RFID may have failed to achieve its initial promise, but may yet prove the solution of choice in many fields.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a general term that is used to describe a system that transmits the identity (in the form of a unique serial number) of an object wirelessly, using radio waves. RFID is evolving as a major technology enabler for tracking goods and assets around the world.
Most people are familiar with the concept of an RFID tag (radio frequency identification) – an electronic tag that communicates with a receiver when it is in range and the receiver indicates when the tag is out of range. The main obstacle to the spread of RFID in manufacturing is the success of barcodes, the previous generation of auto-ID technology. In most applications, reading barcodes requires direct human intervention, a clean, high-contrast environment, and often more than one attempt.
So, how does RFID differ from other methods of identification and data capture?
RFID does not need line-of-sight to operate. Using radio means that the tag no longer has to be visible on the object to which it is attached.
Not only is the amount of data that can be stored in a bar code much smaller than in an RFID tag but it cannot be updated. In many applications, the functional potential of RFID may not yet beat the low cost of barcodes, but it is only a matter of time before it does.
Another feature of RFID is the ability to read many tags together at once (up to 50) with one reader. It is not necessary to present each tag to the reader separately (as is required for barcodes), instead all tags within the range of the reader can be read almost simultaneously as they pass the reader. Again, there is a huge savings potential in not having to manually present the reader to each item to be identified.
The range of tags can be customised for every type of application, allowing monitoring of assets in close proximity to each other. MtrackTag, for example, is configurable from 10 metres to 800 metres away from the receiver.
Applications fall into two principal categories: short range applications where the transceiver and tag must be in close proximity (such as in access control, monitoring production processes, warehouses etc) and medium to long application, where the distance may be greater (such as monitoring assets along a stretch of road).
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