Broadly speaking, radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is similar to barcodes in that it is an automatic identification system used to track and capture information about certain products. Instead of using barcodes, it incorporates labels with small antennas and microchips, providing a large amount of detailed information about the elements.
Passive labels vs. active labels
The microchips are embedded in the RFID tags so that they can be read using radio frequency signals. Through the use of an antenna, an RFID tag reader transmits a signal, to which the tag responds by returning the information previously stored on the microchip.
This action is done proactively or passively, depending on the configuration and location.
Active RFID continuously sends data to an active RFID reader using battery-powered tags.
Passive RFID must receive the radio signal from the passive reader before they respond.
Active and passive RFID tags transmit on different frequencies and can be purchased with different signal strengths to suit the read ranges of handheld and stationary readers.
Fixed vs handheld readers
RFID readers of the fixed type are connected to one or more antennas located in a central position so that they can see what is in that area at a certain time.
Handheld RFID reader has a single antenna built-in, making mobile devices ideal for passive RFID tags. Because the read range for devices is up to 5 meters, they are commonly used to manage inventory at the unit level of products. For example, in retail inventory management, retailers can point a reader to a group of clothing and instantly know what colors and sizes need to be restocked.
A curious use that is given to this type of tags in some warehouses is to be used to easily find lost objects and assets using handheld readers and passive RFID.
Where to use RFID tags
RFID tags adhere quickly and conveniently to dry surfaces and cardboard, although special tags for plastic and metal items can also be purchased. And because its signals are transmitted through most surfaces, excluding metal, RFID is ideal for:
Supply chain management is where groups of items stored in containers in warehouses or manufacturing plants are quickly scanned in storage and moved through production and distribution.
Inventory management where individual items, such as clothing in a retail location or misplaced assets in warehouses and other businesses, can be accurately replenished and located without adversely affecting operations
Should I use RFID tags?
Like barcodes, RFID can be an effective and efficient tracking solution. If you need a system that covers the following, RFID could be a good solution:
Capture data without human intervention.
Read labels instantly across packaging materials or containers.
Read hundreds of labels at once without them being in your direct line of sight.
Keep in mind that this system requires a series of configurations, in addition to a series of physical equipment, and therefore entails significant costs that must be taken into account.
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