RFID stands for Radio-Frequency Identification – which is a small tag like electronic devices that consist of a small chip and an antenna. The chip is capable of carrying 2,000 bytes of data or less.
The RFID device serves the same purpose as a barcode or magnetic strip on the back of a credit/debit card; it provides a unique identifier for that object. Just as a barcode or magnetic strip must be scanned to get the information, the RFID device must also be scanned to receive the identifying information.
How does RFID work?
A RFID system has three parts:
- A scanning antenna;
- A transceiver with a decoder to interpret the data;
- A transponder – the RFID tag – that has been programmed with information.
The scanning antenna puts out radio-frequency signals in a relatively short range. The RF radiation does two things:
- It provides a means of communicating with the transponder (the RFID tag);
- It provides the RFID tag with the energy to communicate (in the case of passive RFID tags)
This is an absolutely key part of the technology; RFID tags do not need to contain batteries, and can therefore remain usable for very long periods of time (maybe decades).
The scanning antennas can be permanently affixed to a surface; handheld antennas are also available. They can take whatever shape you need; for example, you could build them into a door frame to accept data from persons or objects passing through.
When an RFID tag passes through the field of the scanning antenna, it detects the activation signal from the antenna. That “wakes up” the RFID chip, and it transmits the information on its microchip to be picked up by the scanning antenna.
In addition, the RFID tag may be one of two types. Active RFID tags have their own power source; the advantage of these tags is that the reader can be much farther away and still get the signal. Passive RFID tags, however, do not require batteries, and can be much smaller and have a virtually unlimited life span.
RFID can be used in businesses to allow them to identify individual products and components, and to track them throughout the supply chain from production to point-of-sale.
To use RFID for an inventory control solution it is recommended that a reader is used to encode the tags with the product data. The tags are then encapsulated in plastic, paper, or similar materials, and fixed to the product or its packaging, to the pallet or container, or even to a van or delivery truck.
The tag is interrogated by an RFID reader which transmits and receives radio signals to and from the tag. The information that the reader collects is collated and processed using special computer software. Readers can be placed at different positions within a factory or warehouse to show when the goods are moved, providing continuous inventory control.
Why us RFID tags?
- To prevent over-stocking a product;
- For stock security, by positioning tag readers at point of high risk, such as exits, and causing them to trigger alarms;
- For quality control, particularly if there are stock items with a limited shelf life.
Advantages for using RFID for inventory control:
- The tags can be read remotely, often at a distance of several metres;
- Several tags can be read at once, enabling an entire pallet load of products to be checked simultaneously;
- Tags can be given unique identification codes, so that individual products can be tracked;
- Certain tags can be overwritten, enabling information about items to be updated;
- The cost of RFID tagging has fallen in recent years.
What industries would benefit from RFID?
The benefits of a more efficient stock control solution and improved security make it particularly attractive to retailers, wholesalers or distributors who stock a wide range of items. Manufacturers who produce large volume runs of products for different customers would also benefit from this solution.
If you have any questions, regarding RFID and Inventory Control please contact us.