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As our primary provider for RF equipment, we have found them to be very responsive and knowledgeable.

-Randy Morris
Business Technology Manager
Doe & Ingalls of NC

RFID Systems & Solutions – Streamline Business Activity & Maximize ROI

Simply put, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is a way of identifying things without actually seeing them. It is a generic term used to describe a system that transmits the identity (in the form of a unique serial number) of an object or person wirelessly, using radio waves. RFID systems involve readers that capture data on tags and transmit it to a computer system, without needing a person to be involved.

RFID is in use all around us. If you have ever chipped your pet with an ID tag, used EZPass through a toll booth, or paid for gas using SpeedPass, you’ve used RFID.

Uses of RFID solutions include:

  • Asset tracking, usage and maintenance records
  • Parts tracking
  • Manufacturing work-in-process
  • Defect reduction
  • Throughput improvement
  • Production management
  • Real-time locating systems
  • Industrial asset tracking
  • Returnable Transit Item (RTI) management (roll cages, pallets, plastic crates, totes)
  • Shipping error reduction
  • Labor cost reduction
  • Retail supply chain efficiency improvement
  • Payment systems
  • Access control
  • Various forms of security
  • Passports
  • Transportation payments
  • Loyalty programs

Components of an RFID System:

Inovity can analyze your application and recommend if an RFID system is right for you. We can help you calculate the costs and return on a system, and design and implement a complete solution, including:

  • RFID printers/encoders or pre-encoded tags
  • RFID supplies (encoded/encodable tags and labels, ribbon)
  • RFID readers and antennas
  • Middleware (software to parse and manage the RFID data)

RFID Systems Illustration

  • The antenna in an RFID tag emits radio signals to activate the tag and to read and write data to it
  • The reader emits radio waves in ranges of anywhere from one inch to 100 feet or more, depending upon its power output and the radio frequency used. 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 chip and the data is passed to RFID middleware, which parses and manages the RFID data
  • The data is transmitted to a host computer for processing

Although it is often considered a replacement to bar coding, the two technologies actually complement each other and are frequently used together to overcome the limitations of each:

  • Bar coding uses line of sight. The scanner must physically see the barcode in order to read it. This has the obvious limitations of only being able to read one barcode at a time, and the barcode must be properly aligned with the reader.
  • RFID uses radio waves, much like the security tags used in retail. The reader is connected to antennas that send radio waves into the air. The radio waves hit the antenna of the RFID chip, waking it up, and causing it to transmit its data. The reader’s antennas pick up the data and send it back to the reader, where it is decoded and then sent to a host application for further processing.
  • Barcodes and RFID technologies are both enabling solutions with different physical attributes; they are not mutually exclusive, nor will one replace the other. Barcodes use one-way, serialized, static data. RFID uses two-way, parallel, dynamic data.

Benefit of RFID System:

  • Identify multiple items at once
  • Can be designed for read ranges from several inches to over a hundred feet
  • Can be very durable
  • Ensure assets are in the right place at the right time
  • Reliable, real-time information for raw materials, finished goods, and work-in-process
  • Prevent duplicate and surplus assets
  • Track individual asset usage and maintenance records
  • Improve maintenance and replacement forecasting
  • Achieve better availability of assets with fewer service breaks

Just like bar coding has many symbologies (languages), each with its own advantages, disadvantages and capabilities, RFID has various types, frequencies, and protocols—some of which vary by country.

Types of RFID Tags:

  • Active tags: Battery-powered, act autonomously
  • Passive tags: No battery, require external trigger
  • Battery-assisted tags: Battery-powered, require external trigger

RFID Frequencies:

  • Low Frequency (LF): 125-135 KHz (Through most things)
  • High Frequency (HF): 13.56 MHz (Fluid and metal tolerant)
  • Ultra High Frequency (UHF): 869-930 MHz (Up to 30m)
  • Microwave: 5.8 GHz (High data rate, smallest)

RFID Standards:

  • ISO 15693: Non-contact smart payment
  • ISO/IEC 18000: Item management
  • ISO 18185: Cargo containers
  • EPC Gen 2: (EPCglobal UHF Class 1 Generation 2)/Supply chain

RFID Considerations:

  • Certain materials block the RF signal
  • Tags are significantly more expensive than labels

Although RFID can read through many materials, some liquids inhibit transmission. For optimum read rates, the antenna should be parallel with the reader. Also, smaller tags require the reader to be closer, and the data in the tag has to be encoded a special way. Because RFID uses radio waves instead of line-of-sight, RFID is a great way to identify and track things through packaging, containers, and other items. It allows multiple items to be identified at once, and can be set up to read items as they are moved through a portal.

In comparison to a traditional barcode system, the increased cost of designing, implementing, and operating an RFID system (including hardware, programming and tags), often limits the applications to compliance mandates, high-value merchandise, or closed-loop systems. However, as system costs continue to decline, the use of RFID is increasing.