Radio frequency identification, or RFID, is a generic term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify people or objects. There are several methods of identification, but the most common is to store a serial number that identifies a person or object, and perhaps other information, on a microchip that is attached to an antenna (the chip and the antenna together are called an RFID transponder or an RFID inlay). There are also two options when choosing the technology being Passive or Active. The more common, and less expensive, is the passive tag. This contains no battery and is activated (woken up) when the antenna enables the chip to transmit the identification information to a reader. The reader converts the radio waves reflected back from the RFID tag into digital information that can then be passed on to computers that can make use of it.
An RFID system may consist of several components including tags, tag readers, edge servers, middleware, and application software. The purpose of an RFID system is to enable data to be transmitted by a mobile device, called a Tag, which is read by an RFID reader and processed according to the needs of a particular application. The data transmitted by the tag may provide identification or location information, or specifics about the product tagged, such as price, color, date of purchase, etc. In a typical RFID system, individual objects are equipped with a small, inexpensive tag. The tag contains a transponder with a digital memory chip that is given a unique electronic product code. The interrogator, an antenna packaged with a transceiver and decoder, emits a signa activating the RFID tag so it can read and write data to it. When an RFID tag passes through the electromagnetic zone, it detects the reader's activation signal. The reader decodes the data encoded in the tag's microchips and the data is passed to the host computer. The application software on the host processes the data, often employing Physical Markup Language (PML).
Radio frequency identification technology is not necessarily better than bar codes. It can work in conjunction with bar codes to help manage inventory. The main difference is the fact that bar codes have to be in the line of site for the scanner to read it, whereas RFID tags can be read in multiple quantities as long as they're in close proximity of the reader (usually 2-5 ft). Another benefit of using RFID technology is where barcodes can only identify a type of good; Radio Frequency Identification technology can narrow the information down to the single product itself. RFID technology furthermore allows for data to be encoded onto the tag allowing multiple reads to occur at the same time. For example, in one application inventories could be counted in seconds rather than hours, thus utilizing employees at hand more efficiently and productively. Each application is looked at individually to determine the best solution. An RFID and barcode solution is often seen working together.
Probably not in the near future. This is not very likely since bar codes are inexpensive and are effective for certain tasks. RFID will grow and work with the information on the bar code to help inventory management and tracking costs low. The use of RFID will outpace the barcode over the next few years as more manufacturers and companies utilize the benefits of the technology. The cost of the RFID tags are also expected to go lower.
RFID has been around since the 1970's, but has been too expensive to operate. Today, companies are finding cheaper ways to produce the RFID tags now making the whole RFID system more affordable than ever. Many products built today are using RFID. Airplane and car manufacturers are huge users of RFID.
Advancements in manufacturing have now allowed for tags to take the ongoing punishment of an autoclave. They can now withstand many hundreds of cycles and can be placed on all metal and plastics cassettes. The re-usable Pouch Trakker™ tag now adds more reasons to go digital.
Yes, there are many companies around the world using this new technology. Companies such as Wal-Mart have started the trend by requiring all suppliers to use RFID technology. Many manufacturers are now producing most of their products with an RFID tag. When the product is made (born) an EPC number is attached to that particular item. It is uniquely identified and is used throughout the entire supply chain process. RFID in Healthcare is expected to increase tremendously over the next 5 years.
RFID can be used to track work in progress and can speed up the flow of goods in a warehouse. The main objective of RFID technology is to reduce the cost of labor used in tracking goods, reduce errors in shipping and overall inventory levels, and to increase the overall efficiency in any field.
Many end retailers and companies are using RFID technology in today's market and are requiring suppliers to do the same. This technology helps any supply chain or business flow much more efficiently with less time spent on tracking.
With growing labor costs and increasing pressures of the sterilization process RFID technology can help increase efficiencies when reprocessing instruments. The RFID tags are now manufactured to tolerate the punishments of an Autoclave and can be permanently attached to existing cassettes which leads to time savings for assistants. RFID use in health care is expected to increase dramatically over the next 5 years.
The most obvious benefit is that RFID does not have to be seen to be read. Bar codes must be placed on the outside of the product and the product must be orientated so the bar code is inline with the scanner. On the other hand, with RFID, you could have (multiple) products inside a sealed carton (for example) and each product can still be identified. Another important difference is that RFID is a read/write technology. So if desired the data can be written (or programmed) after it has been attached to the product. This offers a higher level of flexibility to track and update the data as the product goes through the supply chain, into the end use application or beyond.