In today’s world, tracking things along the supply chain is more difficult and challenging than ever before. If it’s not one thing preventing supplies from reaching their destination, it’s another causing damage to them throughout the trip. Fortunately, there are plenty of tech tools that can be used to mitigate or prevent damage. One of these is the radio frequency identification tag or RFID. RFID tags are small tags that are often used to track and identify objects. They could be placed anywhere, shipping containers to library books. Each tag has its own unique identification number and can collect information to be retrieved by a scanning device later. There are many benefits and applications of using RFID, especially with the proliferation of smartphones and newer technologies happening every day. Here’s how to use them to track assets along your supply chain.
What RFID Tags Are
In layman’s terms, RFID tags are incredibly small devices that use RFID technology to identify and track objects or people. They’re used in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, airports, warehouses and retail stores. RFID tags come in a variety of types including smart cards like what people use in wallets and keychains, tags that can be affixed to other items, and wristbands used by event planners to identify attendees (among other things). They’re active RFID tags that emit their own signal and passive RFID tags that don’t (they need a reader to power them). RFID he’s currently being used in everything from hospitals to warehouses to help keep track of the assets that matter to your organization.
How They’re Built
To better understand how an RFID reader can be used to track assets across your supply chain, it’s important to first know that RFID tags have three parts. The first part is the tag itself, which is the part that contains a chip and antenna. These are obviously the most vital parts of the tag. The second part is the apparatus that attaches this RFID tag to the asset or inventory you plan to track. Whether it’s simply writing instructions on the paper or attaching the tag to some sort of adhesive then putting it on your cargo, the step should not be overlooked. Finally, there’s also another type of device called a transceiver—a device that acts as an intermediary between an RFID reader and everything else in its path—which means you can read information remotely and take appropriate action at that point.
Understanding RFID Frequencies
Frequency is an important parameter of RFID tags. To understand. Frequency is measured in Megahertz (MHz), Gigahertz (GHz), or Terahertz (THz) frequency ranges. Think about radio signals or the range of human hearing. Frequencies influence everything
The lower the frequency, the longer the range of operation of a particular tag. In turn, higher frequencies have a shorter operational range. A 125 kHz tag can operate up to 10 meters away from an RFID reader while 433 MHz tags can operate at distances up to 80 meters away from an RFID reader. It ultimately depends on what you hoped to track and how far the reading ranges need to be in order to gain optimal data. Because higher frequencies lower the reading range of the tag, you might consider going with lower frequency tags over VHF or UHF tags. The size, orientation, and material the tag is attached to also determine its frequency range. Carefully selecting and employing the right type of RFID asset tags will help you keep tabs on your inventory and solve many supply chain challenges with ease.
Active vs. Passive Tags
There are two types of RFID tags: active and passive. Choosing the right one for your supply chain will depend on how far you need it to track and what type of information you hope to glean from them. Passive RFID tags typically use a battery and a radio frequency (RF) transmitter to send out a signal that can be read by an RFID reader. The battery is good for a certain amount of time, so you’ll need to stay on top of when it requires replacement. Active RFID tags don’t need batteries. Instead, they draw power from the electromagnetic field the antenna coil creates when it’s around a source of alternating current (AC). This effectively creates an indefinite operational life span and offers more functionality on the overall. They can be a bit expensive and might require more tech than your standard passive tag, but they’re worth it in the long run. semi passive RFID tags offer a best-of-both-worlds approach that can help you keep track of assets in real time.
Using Them In Your Supply Chain
Committing to using RFID tracking asset tags and supply chain can save you time, money, and damage out your cargo. They can be incorporated in everything from shock lockers/impact indicators to temperature sensors. This gives them a multifaceted set of uses that can be quite beneficial for you and your customers. RFID technology can ultimately improve your supply chain’s efficiency and help you track assets across your network. With increased visibility and control, improved security, and theft/loss prevention being a top priority for most businesses, using RFID to prevent them is the key to continued success in the future.
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