All You Need to Know About RFID Asset Tracking
All You Need to Know About RFID Asset Tracking
It’s time for a deep dive into all things RFID! In the world of asset tracking, this is an extremely powerful, reliable and cost-effective technology. When people think about tracking tools, a lot of people go straight to GPS.
This is probably because GPS crops up a lot in our day-to-day lives. However, GPS does not make a lot of sense for all assets and will not be the most indispensable tracking technology used in lots of industries. That’s where RFID asset tracking comes in.
If you are running a warehouse (or multiple warehouses) then you will likely already be convinced of the virtues of RFID. If you work in medical care, pharmaceuticals, retail, agriculture, healthcare, construction or manufacturing (the list goes on), and are not convinced of the benefits of RFID, then read on, this article might just change your mind.
What is RFID Technology?
Simply stated, RFID (radio frequency identification) is a means of communication. They are a bit like bar codes 2.0. In that, they have read and write capabilities. Traditional bar codes rely solely on scanners and are read-only. That means they cannot send out new information, just share the information that the code represents.
A Short History of RFID
Early forms of the tech have been around since 1970. So, if they’re so great, why haven’t they been a part of our daily lives for decades? Well, like any emerging tech, it takes a long time before it becomes cost-effective for it to be widely deployed. In the early days, RFID technology was used for tracking large expensive items, like rail coaches and livestock. 50 years later, and we are starting to see RFID all over the place.
In fact, supermarkets and highstreet retailers may replace barcodes with RFID in the future. If this ever becomes a reality, it would mean that we would simply load up our trolleys and leave the supermarket. Each item would be tagged and the readers at the entrance to the shop would receive signals which would update a central database. Therefore, the data would be available to simply have the money deducted from your bank account without having to queue at the checkout!
But that could be a little way off yet. Right here and now, RFID is at the stage where the read and write technology can give you seriously powerful insights into your assets. Asset tracking has never been more versatile or cost effective.
How Does RFID Tracking Work
It’s probably not all that helpful to have an in-depth understanding of all the technical ins and outs of how RFID tracking works. However, a basic overview may help you to get an understanding of how the tech can be implemented in your business.
The tag itself contains the transponder. Data is stored on the tag which is attached to an asset. An antenna identifies the signal of any nearby tag. The RFID reader is wirelessly hooked up to the antenna, which receives the data being transmitted by the tag. The reader will then send the data to a central asset tracking database. The database is updated, which allows the manager to easily access real-time information on all their assets.
The range of the signal will depend on the implementation. Tags with a longer range are generally more expensive. If you are working with an experienced asset tracking provider, they’ll be able to ensure you are using the most cost-effective, fit-for-purpose solution.
The other thing to consider is whether a tag is active or passive. Once implemented, this won’t be something that you need to be aware of, but if you are researching RFID systems then the differences are well worth knowing.
Active and Passive RFID
Active tags have batteries that power the tag itself. These tags are always broadcasting a radio wave and they generally have a much larger range. These are less commonly used in RFID asset tracking as they are more expensive and generally seen as overkill! However, they do have some applications. Often it makes sense to use active RFID tracking for high value assets.
Passive RFID tags have a lower range and, ultimately, less potential functionality. Having said that, they have fewer components and are therefore smaller and cheaper to produce, which means they are better suited for most sorts of asset tracking. These tags don’t have an inbuilt battery, so they rely on an external powersource. That means they are only using power when the tag is triggered, which means less power is consumed. Also, because they are smaller, they can be adhered to most assets.
Types of RFID System
Hopefully, you are already starting to see how RFID asset tracking could work in your operation. With relatively affordable, tried and tested technologies, you can gain a fully automated asset tracking system that gives you real-time insight and control.
However, when you think about how RFID tracking can work within your specific operation, you’ll need to be aware of the difference between Fixed RFID and Handheld RFID.
Handheld scanners are mobile, which may be helpful if you need a member of staff to update your central database as to the status of an asset. This could be as simple as checking an item in or out. Handheld scanners are useful when updating data on multiple items, as they can pick up multiple tags in a single scan.
Handheld scanner will generally connect to a phone via BlueTooth so that you can pull up all relevant information about an asset and view / update the information on your phone.
The Benefits of RFID
- Make Better Business Decisions
Understanding what equipment is where can give you surprising insight into what purchasing and operational decisions are best for the business. For example, you can assess the equipment and staff that are most often working in an underperforming area of the business. You can access complete information about how reliable the assets are in that environment. This kind of information is essential to achieving sustainable growth.
- Reduce Loss, Theft and Damage
It’s just basic psychology that if someone is made responsible and accountable for a piece of equipment, then they will look after it better! This also goes for theft. Unfortunately, theft of equipment is an all too common occurrence for many organisations. Companies that utilise RFID asset tracking find that they experience greatly reduced damage and theft.
As for loss, it is difficult to misplace equipment when assets are being tracked. This is particularly true of RFID tags which do not need to be adhered to the outside of an object, and are therefore difficult to tamper with. At the very least you will be able to identify that last known location of any asset.
- Extend Asset Lifespan
RFID asset tracking is capable of reporting on more than the location of an asset. You can also update your centralised database as to the state of repair of essential equipment. That way, the right people can be notified quickly and react to any breakdowns. Asset tracking is managed via a central database via an intuitive user interface. In the event of a breakdown, you’ll be able to see all warranty and insurance information via a desktop or mobile application.
By combining RFID asset tracking with a powerful software solution, you will be able to introduce a maintenance schedule that will maximise the lifespan of your assets. Push notifications to the relevant person when it’s time for a vehicle, tool or piece of equipment to be serviced.
Often, organisations neglect automatic asset tracking in the early days of operating, only to regret it later. It is more costly and complicated to introduce RFID asset tracking when a business has developed a sprawling infrastructure of assets.
It’s generally more cost-effective to introduce an asset tracking system in the early days, so that you can scale up painlessly as your business grows. This avoids getting into a situation where you need to scramble to protect assets after identifying costs from loss, breakdowns and inefficiencies have started to mount up!
Though it may be difficult to translate into costs, asset tracking software can save your hours upon hours of manual labour. The work done in say, an hour manually, can be completed in mere minutes using asset tracking software. This accumulates: over the course of a fiscal year, it may save you hundreds of pounds in salaries alone!
Using itemit For Your RFID Asset Tracking
At itemit, we have learnt over years of successful implementations that every operation is different. However, two things remain true for every client-
- A fit-for-purpose solution is no good if it costs the moon.
- A cheap system that doesn’t facilitate your goals is worse than worthless.
When we look at your requirements, we are constantly looking for the right balance between cost-effective and fit-for-purpose. We are experts in asset tracking technologies, so we know that we have the right blend of solutions to suit where your business is and where it is going.
Building a bespoke RFID system might be the right choice for your business. However, over many years of developing bespoke RFID systems, we have been able to identify patterns in what works and what doesn’t. So, we can offer off-the-shelf solutions that cut development time and costs down significantly.
You needn’t be limited to RFID technology as your sole asset tracking solution. We are able to seamlessly combine the most cutting-edge tracking technologies (QR, GPS, RFID) in a single solution. Our software makes even the most complex deployments easy to mange, scalable and effective.
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