Active RFID tagging - the vehicle to Real Time Resource Control

July '99 Asset Management, EAS, RFID

Active RFID tagging - the vehicle to Real Time Resource Control

Eight months ago, when the newly formed company Automated Identification Technologies had a workshop with its advertising agency to discuss the marketing strategy for it Link-it product, the concept of Real Time Resource Control was born.

After attending the Tag Europe ’99 conference in Antwerp, Belgium, and the recent IFSEC ’99 exhibition in Birmingham, UK, AIT is more convinced than ever, that the active radio frequency tag has an important role to play in the new emerging market. Says AIT’s Danie Lategan, “Active RFID could become one of the missing links required to enhance existing identification technology, to provide the facility to control people and valuable assets in real time.”

Why is real time control so important in the new emerging engineering discipline?

Says Lategan, “Modern technology, new patents, the extremely fast processing power and cost effectiveness of today’s processors are the catalyst for new product innovations. Whilst the concept is not new (active tagging has been around for a very long time), to date active tags have not been effectively applied in the manner in which AIT has achieved. Price, size, battery size, battery life, transmission intervals, encryption and many other factors have prevented a more generic application of RFID tags.”

“Active RF tags, transmitting a large ID at least once a second with a battery life in excess of 3 years, with good encryption and high security characteristics, makes it possible for accounting, logistics, human resources and security, to interactively share information, resources and systems,” says Lategan. “In doing so, management is now in a position to control their assets and people in real time.”

“The data available from the new information pool can be manipulated to provide another set of useful information (MIS), which if integrated with the financial MIS, enables detection and identification of deviations in management objectives much earlier than would normally be the case. If dealing with an online MIS system, corrections can be implemented ‘on the fly’, resulting in a material impact on the company’s bottom line.”

Tag Europe ‘99

“At the above mentioned conference, very good papers were delivered, including many case studies. Passive tagging featured very high, with no reference to the solutions that active RFID could provide,” says Lategan. “It is clear that active tagging is not the panacea to all automated identification problems, but it is equally clear that it can provide effective solutions that are still missing. Shortcomings left by manual stock taking, certain inadequacies in access control and security systems could be resolved by the instantaneous provision of relevant facts around a specific tagged asset - for example the identification of the person responsible for an asset, within the context of date and time, and whether that person/asset was authorised to be at that specific location at that moment. The difference in approach is encapsulated in the question ‘Are you here?’ (passive tagging) as opposed to ‘here I am here I am, her I am! (active tagging).”

Adds Lategan, “There seems to be a perception in the market that the active tag is too expensive. This however is not the case when viewed with the context of a system, and when applied to the appropriate market or application. Active tagging will not be the solution for the mass retail market for some time, for instance, but there are already many areas where its provides a competitive edge to other solutions. The tag/reader cost ratio may not always at first glance appear to be attractive, but the difference may not be substantial and in many instances the solution may be very cost effective and easy to implement.”

“A word of caution must however sound. As with most things in life, things are not always as simple as they seem, particularly if you do not know he ground rules and basic fundamentals of RFID. If tags are transmitting a 32-byte datastring every second, the data traffic must be considered at any critical point in the system configuration, collision probability studies and data traffic calculations must be made and the consequences understood. The end-users must be involved and buy into the concept and the system, much like an access control system, if the implementation of the system is to be successful. There must be a clear understanding of the operation of the system, as the application software will need to be adapted according to the operational plane, and the functionality of the system must be evaluated against the predefined operational criteria of the system.”

What is the future potential for Active RF tagging?

“Judging from the reaction, questions and the quality of enquiries at IFSEC ’99, the answer must be ‘very good indeed’. The growth potential is unbelievable,” says Lategan. “RFID (all applications) burst through the US$1 billion/annum ceiling this year, from less than US$ 226 million two years ago. The spread of applications is so wide that it is difficult to reserve a particular market niche for the active tag yet. Some of the more obvious applications that come to mind include the management of the modern office with its myriad of computers, laptops, modems, UPSs, mainframe cabinets etc, art galleries, vehicle yard monitoring, hospitals, cash in transit, access control enhancement, monitoring of vehicles…. the list is endless.”

“This is not to mention the use of AIT’s patented technology in other applications, unrelated to tagging.”

Concludes Lategan, “The company’s name indicates its broad vision, and within this vision there are tremendous scope to apply this and other technologies.”

For details contact AIT on tel: (011) 325 0320 or fax: (011) 325 0341.

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