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RFID

Technology

RFID

Radio Frequency Identification Devices ("RFID" tags) consist of a computer chip attached to a loop of wire and encased in a plastic film. When they pass through a magnetic field, an electrical current is generated in the wire that powers the chip to transmit its identity and potentially other information to an antenna. Tags can have data written to them that can be read and amended by the antennas. Unlike a barcode, which can only be scanned by a reader pointing directly at it, any antenna within range can read an RFID tag. In this way, hundreds of tags can be read every second, unlike barcodes that must be read one-at-a-time - this is the key benefit of RFID in relation to multi-item processing applications. Additionally, RFID provides accurate and reliable data exchange and can enable automation of existing manual processes.

What are the basics?

  • RFID devices are short-range (compared to GSM devices for example) and operate at ranges between a few centimetres and a few hundred meters. It relies on a reading device, or network of reading devices, to relay data to a processing point
  • Active/passive devices: differ mainly in that active devices have a battery and are capable of more processing and longer read ranges - but are considerably more expensive
  • Format: can be used in a variety of formats depending on the operational environment - including embedded in products or logistic handling units, encased in a cover and then attached to objects, or enclosed in a paper medium and made into a label


Where is RFID used?

There are applications today throughout the supply chain, in:

  • Manufacturing
  • Distribution
  • Retail
  • Consumer applications


There are many current examples of RFID in manufacturing, and distribution and retail is a hot trend - with Wal*Mart and Gillette among suppliers and retailers making recent announcements about RFID tracking of handling units. Retail/consumer, and consumer only, applications are perhaps further away and recent adverse publicity concerning the (mistaken) perception that RFID devices on consumer product can facilitate wide area tracking of that product and the owners will perhaps need to be addressed more fully in terms of open and accurate information before consumer confidence can be won and widespread uptake can occur.

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