Categories
RFID RTLS

RFID – What You Need To Know

RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, is a technology we’re sure you’ve heard of by now. After all, it’s ability to track item location and data provide endless benefits:

  • Increased supply chain efficiency
  • Reduced human errors in inventory
  • Eliminated cost of replacing lost or stolen items
  • Elevated security
  • And more….

It has numerous applications:

Companies and organizations have increasingly adopted this technology for the above benefits, and have additionally realized the advantage it provides in reacting to unforeseen events such as COVID-19. Subsequently, using RFID or another tracking technology is essential to remaining competitive in today’s market.

But where do you start?

We’ve been in the industry a long time and provide a basic overview of RFID below so that you can begin your journey towards efficiency, lower operation costs, security and more. To see how RFID compares to other tracking technologies, see this article.

Radio Frequency Types

RFID functions on radio wave frequencies, which are measured within frequency bands: low frequency, high frequency, ultra-high frequency (such as RAIN RFID) and super-high frequency.  These terms refer to the wavelengths of the frequency – low frequency has longer wavelengths, which increase and shorten as the frequency gets higher.

Frequencies determine the strength and distance of the signal. Low frequency usually has a weaker signal and a shorter read distance but is less affected by disruptors to radio frequencies (such as liquid or metals). This is important for environments that may require RFID tags to interact with these substances. Higher frequencies promise a stronger signal and one that reads at a farther distance but is more sensitive to disruption from various materials1.

This table compares frequency bands and the technology used in each one:

Chart comparing different real-time locating system technology.

Predominant RFID

Within the world of RFID material handling there are two predominate technologies used; HF and UHF.  UHF is the most predominate of the two due to its long-read ranges.  HF is used when short read ranges are desirable (such as use cases requiring isolation) or when the laws of physics prohibit the use of UHF (such as tracking of items that contain large quantities of water).

For this article, we will focus on the UHF frequency band.

RFID System Components

RFID systems are always comprised of two primary components: a transponder (tag/label) that goes on the item being tracked and the interrogator (reader). These components work together to store data about an item’s location, transmit that data and ultimately distill that data into usable information via a software application. Software apps, such as ItemAware, allow users to look up an item, see its location, and add additional data about the item (such as maintenance information, item history and much more).

 

Components of RFID System

RFID Tags: Passive, Semi-Active, Active

RFID tags are placed on every item that is going to be tracked. Different types and sizes of RFID tags determine versatility for different environments, infrastructures, and cost thresholds. A main distinction between tags is the method by which power is supplied to them – determining if they are passive or active.

First, let’s break down the types of RFID tags and how they work:

Passive RFID Tags are the simplest RFID tag, only containing an integrated circuit and an antenna. They do not transmit signals to readers, but rather engage when a reader sends a signal to the antenna. This is done through backscatter technology – without signals from the reader, the tag remains inactive. If the tag is located outside the reader’s range, the tag won’t have sufficient energy to send information to the reader. Because the tag does not contain a battery, they last indefinitely.

Semi-Active RFID Tags (also called semi-passive or battery-assisted passive (BAP) tags) communicate the same way that passive tags do – by receiving a signal from the reader. However, the semi-active tag circuitry is powered by a battery. The battery enables a longer read range than passive tags, but not as long as an active tag.

Active RFID Tags have their own energy supply, e.g. a battery or a solar cell, which is used to provide power to the chip and generate the RF signal for transmitting data to the reader.  Given that the strong electromagnetic field needed to power a passive tag is not necessary, the distance from the tag to reader can be significantly increased, yielding an increased coverage area for each reader. The battery typically lasts around 2-5 years before being replaced. Active tags can offer a longer read range – up to 1000ft / 304m – and are often used on items that need to be tracked over long distances.

Tags can be used on multiple items throughout their existence.

Tag Cost

The price of RFID tags considers the durability, frequency, volume of tags needed, etc. This means that there is not a straightforward price to share for each tag; however, passive tags are less costly than semi-active and active tags, and prices generally fall in these ranges (NOTE: prices do change based on the market, inflation, demand, etc.):

  • Active: Active RFID tags start around $25 / tag upwards of $100 tag.
  • Semi-Active: usually cost around $10-$25 per tag.
  • Passive: Passive RFID tags cost anywhere from $0.07 to $0.50 each

It is often assumed that passive RFID is the cheapest option on the market – and, when looking at tag price alone, this is true – but there are many factors that go into a final cost. Which means that what makes up your cheapest option depends on your requirements and the factors we continue to explore in the rest of this article.

Tag Sizes and Types

RFID tags come in a wide range of sizes. Active tags are generally larger because they have more components, while passive RFID tags can be as small as a grain of rice.2 Our engineers are continually engineering solutions that allow tags to affix to items properly so that they do not obstruct function and avoid being destroyed when an item is used. A recent example includes inserting a tag into a divot on a chainsaw for tool tracking, so that the chainsaw is tracked without risking damage to the tag during use. Another example is tamper-evident tags that are placed on weapons boxes. If the box is tampered with, the tag alerts users (like a security officer), increasing security and minimizing theft.

Since use cases are broad and tag options are numerous, it is best to talk to a professional to determine which tag is right for your situation.

Chart comparing RFID Tags

RFID Readers

Readers are essential for the RFID system as they send signals to tags and collect tag data. They fall into two main categories: fixed and mobile.

Fixed readers allow users to track items as they pass through chokepoints (such as entryways, stairwells, etc.). When an item passes through a chokepoint, the data is collected by the reader and communicates to the user that the item has moved from one location to the next. Fixed readers are the most expensive category of readers, but they also have the highest read range. A subset of fixed readers is an integrated reader which is often used in visible areas of indoor locations, because of its sleeker design.3

Mobile readers come in a variety of forms from a Mobile Computing Device that has an onboard computer, to a Sled that can fit on a person’s mobile phone and transfer data through Bluetooth or auxiliary connection. Users walk through inventory and scan to read the tags in that location with handheld readers. These readers are usually more cost-effective than fixed readers and are especially effective when searching for a specific item in an exact location.3 Once again, the right reader is determined by use case.

Examples:

 

An Integrated Fixed Reader: the Impinj Speedway xPortal R640 Reader used at the US Patent and Trademark Office

 

Zebra MC3300 RFID Series Mobile Computer

RFID Antennas

Antennas are another essential component of an RFID system, as they create the communication between the reader and the tag. Antennas are placed on both the reader (to send the signal to the tags) and on the tags that receive the signal (in turn transmitting the information that the chip is storing).

The signal strength between a tag and reader can be determined by the antennas, their size, polarity, and the degree of wave expansion as it leaves the antenna.4

Times-7 A5020 RAIN RFID Antennas offer the high performance and range needed for high traffic tracking with precision. 

 

SummaryThere are numerous reasons that go into choosing a technology that’s right for your needs: how a technology interacts with its environment, the current infrastructure, costs associated, if you need constant monitoring of an item, the value of the items you’re tracking and much more. While research can give you an idea of what might be best for you, it’s important to speak with a professional to make sure you are getting the best possible solution, with the highest return on investment. That’s why we are a full-service asset tracking and inventory management company. We built our own software (to create the best features on the market) and we specialize in the integration of hardware and software so that you can go from “start” to “tracking” with one company. We also source all hardware for you with our hardware partners that we’ve vetted to be the best. Contact us today!

 

Additional Sources

  1. https://www.impinj.com/products/technology/how-can-rfid-systems-be-categorized
  2. https://www.rfidjournal.com/question/what-is-the-smallest-passive-rfid-tag
  3. 1 (awareinnovations.com)
  4. https://www.analogictips.com/rfid-tag-and-reader-antennas/

Authors

 Bart Ivy, PMP

Bart is our Director of Automated Identification Data Collection (AIDC) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Solutions. A retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant and certified Project Management Professional, he handles your solution design. From defining technical requirements to deploying and sustaining your system, he ensures high-quality services that satisfy your needs. Bart is an expert in the industry and works with these technologies every single day. He’s our go-to guy for information on deploying real-time locating systems.

 Elyse Cheatwood

Elyse is our Marketing Manager. With ten years in marketing and ever-increasing knowledge of the Automated Identification Data Collection (AIDC) industry, she creates research-driven content based on market trends, industry updates and tech insights from reputable sources (including the professionals she works alongside).

 

 

 

Categories
Inventory Management ItemAware RFID Software

Utility Industry Uses ItemAware for Tool Tracking

The utility industry estimates a 30% annual loss rate of tools, i.e., upwards of $900,000,000 “lost” items annually. 

Aware Innovations is excited to introduce ItemAware software to the utility industry to help eliminate the cost of lost items.

What is ItemAware?

ItemAware tracks tools, equipment and more, giving users full visibility of assets as well as all designated locations (trucks, sheds, jobsites, etc.). This allows users to know when an item is missing or has been put in the wrong location.

Tracking systems allow companies to stay nimble, react quickly and devote time and money toward actual business goals. Our software is a mobile, intuitive software that easily integrates with multiple technologies.

It can be used on your enterprise system, or we can host it for you. Designed to be flexible, ItemAware is customizable to your situation, your environment, your goals.

How it Works

  • Tag Items with right-size, durable RFID tags
  • Designate locations and assign tools to each location (truck, shed, jobsite, etc.)
  • Use the ItemAware app to see each item’s status and last-seen location
  • Click on items to see item-level details (such as history, manufacturer, and more)

Intuitive & Mobile Color-Coded Icons

ItemAware uses color-coded icons so that users can quickly glance at their mobile device and know if they have all items (green thumbs up), if an item is in the wrong location (orange thumbs up) or if any items are missing (red thumbs down).

First-Hand Experience in the Utility Industry

Concurrent Group, a customer of RingPower Utility Equipment, uses our tool tracking software and gives feedback on this cutting-edge solution on our ItemAware website. To learn more about ItemAware’s application in the Utility Industry or to request a free 30-minute demo, click here.

About the Author

Elyse Cheatwood is our Marketing Manager. With ten years in marketing and ever-increasing knowledge of the Automated Identification Data Collection (AIDC) industry, she creates research-driven content based on market trends, industry updates and tech insights from reputable sources (including the professionals she works alongside).

Categories
Compliance ItemAware RFID

Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance and RFID

RFID can help businesses pass audits and fulfill requirements imposed by the Sarbanes-Oxley act (SOX) – a law that has had drastic operational and financial impacts on U.S. companies.  

Background

Nearly twenty years ago, in 2002, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was created to hold publicly traded companies accountable for their financial reporting.

This came after some of the U.S.’s largest companies were exposed for financial scandal. Unethical business practices and falsified financial statements landed these companies in bankruptcy – evaporating employee’s retirement plans and crumbling investor trust in corporations.1

What is Sarbanes-Oxley?

SOX implemented rigorous controls for financial reporting and auditing. This was done to ensure the accuracy of corporate disclosures, with a hefty criminal charge for non-compliance.

With the creation of SOX, companies quickly made investments in controls that would help them pass audits. However, many continue to underestimate the massive undertaking of accounting for assets and rely on a large workforce and static spreadsheets for reporting.

RFID can revolutionize this process – eliminating human error, showing asset status in real-time and being a reliable source for data.

RFID’s Role in Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance

RFID is an efficient, accessible technology that collects data from items (think medical supplies, tools, IT assets and anything in between) and provides real-time reports with item status, history, and location.

RFID can play a critical role in SOX compliance by:

  • Increasing Reporting Accuracy:
    • SOX Requirement: A company’s financial statements must be accurate to the best of the executive officer’s and chief financial officer’s knowledge.2
    • RFID Benefit: Assets play a role on a company’s financial statement – and an inaccurate count can lead to errors in reporting. Manual asset tracking is prone to human error and risks this accuracy. Automating this process with RFID diminishes that possibility as readers collect, organize, and report the data. This ensures that everything is accounted for – which can reduce loss rates by as much as 99%.
  • Disclosing in Real-Time:
    • SOX Requirement: Section 409 of the Sarbanes-Oxley act requires that material changes in a company’s financial condition or operations are required to disclose the information on an almost real-time basis (within 48 hours).3
    • RFID Benefit: Automatic data can capture supplies’ real-time information as readers read the RFID tags. This can be done with continual updates or by passive readers that scan an item any time it passes by (such as entering a new location). Software receives this information and organizes it, then feeds it to the user. Users can even get automated alerts when an item’s information changes.
  • Providing Traceable Source Data:
    • SOX Requirement: any source data in financial reports must be traceable and any changes documented.4
    • RFID: Data pulled from RFID readers is easily viewed. All changes to any assets are recorded and kept with the pertaining asset. This allows users to trace all information and keep it updated as changes occur.

Other Benefits of RFID

RFID’s features directly correlate to the SOX requirements mentioned above – but it has other ways it supports this as well:

  • Simple Reporting: RFID makes running reports incredibly easy as data is continuously updated and ready to be pulled at any time. Users can enter the parameters and get up-to-date information within minutes, rather than waiting for a manual count or referencing a previous report.
  • ERP Integration: ERP systems are often employed to help with SOX compliance. RFID software, such as ItemAware, can easily integrate with these systems making it easier to share and pull information.

Conclusion

Ensuring that your company is meeting all requirements to Sarbanes-Oxley is crucial, and RFID can make that process easier.

Index

  1. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/sarbanesoxleyact.asp
  2. https://isgovern.com/blog/sox-compliance-act-and-public-funding-financial-reporting/
  3. https://www.sec.gov/news/press/2003-6.htm
  4. https://learnidentityandaccessmanagement.com/sox-compliance/

About the Author

Elyse Cheatwood is our Marketing Manager. With ten years in marketing and ever-increasing knowledge of the Automated Identification Data Collection (AIDC) industry, she creates research-driven content based on market trends, industry updates and tech insights from reputable sources (including the professionals she works alongside).

Categories
RFID RTLS Uncategorized

RTLS Technology Comparison

You’re thinking about implementing a Real-Time Locating System (RTLS), but you don’t know which technology would best suit your needs.

Lucky for you, there are plenty to choose from… and enough options to construct the optimal solution.

Let’s dive right in.

Definition: Real-Time Locating System (RTLS)

A real-time locating system is technology, hardware and software that determine a person or item’s location. They then collect data for analysis. The use cases for this spread across a wide range of industries, from construction sites and warehouses to office buildings and hospitals. RTLS have saved organizations millions of dollars in saved time, efficiency, and reduction of “lost item” costs. They also enable industries to react quickly to unexpected challenges.

RTLS technology varies in price and function. Each have advantages and disadvantages depending on the user’s needs. While performing a site survey is the best way to determine the right technology for your use case, we have compared them below for easy research.

Types of RTLS Technology

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)

RFID is a tracking system that uses electromagnetic or radiofrequency devices to communicate with a tag (transponder). These tags are attached to items and send location data to readers (interrogators). The readers feed that information into software which reads and analyzes the data that is transmitted.

RFID is broken down into categories, measured by their frequency band: low frequency, high frequency, ultra-high frequency, and super high frequency.

This includes passive and active RFID, as well as cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (Low Energy) and Ultra-Wide Band (UWB). The following table outlines the ranges for each one.

Chart comparing different real-time locating system technology.

(UHF = Ultra-High Frequency, SHF = Super-High Frequency)

An important distinction between RFID systems is the method by which power is supplied to the transponder – making it either active or passive RFID.

Active RFID

Active tags have their own energy supply, such as a battery or a solar cell. This is used to provide power to the chip and generate the radio frequency signal for transmitting data to the reader.

  • Use Case Examples:
    • Supply chain logistics
    • Container tracking
  • Advantages:
    • Large coverage area for each reader (up to 300ft (91 m) using technology built on commercial standard, up to 1500ft (457m) using technology built on proprietary standard)
    • Long read range
    • Global standards
    • Less susceptible to radiofrequency interference
    • Strong data signal
  • Disadvantages:
    • Large tags (in some cases this does not matter)
    • Tag beacons still need to be in range of the reader to report
    • Must consider RF physics in deployment
    • Proprietary solution (if you need up to 1500ft read range) will lock you into a single supplier 
    • Needs replaced every 2-5 years depending on the settings
    • Not printable onsite*

*RFID tags have space for a printed label that can include barcodes and human readable information.

Passive RFID (RAIN)

Passive RFID (RAIN) labels do not have a power supply. The electromagnetic field produced by the reader’s transmitter is enough to initiate response from the tag and pick up the data. However, the tag must be within the reader’s range and will only emit data when read (unlike an active tag that is always ‘on’).

  • Use Case Examples:
    • Supply chain logistics
    • Retail
    • Toll collection
    • Parking systems
    • Access controls
    • Asset management
    • Industrial automation
  • Advantages:
    • Lower initial cost
    • Global standards
    • Proven technology
    • Multiple hardware and tag providers
    • Hardware and tags developed for all environments
    • Indefinite lifetime
    • Smaller tags
  • Disadvantages:
    • Weaker data signal strength
    • Must select proper tag based on application.
    • Susceptible to RF interference must be consider in deployment
    • Printable onsite

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

In 1999, standards were created around ‘Bluetooth’ – a continuous point-to-point data connection for streaming data in computers, cell phones and other devices. It has become widely adopted for wireless earbuds, keyboards, speakers, etc.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) was introduced in 2010 with the release of Bluetooth 4.0. This defined the protocols for communicating short bursts of data from point to point or broadcasting data to multiple devices. BLE uses less energy than previous standards and enables device configurations that can run for several years on a tiny coin-cell battery.  The introduction of Bluetooth 5.0 in 2016 increased data bandwidth and range requirements while optimizing battery life. This gives developers more choice in range, speed, and broadcasting capability. BLE mesh networking specifications were released in 2017, which define networks that allow multiple devices to communicate reliably at the same time.

BLE devices operating in the broadcast mode are commonly referred to as BLE beacons. In RTLS terms, this would be the “tag”. These broadcast a message providing identity, configuration, and data from associated sensors (such as temperature, light exposure, vibration, etc.). The radiofrequency signal is used to estimate the location of the device and transfer of data.

Bluetooth beacons can be manufactured quickly and for a lower cost than competing technologies because of the simplicity of the technology.

  • Use Case Examples
    • Access control
    • Toll collection
    • Asset tracking
    • Industrial automation
  • Advantages
    • Lower cost than traditional RTLS tags
    • Long read ranges
    • Wide variety of beacons (in both physical form and battery capacities)
    • Some beacons can accept firmware updates or reconfiguration via networked management software (i.e., updates and configuration instructions can be installed remotely without handling every device)
    • Broad vendor base
    • Location accuracy can be tailored to meet business requirements (this is determined by the hardware chosen that supports various location techniques)
    • Increased accuracy at any point, while maintaining the currently deployed “tag” base (by changing the receiver or sensor devices)
  • Disadvantages
    • Some beacons require physical interaction to update configuration or firmware (a technician must visit the physical location of the device)
    • Still maturing supplier base
    • Tag battery replacement cost
    • Proprietary solutions will lock you into a single supplier

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is a wireless network that allows devices to connect to the internet. A small device known as a wireless transmitter, or hub, is required. The hub receives information from the internet via your home broadband connection. This transmitter (often referred to as a Wireless Access Point, or WAP) then converts this information into radio waves and emits it. This effectively creates a small, local, area around itself. Within this area, your devices can receive the transmitted radio signals. This area is often termed a Wireless Local Area Network, or WLAN for short.

Wi-Fi location systems use the same standards as Wi-Fi based wireless local area networks (LANs). To provide tracking of assets, a powered Wi-Fi tag utilizes the same location services used for tracking phones, computers, and other powered devices.

  • Use Case Examples
    • Access control
    • Toll collection
    • Asset tracking
    • Industrial automation
  • Advantages
    • Wi-Fi tags allow customer to leverage existing Wi-Fi network, saving on infrastructure costs for a location system
    • Long read ranges
    • Multiple hardware and tag providers
    • Improved location accuracy with proprietary solutions*
  • Disadvantages
    • Tag or battery replacement cost
    • Proprietary solution will lock users into a single supplier
    • Location accuracy can be diminished by radiofrequency multipath errors and daily environmental variation. (Typical asset placement errors are within 5-10 meters depending on the specific location methods utilized).
    • The radio frequency band utilized by Wi-Fi is popular and prone to congestion. Adding a Wi-Fi based tracking system onto an already congested environment could result in poor performance.

*Proprietary Solution: A hardware or software product (or combination of products) and services that is tied to a specific vendor, to the exclusion of all other vendors.

Barcode

Barcodes are machine-readable codes in the form of numbers and a pattern of parallel lines of varying widths. Originally done in 1D, these tags are now done in 2D as well, enabling the capture of more complex data which can be visually represented with various geometric patterns.

Regarding location tracking, information is encoded in one or more barcodes and placed on the object. This is used to provide automated data capture of item identity and location.  Information can be derived in the device and passed to the system with a hand-held imager at a workstation or choke point reading a single symbol.  Other techniques rely on image capture and analysis by additional software. This allows users to capture data from multiple assets in an area such as a warehouse storage rack.  Data is then passed to the application software.

  • Use Case Examples
    • Retail
    • Shipping and receiving
    • Asset management
    • Mobile POS
  •  Advantages
    • Universally adopted
    • Labels can be printed on site
    • Labels are attached easily
    • Advanced symbology allows robust data encoding (if a portion of the symbol is damaged data can still be retrieved)
    • Advanced symbology is scalable and can be printed in various sizes if an image can be acquired for analysis (very small with image access by magnification or very large with extended read distances)
    • No battery replacement cost
  • Disadvantages
    • Requires disciplined asset handling:
      • Assets must be processed, transported, and placed in storage to provide line of sight access from the reader to the label.
      • If an item is moved to a new location by other than defined processes and the label is not visible, the location of that item cannot be determined
    • Physical Label damage can prevent data capture (if a single line is damaged or added to a traditional barcode the encoded data cannot be retrieved)
    • Limited or prohibited usage in classified areas due to image capture capability
    • Wide area analysis may require illumination of the area to enable data capture
    • Variations in printer quality or handwriting impact data accuracy and / or ability to read data 

Cellular GPS

Cellular is currently used to provide communications across wide areas.  Cellular companies are leveraging their existing networks to support the Internet of Things (IoT) with data plans.

Where location accuracy is required, triangulation with cell towers can be used to determine a transmitter’s location (similar to GPS tracking). But when greater location accuracy is required, embedded GPS can be combined with cellular backhaul capabilities. The cellular GPS system has the capacity to serve tens of thousands of subscribers in a major metropolitan area and is highly successful for outdoor environments that need tracking solutions.

  • Use Case Examples
    • Fleet management
    • Container tracking
    • Asset management
  • Advantages
    • Leverages existing cellular network; does not require dedicated infrastructure installed and maintained to collect data from tags.
    • Ability to connect to a power source or be battery powered
    • Rapidly deployable
    • Easy installation and deployment
    • Over-the-air programable
    • Over-the-air serviceability status updates
    • Accelerometer available for motion sensing
    • Ability to pass live sensor data
    • Ability to pass telematics
  • Disadvantages
    • Requires a data plan
    • Battery replacement
    • Battery can be rapidly depleted depending on programing and device settings
    • Location accuracy inside building
    • Some providers require you to use their service

Ultra-Wideband (UWB)

Ultra-Wideband (UWB) is a type of RFID technology that uses an extremely low power level and super high transmitting frequency to provide tag information for location-based solutions. A UWB real-time locating system can track thousands of tags precisely, in a large area like a warehouse, or a single tag in a small coverage zone like a doorway.

UWB systems communicate over long distances with less degradation in performance. The reader can focus on a specific area to interrogate the tags, so UWB systems provide greater location accuracy than other systems.

  • Use Case Examples
    • Sports (NFL, Hockey)
    • Manufacturing work in progress
    • Personnel tracking/safety
  • Advantages
    • UWB transmits at such a low power level and across such a wide frequency range that it does not affect other wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, UHF, or handheld passive readers
    • High performance around metallic surfaces
    • Resistant to signal jamming and tampering
    • Good penetration properties
    • Omni directional antennas
    • Long read ranges
    • Location accuracy
    • No spectrum licensing required
    • No limitation to worldwide operations
  • Disadvantages
    • Proprietary solution
    • No standard
    • Tag or battery replacement cost

Conclusion – RTLS Saves Companies Millions

RTLS and the associated technology are critical for providing accurate sensing, locating, and tracking data that guide business decisions and increase agility. Companies that have deployed RTLS systems have saved millions in efficiency, reduction of item loss and increased productivity. They are more nimble and able to react to market changes and shifting demands. As RTLS continues to be more widely adopted and technology innovation increases, the implementation becomes easier and more uniquely fitted to your business needs.


About the Authors

Bart Ivy, PMP, is our Director of Automated Identification Data Collection (AIDC) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Solutions. A retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant and certified Project Management Professional, he handles your solution design. From defining technical requirements to deploying and sustaining your system, he ensures high-quality services that satisfy your needs. Bart is an expert in the industry and works with these technologies every single day. He’s our go-to guy for information on deploying real-time locating systems.

Elyse Cheatwood is our Marketing Manager. With ten years in marketing and ever-increasing knowledge of the Automated Identification Data Collection (AIDC) industry, she creates research-driven content based on market trends, industry updates and tech insights from reputable sources (including the professionals she works alongside).

Categories
ItemAware News RFID Traceability

Track IT Assets Using RFID and ItemAware

The US Patent and Trademark Office needed a new way to track IT assets. The process by which this was currently being done was taking too much time and was vulnerable to error. Read on to find out how implementing ItemAware and the use of passive UHF RFID helped them save $1.2M each year. 

Tom King, PMP, and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) won RFID Journal’s ‘Best Implementation of RFID in Other Industries’ Award in 2020. The USPTO wanted to reduce the cost of a manual process of tracking IT assets. This labor-intensive tracking process was subject to error due to the almost 1,000 people involved in tracking IT assets worth over $159,000,000. 

A New Way to Track IT Assets: Project Details 

To achieve the desired results of this project, the USPTO implemented ItemAware and the use of passive UHF RFID (RAIN) to track over 130,000 IT assets. Below are details of the project as outlined in the interview recorded by RFID Journal’s Mark Roberti. 

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has:

  • 15,000 employees
  • 8 buildings
  • Approximately 2.5 million square feet of office space
  • One main campus: Alexandria, VA
  • Four regional offices: Detroit, Denver, Dallas, San Jose

The goals of this project were as follows:

  • Reduce the number of employees tracking IT assets
  • Reduce inventory cycle time
  • Increase accuracy
  • Increase asset visibility
  • Reduce asset loss

Requirements of the project included: 

  • Minimally invasive
  • Cost effective
  • Integrate with current asset system of record

Results of using RFID and ItemAware to track IT assets:

  • $1.2M annual savings
  • Reduced Property Custodians from 804 to 275 (employees were able to get back to their real job, increasing satisfaction)
  • Reduced inventory cycle time from 10 to 5 business days each month
  • Accuracy increased 100% due to data from RFID
  • Increased asset visibility and better monitoring of contractor performance
  • Reduced asset loss to near zero

Conclusion – Track IT Assets Using RFID to Save Time and Money

Watch the video below as RFID Journal’s Mark Roberti interviews Tom King from the USPTO office about how they save over $1,000,000 every year using RFID to track IT assets. 

Read the use case on this project to get more in-depth details on how the USPTO uses ItemAware to track IT assets.

Categories
RFID

Six Things to Look for in an RFID Asset Tracking System

With costs coming down and the technology making great advances, more and more industries and businesses, large and small, are investing in RFID as a cost-effective solution to meet their asset tracking challenges. One study estimates the global market for RFID technologies will be $38 billion by 2021, more than double the market today. If you are considering using RFID, here are six characteristics that a good RFID asset tracking and management system should have.

The six things:

 

  1. Easily Integrated. No manager wants the pain and cost of completely replacing existing infrastructure. If you can’t integrate a system easily, few of the decision-makers will get on board for implementation. An RFID system does involve purchasing additional equipment and software, but the right asset tracking system will also work together with existing systems, meaning modification rather than replacement.

 

  1. Your asset management system should easily expand as your company grows. Make sure the software is flexible and future-proof.

 

  1. “One-size-fits-all” is not a desirable feature in asset management systems – every business need and situation is unique. The solution needs to adapt to your specific needs – and budget.

 

  1. Asset Visibility. Improved technology reduces some of the limitations of RFID. The system should track in any environment, indoor or outdoor, and track moving assets if required. The best solution provides real-time tracking with accurate, up-to-date reporting.

 

  1. A secure RFID system is one that offers safeguards. Tracking assets makes it easier to monitor compliance and security issues, but an effective system monitors and sends alerts, and creates reports for auditing purposes.

 

  1. Cost Effective. This means more than ROI. An RFID asset tracking system may improve safety, which goes beyond positive or negative ROI. But, your asset tracking solution should easily install and be maintainable, and it should not require intensive training or additional staff.

 

Alternatives

When analyzing cost, you will need to consider whether you need passive or active RFID. Active tags are more expensive, but by being battery-powered and always “on”, they are better for tracking real-time locations and moving assets. They are also read from further away than passive tags. Passive tags depend on the reader for power, but are used in many instances and are a more economical solution for some applications.

 

Conclusion

A Qualified Systems Integrator Helps You Find the Right Asset Management Solution

 

Knowing the basics to look for is important, but most companies don’t have the in-house resources to install and commission an RFID asset tracking system efficiently and effectively. The additional expense of having expert guidance will more than pay for itself through a faster deployment with less risk.  You start seeing the advantages of the RFID system – and the resulting positive ROI – much sooner.

 

Aware Innovations has the consulting and integration services to help you make the right decisions. For more information on how an RFID asset tracking and management system can help your business be more efficient and productive, contact us via our website, email, or by phone at +1-937-528-5858.

Categories
RFID

Why use RFID to Track Inventory

Thousands of small and large businesses around the world now use Radio-frequency identification (RFID) to automatically identify and keep track of their assets and inventory. RFID technology has become indispensable for businesses due to its many crucial benefits, some of which we will discuss in this article.

Time and Cost Savings
Perhaps the primary benefit of using RFID technology to track your assets is the time and cost savings. According to a comprehensive study by RAMP RFID, an organization with about 100,000 assets can save up to $150,000 by moving to RFID-based asset tracking technology. Unlike traditional barcode scanning and manual tracking, RFID technology uses radio and electromagnetic signals to track truckloads of information. So, for example, if you want to check your inventory on a service van, you can turn on the RFID reader and information of the total inventory loaded on the van will be transmitted to your software or device instantly. Similarly, in another case study, a client company was able to dwindle its inventory costs by a whopping 60% after it moved to an IoT-based RFID solution made by GenPact.

Avoiding “Lost Sales” and Theft
Companies around the world suffer massive losses amid ‘lost sales’ which may be a result of the lack of RFID tracking technology. Human workforces have opportunity to misplace physical items. By placing tiny radio transponders or tags, companies can track their assets and items all the time. This could result in literally thousands of dollars in savings annually. Walmart made RFID technology mandatory in its warehouses and supply stores in 2005. American Apparel was able to get 100% visibility over its assets after introducing UHF RFID solution in its stores. It also managed to track and recover 1,500 lost items due to RFID technology.

RFID is Standardized and Scalable
RFID has become a standardized way of tracking assets and inventory. In 2008, the Financial Services Technology Consortium (FSTC) was founded by big companies like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank, and some tech companies. The purpose of the consortium was to standardize the RFID tracking technology of assets. This initiative made RFID scalable and secure. It doesn’t matter what kind of assets you want to track. They could be IT assets like computers, smartphones and tablets; machinery; livestock; furniture. You can use Passive RFID technology for physical assets. You just have to put tags on your items. These tags require no line of sight, and you can process hundreds of tags within a second.

Categories
RFID

Omni-ID Launches New RFID Manufacturing & Transportation Product Suite

September 14, 2009 09:01 ET

RFID Tag Suite Expands Omni-ID’s Established RFID Leadership to Manufacturing, Transportation and Defense Markets

FOSTER CITY, CA–(Marketwire – September 14, 2009) –

News Facts:

  • Omni-ID, the leading supplier of high-performance passive UHF RFID tags, today announces a suite of new products specifically designed for the manufacturing, transportation, and defense industries. The Omni-ID Ultra™, Omni-ID Max™ HD and Omni-ID Max™ Pro RFID tags are individually engineered to meet a range of market and customer needs, including those of global functionality across all geographic regions; near-perfect performance on, off, or near metals and liquids; and record read distances in on-metal-only environments.
  • The Omni-ID Manufacturing & Transportation product line takes full advantage of Omni-ID’s next-generation technology platform design, also announced today. Omni-ID has a fundamentally new approach to cost-effectively address the traditional limitations of passive UHF RFID, enabling the Company to meet market and customer needs for longer read distances; improved performance and reliability; and global functionality and interoperability with other RFID hardware and software. Omni-ID’s new passive RFID tags include:
    • Omni-ID Ultra: The Ultra is the longest read range, passive RFID tag currently available on the market today by a significant margin. In addition, the Ultra offers global functionality without any compromise in performance — an extremely important feature for applications being tracked internationally. By providing a balanced performance on, off, and near metals and liquids, Omni-ID Ultra protects customer investments and enables them to use the tags on different materials and in mixed-use environments. The Ultra’s heavy-duty casing supplies a level of durability essential to customers that require reliable identification of assets, and its ultra-long read ranges will target applications traditionally considered to be the domain of active and semi-passive solutions. This combination of features makes the Ultra an ideal tag for tracking containers, vehicles, and cargo commonly stored in outdoor environments.
    • Omni-ID Max HD: The Max HD is optimized for on-metal performance and offers a rugged encasement for added durability and high heat resistance in applications where a tag is subject to high impact and extreme weather conditions. Its global functionality offers broadband performance for use of a single tag worldwide. The Max HD is ideal for containers, cargo, racks and bins that will be moved between regions with different operating frequencies.
    • Omni-ID Max Pro: The Max Pro is an evolution of the Omni-ID Max product line. It provides longer read ranges than the traditional Omni-ID Max tag, and an additional level of ruggedness and more resistance to impact or vibration. The Max Pro is ideal for applications that require maximum performance in on-metal environments, such as retail warehouse inventory tracking, and offers a longer read range for on-metal applications than most tags currently on the market.
  • Omni-ID has already established itself as a value innovation leader for bringing the benefits of RFID applications to commercial services markets. By designing a new suite of tags that can cost-effectively track high-value assets across global regions and harsh environments — all with no compromise to performance levels — Omni-ID is extending its reach to meet the RFID needs of manufacturing, transportation and defense customers worldwide.

Quotes:

  • “With this Manufacturing & Transportation product suite, Omni-ID is taking the passive UHF technology innovation it brought to IT asset tracking solutions to now enable additional markets,” said Michael Liard, RFID Practice Director, ABI Research. “Omni-ID’s new offerings target a multitude of manufacturing, transportation and defense applications, including harsh and challenging environments where range, reliability, and ruggedization are key requirements.”
  • “Our next-generation passive RFID technology offers an unprecedented opportunity for tracking high-value assets in manufacturing, transportation/logistics, and defense markets,” said Tom Pavela, President and CEO, Omni-ID. “By evolving our technology platform and designing a new suite of RFID tags specifically geared to meet customer needs in these markets, Omni-ID provides exceptional global broadband accuracy and high performance in environments where passive RFID performance was previously unreliable. From tracking cargo and transportation vehicles to warehouse inventory environments, we anticipate Omni-ID’s Ultra, Max HD and Max Pro tags will enable new applications, no matter what global region or surrounding environment.”

About Omni-ID

Omni-ID is the leading supplier of high-performance passive UHF RFID tags that deliver near-perfect read rates on, off and near metals and liquids. Using a fundamentally different approach to RFID design, Omni-ID created a patented technology structure that allows for continued innovation and product development. Omni-ID has built a global partner ecosystem with leading RFID technology companies to deliver complete RFID asset tracking, supply chain management, work-in-process and cargo and container tracking solutions. To complement its product line, Omni-ID has a full-service bureau offering to ensure efficient and seamless deployment of RFID implementations. With offices in Foster City, Calif. and in the UK, along with a manufacturing facility in China, Omni-ID’s mission is to drive the widespread adoption of RFID technology as the optimal tracking and identification solution. For more information, visit www.Omni-ID.com.

Omni-ID Unveils The Ultimate Passive Tag with 135 Foot Read Range

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