What Is RFID Asset Tracking And How Does It Work?

What Is RFID Asset Tracking And How Does It Work?

RFID asset tracking gives you a clearer view of what you own and how your assets are behaving. When you’ve implemented your asset tracking software, you will:

  • Save time
  • Save money
  • Lose fewer assets
  • Know what you own
  • Monitor maintenance better
  • Keep an up-to-date fixed asset register

The main goal of any asset tracking software is to give you more accountability over all of your assets. This can be tools and equipment, heavy equipment, healthcare assets, IT assets, high-value collections and more.

Passive RFID Vs. Active RFID


What Is RFID?

RFID stands for radio-frequency identification. RFID is an auto-ID technology that allows you to match specific assets to corresponding digital profiles.

In other words, your asset tracking software will have a register of digital profiles. On these profiles, there will be unique information, such as maintenance dates and the colleagues responsible for these assets.

Then, RFID asset tags will link these digital profiles to their physical counterparts, bridging the gap between your software and your physical tools and equipment.

RFID asset tags have two main types, passive and active. Both use antennas to communicate with external hardware via radio frequencies.


Passive RFID

Passive RFID tags have antennas but no batteries. This allows them to be smaller and easier to conceal, meaning these tags are more suitable for high-value collection tracking.

Passive tags are passive as your external RFID hardware will “activate” them. So, if you have a handheld RFID reader, when you pull the trigger it will emit a radio frequency. This radio frequency will bounce off the antennas in a passive tag, indicating their whereabouts.

Because of this, it’s possible to find the closest tag in a vicinity, meaning that even if you have hundreds of tagged assets, you can still interact with a uniquely tagged piece of equipment.

Passive RFID tags also come in many different shapes and sizes. This is because most standard tags are conductive. So, if you stick them on metal, such as on a laptop, this will block the signal. Some passive RFID asset tags have subsequently been created to be less conductive, meaning they can be used on metal, ceramics, plastic, and more.


Active RFID

Active RFID tags have a battery, meaning that they are generally larger and more robust. Instead of bouncing a radio frequency, these tags emit their own.

The benefit of this is that they can have a much farther read range, as the interactivity is when the frequencies collide as opposed to when the reader’s frequency hits the tag itself.

The main drawback is that these tags need to be recharged to keep them working to the best of their abilities. While this can be integrated into your asset tracking operations, it may reduce the time-saving benefits that RFID asset tracking can provide overall.

Active RFID tags can be a lot more robust, too, meaning you can use them on heavier equipment or mitigate a loss of frequency if you’re tracking equipment that will come into contact with chemicals or extreme heats.


What Is RFID Asset Tracking?

RFID asset tracking is the practice of using RFID tag hardware and RFID reader hardware to match physical assets to digital counterparts. 

On your asset tracking software, you will have a register of unique assets. So, if you’re tracking a gallery, each painting will have its own unique profile, if you’re tracking tools, each tool will have its own profile and so on.

RFID asset tracking has an instant and clear benefit. You can track assets at greater speeds and distances. This is effective for:

  • Health and safety concerns – you can track assets without having to come into physical contact with them. This can increase COVID security, but also allow you to keep a distance from dangerous chemicals or heats.
  • Concealment – you can conceal RFID tags where you can’t conceal barcodes or QR codes. This means that you can hide RFID tags in a painting’s frame and not reduce the value of the painting, but still track it.
  • Distance – as an example, if you need to audit assets within a hospital to fulfil healthcare asset tracking procedures, you can audit without interacting with patients from a corridor.
  • Speed – using radio frequencies means that you can “cut corners” with your asset tracking software. If you want to check that all of your assets are in the location they should be, you simply need to pull the trigger on a handheld RFID reader. The radio frequencies in the room will tell your software which assets are and aren’t accounted for.
  • Small asset tracking and bulk asset tracking – if smaller assets are RFID tagged, asset discovery doesn’t require a search. You can find the asset quickly with a handheld reader. This increases your accountability and also reduces the chance of human error, as assets are much likely to be unintentionally missed if there’s a wider discovery field.


Handheld RFID

The main benefit of handheld RFID asset tracking is that it speeds up multiple barcode and QR code asset management operations. The core is the same, only with the ability to track from a distance and at a much greater speed.

QR code & barcode asset management also uses the auto-ID technologies of unique QR code and barcode asset tags. The difference here is that you need to use your phone’s camera and your asset tracking app to scan these auto-ID asset tags.

With handheld RFID asset tracking, you can circumvent this. Handheld readers link to your phone via BlueTooth and work this way, meaning you get the benefits of speed, concealment and distance.

All asset tag-related features are improved upon by using handheld RFID readers. For example, if you want to log that a group of assets has moved from one location to another, you simply need to pull the trigger and the handheld reader will do the rest. With QR codes, you would still have to scan each tag manually, which gives you time-saving benefits but not to the same extent as using RFID.


Fixed RFID Asset Tracking

Fixed RFID asset tracking is the most automation you can get when it comes to location tracking within your site. Fixed RFID readers work in the same way as handheld readers and use the same tags. So, it will still be a radio frequency interaction that creates the detection of an asset.

Fixed RFID readers work a bit differently, however. They’re named as such as you will fix them to tactical locations in your building. The reason for this is as they’re used to indicate when assets move from one location to another. 

These RFID readers use a constant electromagnetic field created with their antennas. This field allows them to also detect the direction an asset is moving in. When an RFID tag enters the field, this is detected, then the direction is detected by where it leaves the field.

In practice what this means is that a fixed RFID reader can detect when an asset enters or leaves a room, a shelf, or any other location. Once this is logged, these readers can tell your asset tracking software this data.

Overall this allows you to create a digital map of locations that plot out your building and place readers in the corresponding, physical locations. When an asset moves from ward A to ward B, the entire movement is automatically detected and logged, giving you a fully automated audit trail of where your assets are moving to and from.


How Does RFID Asset Tracking Work?

RFID asset tracking works by putting all of these capabilities together to create a set of operations that work for your business. Knowing that these technologies exist is the first step towards creating an RFID asset tracking system that works for you.

The fundamentals have been set out, that RFID asset tracking works by linking digital profiles with corresponding, physical assets and adding data to these profiles.

But the RFID capabilities are only one part of the puzzle when it comes to asset tracking. 

First of all, you’ll know your needs as a business, so the upper limit of the ROI you get will depend on the viability of certain technologies. If there is a section of your asset logistics where people don’t interact with assets, for example, if they’re on a conveyor belt in a warehouse or airport, or if time-saving is more essential than cost-saving if you’re in a busy environment such as healthcare, fixed RFID asset tracking will create a much higher ROI.

fixed RFID asset tracking planning
However, the ability to log, monitor, and track your assets already creates a high ROI in a few areas.

For example, certain features allow you to streamline asset-related operations. Namely, you’ll be able to use your system as check in check out software and issues management software as well as location tracking software simultaneously, without the need for asset tags.

Using asset tracking software first and foremost gives you an accurate list of what your business owns, how your assets are being interacted with, and how they’re performing. This data is automatically added to an exportable and customisable fixed asset register, improving insurance, expensing, tax, and acquisitions procedures to name a few.

RFID asset tracking software increases your potential ROI. This is because you still get the core elements of asset tracking, but also unlock multiple benefits on top of this, named in the “What Is RFID Asset Tracking” section. 

So, the way RFID asset tracking works is up to your business and its requirements. If you only need handheld RFID asset tracking to track small parts or priceless assets, then RFID unlocks this possibility and this is how it will work for you.


Combining RFID With GPS Asset Management

You may have noticed that there’s still a potential gap in accountability. QR code, barcode, and RFID asset management work when your assets are on-site, but what about when your assets move and you’d otherwise lose accountability over them?

This is where GPS asset management comes in. GPS trackers will ping your asset management software periodically to update the location of your assets.

Therefore, if your assets are in transit between one location and another, you’ll be able to use GPS tags to verify that your assets are moving in the correct direction and that they make it to the relevant sites.

GPS tags ultimately fill in potential gaps in accountability and transparency, as a GPS tracker-based system allows you to monitor assets when they’re in motion.

This also goes for larger, outside environments, such as airfields. If your assets are moving around frequently, it won’t be feasible to periodically scan and update asset locations and it won’t be possible to use fixed RFID readers.

Using GPS and RFID in tandem creates an unparalleled system where you can monitor where your assets are across the globe while you’re still at your desk, whether they’re being used on-site or moving across countries.


Using QR Code And Barcode Asset Management

There is still a place for QR code asset management, too. It may not be viable to tag all of your assets with RFID tags. This could be for a few reasons:

  1. Budgetary constraints – RFID tags are more expensive than QR codes and barcodes.
  2. Asset materials – as your assets will be made of a variety of materials, it’s most likely that you’ll need a variety of different types of RFID tags. In tandem with budgetary constraints, it will be best to use RFID tags where they create the highest ROI, rather than purchasing lower conductivity RFID tags to stick on laptops, for example.
  3. Lower ROI – the benefits RFID tags provide may not apply to your entire asset register. For a lot of IT asset management, you will benefit as much from QR code and barcode asset management as you will from RFID asset tracking, as interactions with laptops, for example, won’t have a significantly higher level of automation with handheld RFID readers as they will with QR codes.

Overall, there are some circumstances where it’s best to use more analogue means as it will end up providing you with the same ROI as using RFID, without the need to spend more money on RFID asset tracking hardware.

QR code & barcode asset management at its core works in the same way as RFID asset tracking. You will still be able to create a robust, accurate, and automated fixed asset register and save time. Where RFID is needed, such as with bulk asset tracking, is where it will shine and where it will give you a significantly higher ROI than conventional barcode or QR code asset management.


itemit’s RFID Asset Tracking System

itemit’s asset tracking software is unique. itemit is the only software globally that allows you to combine RFID, GPS, barcode, and QR code asset management capabilities.

What this means is that you can get the benefits from every angle of your asset tracking efforts and create a powerful asset monitoring system with as few gaps in accountability as is currently possible.

This is why itemit is being used globally and in every industry, with asset registers consisting of construction assets, healthcare assets, props, tools, IT assets, hardware, heavy equipment, high-value collections and more.

The team is committed to two things, too. Simplicity and support. This is why our UI is simple and easy-to-use and set up and why we’re always happy to discuss and implement feedback. This is also why our fixed RFID asset tracking system is world-first.

Our RFID asset tracking system works off-the-shelf and is affordable, as you’ll be able to rent fixed RFID readers for the first time in the technology’s history. We want every business to benefit from the time and cost-saving benefits of asset tracking, which is why we’re disrupting the RFID market and making it accessible to any and all businesses.

To find out more about how itemit’s asset tracking system can help your business save time and money, you’ll be able to contact the team at team@itemit.com. You can also fill in the form below to start your 14-day free trial.

Contact us today to find out more about how your business can use RFID.

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