To simply put, RFID asset tracking is a technology that helps to track and manage your physical asset automatically. It operates by encrypting data on an RFID tag and linking it to a specific asset. This data can be anything from your pet’s name to the location and management of your company asset. The tracking and management of company assets is a key priority for any organization. Inefficiencies in this process can lead to severe ramifications like expensive delays, profit loss, and inadequate customer service.
But, how do we identify these inefficiencies?
What is the best way to avoid them?
Many companies have stepped up their game with advanced technologies like RFID asset tracking. Since time immemorial, we have seen barcodes being used to track various assets and inventory. Barcodes are capable of tracking items like rental cars, airline luggage, registered mails, and more. However, the competitive advantage of barcode technology is plummeting rapidly as businesses become more tech-savvy.
In the past two decades, the universal implementation of advanced asset tracking solutions has reached a whole new level. The global asset tracking market share is estimated to be worth $36.3 billion by 2025.
However, are these solutions worth their salt?
To better understand why you should consider adopting such solutions in your business. Let’s take a look at the below topics to know more:
What is RFID asset tracking?
Businesses often have a plethora of assets that need to be monitored and tracked. However, the management of inventory can be a wearisome and tedious task. Apart from this, the entire process of supervising, recording, and tracking each asset is subject to grave human error when carried out manually. This is why several organizations are now resorting to advanced technologies that can simplify and streamline asset tracking.
RFID or Radio Frequency Identification is one such technology that is used to track assets in real-time. This technology is known for its efficiency and cost-effectiveness. RFID can greatly reduce the manual work associated with asset tracking while eliminating errors at the same time. Your assets could range from stock, tools, and IT devices to vehicles and employees. By adopting RFID solutions, businesses can enhance the efficiency of tracking all these assets. While at the same time eliminate the use of serial numbers, spreadsheets and tracking equipment with barcode labels.
RFID asset tracking can automate the management and locating process of physical assets. With RFID tracking, you can easily audit, manage, and track your assets. The technology works by loading an RFID tag with data and connecting it to the required asset. Typically, an RFID reader can capture stored data through the RFID tag’s repeatedly pulsating radio waves. This data is then collected in an asset tracking system. Then, it can be monitored and used as required.
If you’re still confused about how RFID works, the next section will be able to give you a more in-depth idea about how this process is executed.
How does RFID asset tracking work?
It doesn’t matter which industry you belong to, as the principle behind an RFID tracking system stays consistent irrespective of the business processes involved. In such a system, there are a few key prerequisites that need to be acquired.
- RFID Tags (Passive, Active, or Semi-Passive)
- An Antenna
- An RFID Reader
- A computer database equipped with Asset Tracking Software
The various steps involved in an RFID asset tracking process are as follows:
- The data provided by the business is stored on an RFID tag. Each asset is assigned and attached to a unique Electronic Product Code (EPC).
- Antennas are used for the identification of RFID tag signals that are within the vicinity.
- The antenna is wirelessly connected to an RFID card reader and receives the data that has been inputted in the RFID tag.
- After this, the RFID reader proceeds to transmit the information to an asset tracking database. The data is then stored, evaluated, and actioned in the database itself.
Different types of RFID tags used for asset tracking
Now that you have a brief idea about what RFID tags are, it is time to delve into the various types of RFID tags. Typically, there are three main types that these tags fall under, namely- active, passive, and semi-passive. This section will discuss these three types and address the benefits and disadvantages associated with each one.
Active RFID tags refer to battery-powered tags that are capable of transmitting signals constantly. These tags are generally implemented in tasks like real-time asset tracking and tolling. Depending on the tag’s frequency, most active RFID tags have a signal range that goes up to 15 meters. These tags are inclined to be slightly more expensive when compared to passive RFID tags.
An active RFID tracking system is composed of three parts:
a) A tag
b) An antenna,
c) A reader.
Signals are sent outward from the antenna of the battery-powered tag and will be received by the reader if it is within the read range.
Some of the major benefits associated with active tags include:
- Higher memory capacities.
- The ability to store more information.
- Compact, with a surface of plastic or rubber.
- Ideal for higher-value assets.
- Active tags work better for travel between facilities, as the tags’ wider range and active signal provide more data and make them easier to find.
These tags do not possess an internal power source. They typically use an RFID reader or antenna for power. The common applications of these tags include tracking inventory, supply chain management, and access control. Passive tags aren’t capable of sending their signal. These tags must first be scanned by a signal sent from a handheld reader. The reader sends energy to the tag’s antenna, which turns the energy into radio frequency (RF) waves and sends a signal, called backscatter, back to the reader. On the downside, passive tags have a lower signal range when compared to active tags.
Some of the major benefits include:
- Small and lightweight.
- Has a longer life expectancy than Active RFID tags.
- An inexpensive option starting at an average price of just $0.08 per tag.
Semi-passive tags have an internal battery paired with an antenna and RFID chip. They have low signal ranges when compared to active tags. They are used for environment and condition monitoring activities like temperature-controlled transit.
Major use cases of RFID asset tracking
RFID asset tracking solutions have various applications in a wide array of industries. Some of the major use cases are listed below-
- Tracking of equipment and tools: It can be extremely difficult for workers on construction sites to find the tools and equipment they need to carry out their tasks. In addition to this, unapproved usage of such equipment can potentially lead to the loss of time for operators who have gone to search for it. There are also high chances for additional investment, rental, or repair costs. In case there is any non-compliance agreement associated with maintenance. RFID asset tracking can prevent such occurrences by providing real-time information on the exact location of each tool or piece of equipment on the site.
- Container tracking: Containers need to be distributed to various supplier sites simultaneously. There are several instances where containers have completely disappeared, making the process inefficient and frustrating for both suppliers and distributors. Furthermore, it could also lead to additional packaging costs or even production shutdown. RFID technology can help concerned authorities anticipate their supplies through the monitoring of supply locations. It can also provide proof of the number of containers sent to the suppliers.
- Visual merchandising: RFID solutions are capable of providing insights into merchandise performance on store displays. It can also link sales numbers to certain high- and low-traffic areas on the sales floor. With this, shop owners can easily gain access to an in-depth outline of floor performances, product locations, the popularity of each product, etc. Moreover, it helps to improve sales by gaining more information on store design and product placement.
- Enhanced customer experience: By linking a mobile app to an RFID tag, companies can improve their interaction with clients. Moreover, firms can even provide personalized offers, product information, compliance agreements, and health and safety details.
- Anti-theft: RFID solutions are known to be extremely secure, especially when they are directly embedded in the products. They offer protection against theft throughout the supply chain. RFID makes it possible to track assets and products right from production to shelf storage. Moreover, it is easy to localize exactly when and where a product went missing.
- Cold chain management: Most supply chains involve the transport of cold products, food items, and beverages. RFID solutions are used to monitor the temperature of products during their distribution. They can easily ensure that all products are transported and stored within a certain temperature range. RFID can provide real-time notifications at each stage in a supply chain. Moreover, it helps a firm to take corrective actions as soon as possible.
- Healthcare equipment: The adoption of RFID asset tracking in healthcare has been on the rise in recent years. During an emergency, both doctors and nurses require relevant healthcare equipment to provide critical care. To enhance the equipment visibility, we tag RFID to the equipment. This will ease pinpointing the location of the critical care equipment by accessing the hospital database. It notifies healthcare professionals when particular medical equipment needs to be replaced, etc. Also, it can even keep track of hospital inventory.
Benefits of RFID asset tracking
As consumer needs begin to rise, asset-heavy organizations have slowly begun to realize the need for implementing advanced asset tracking solutions. Irrespective of which industry your business may belong to, the solutions are capable of positively contributing to various aspects of your asset tracking operations.
Some of the key benefits of RFID asset tracking are as follows:
- Unlimited applications
Compatibility with every industry is the biggest advantage of RFID asset tracking. The application of this technology is apt in various fields like manufacturing, retail, logistics, warehousing, etc. The scope of RFID keeps expanding from government applications and multi-site large corporate operations to single warehouses and logistics.
- Improved supply chain productivity
RFID technology can be implemented at each stage of the supply chain, leading to much greater transparency in terms of operations. RFID solutions can form a key component in efficient operational planning, optimal equipment usage, maintenance planning, security, and recoverability. Businesses can also use big data collection to anticipate bottlenecks and prevent operational downtime. They can improve the business productivity of the employers while monitoring ROI at the same time.
- Cloud-based record-keeping
RFID solutions can quickly transmit information to cloud-based platforms for streamlined data exchange. Moreover, automated processes minimize the risk of human error on this front, with broad compliance benefits. Additionally, it greatly simplifies taking inventory of assets at any given time.
- Data-backed decision-making
Companies have started depending on data much more in recent times. Not only can data help improve strategic planning, but it also contributes greatly to enhanced decision-making. RFID asset tracking solutions can provide the required data for making the most proactive decisions.
- Lower costs and minimized labor time
RFID tracking systems allow for the automated monitoring of how assets are moved and transported in transit and warehouses. Apart from this, data gathering processes are also automated. This provides companies with access to real-time updates that are fed directly into the asset tracking system. From here, asset managers can monitor stock levels, track the supply chain, and even identify costly delays in operations. This eliminates the need for manual tracking methods such as spreadsheets, which effectively reduce employee labor time and human intervention.
Future of RFID asset tracking
RFID is a rapidly developing market with a promising future. Omni-channel retailing is one factor boosting RFID demand. RFID is the answer to the rising need for improved inventory tracking and management in eCommerce and mCommerce. RFID has the potential to provide significant benefits to businesses across a wide range of sectors.