugely impact the product.

RFID asset tracking allows operators to keep track of temperatures at all stages of the supply chain in real-time. The product is always maintained at a specific temperature range for transport and storage. It guarantees that products keep a particular temperature range for transportation and storage. The RFID tracking system will automatically send an alert even in an accident. It will promptly notify the operator to intervene in the vehicle.

RFID Tracking for the Healthcare Industry

RFID tracking has a wide range of applications in the healthcare industry
RFID tracking has a wide range of applications in the healthcare industry

The healthcare industry has adopted RFID since 2004. At that time, RFID tags using more for daily workflow and hospital inventory management. After years of development, RFID asset tracking has been broad uses in the healthcare industry. In particular, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in 2020, RFID asset tracking has played an essential role in it. It provides excellent convenience for hospitals and other medical institutions. The focus is highlighted in the following areas.

  • It offers excellent comfort to hospitals and other medical institutions.
  • It is demonstrated by its real-time ability to check and track personal protective equipment (PPE) inventory.
  • It can follow the course of blood plasma used in vaccine trials.
  • It ensures that hospital staff follows hand washing protocols when cleaning their hands.

RFID tracking technology meets most healthcare facilities’ daily work and inventory management requirements.

RFID in Manufacturing Automation

Staff implement RFID tracking by embedding tags into car parts
Staff implement RFID tracking by embedding tags into car parts

RFID tracking can apply to several aspects of the automotive manufacturing industry. It can track and identify the vehicle body in production. RFID tags are affixed or embedded in parts of the fuselage, bumpers, and tires during production, and the two are linked. The reader can upload the received data to a designated database through the software. Operators can view and manage the information in the database at any time.

It realizes the functions of enterprise inventory and post-logistics transportation tracking. It implements the enterprise inventory and latest logistics and transportation tracking functions. RFID tracking can effectively help companies reduce unnecessary losses and prevent inventory losses. In the future, RFID also has the potential to be used throughout the automotive supply chain.

RFID Tracking for Nuclear Applications

RFID system for nuclear material transportation and storage package management

RFID tracking is a technology that uses radio waves to identify and track objects. In nuclear applications, RFID tracking can be used to monitor and control the movement of radioactive materials. This helps to improve safety and security measures in the nuclear industry. RFID tags can be attached to containers of radioactive material, and their movements can be tracked in real-time using RFID readers. This technology can also be used to monitor the condition of equipment and track maintenance schedules. Overall, RFID tracking is a useful tool in the nuclear industry for improving safety and efficiency.

Benefits of RFID in Livestock Management

People are using these animal tags to track all aspects of their livestock
People are using these animal tags to track all aspects of their livestock

Livestock tracking and identifying livestock is essential in food safety traceability management. The link is that livestock raised by captive breeding is fitted with an RFID tag at birth (it is usually done as an ear tag or an anklet). The breeder will record everything about the animal as it grows. The breeder records information by using a handheld RFID reader device. He needs to constantly capture or store important information during the growth of livestock.

While circulating livestock to the market, the relevant information will be read and recorded by other staff. If an epidemic event occurs, the source of the epidemic can trace by scanning the specific livestock’s RFID tag. RFID tracking guarantees the safety of the food.

RFID tracking has a wide range of uses. It uses items or animals as the tracking target and provides companies with real-time location or other related data. RFID is an evolutionary product of the new era, and I believe that it will become better and better in the future.

Video Source: Nuclear Engineering Division

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