What is RFID Asset Tracking?

Before implementing a RFID asset tracking system, it's important to know some of the components that make up that system.
Request a Free One-on-One Demo

RFID asset tracking has moved into manufacturing plants, warehouses, schools, retail stores, hospitals, labs, libraries, and entertainment venues across the world.

And with its arrival, inefficiency, unnecessary expenses, and stagnant growth have disappeared. Companies that have embraced this identification and tracking technology are enjoying increased profits and a competitive advantage for ongoing viability in the global marketplace.

Asset management is one of the most common uses of RFID, as evidenced in examples noted by the RFID Journal.

  • Air Canada saves millions each year tracking food carts using RFID. Not only do they lose fewer carts and spend less time and money taking inventory, the airline always has the carts they need at each catering station and every airport.
  • Johnson Controls supplies automakers with seats, dashboards, and other components. They installed an RFID system and enjoy 99.9 percent production accuracy.
  • Club Car assembles golf carts and reduced its build times from 88 to 46 minutes using RFID—which also ensures that each car is correctly built to exact specifications.

Why do companies choose RFID for asset tracking?

More efficient than manual or barcode processes

  • Long read ranges
  • Simultaneous tag reads
  • Line of site not required (except for metal and liquid interference)

Reduces labor costs and manpower required to track assets

  • Significantly reduces man hours required to perform asset audits
  • Automates tracking of asset movement without human interaction
  • Reduces manpower wasted on searching for assets
  • Improves accuracy and eliminates human error

Improves operations

  • Improves asset visibility and utilization
  • Reduces downtime by ensuring assets are where they need to be
  • Locates misplaced and lost assets
  • Streamlines processes
  • Secures assets
  • Ensures regulatory compliance (SOX/GASB)
  • Provides quick ROI

Several factors contribute to RFID's success, most notably the use of the correct RFID tag for compliance with federal, industry, and international mandates. In fact, RFID tags are widely regarded as the most critical component of a successful system. That's why it's important that organizations select the right ones.

Before we talk tags, let's begin with the RFID system basics.

Although RFID has been around some time now, many are unaware of the principals by which RFID tracking works, so let's review the key components.

  • This radio frequency identification technology uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track items with an RFID tag attached to them.
  • A basic RFID system consists of an RFID reader, antenna, RFID tag, RFID-ready mobile computer and barcode printer, mounting brackets, and cables.
  • There are two types of readers: fixed and handheld. Fixed readers are mounted in one location, typically over passageways where items usually pass. As such, they read tags without human intervention. Handheld readers are actually mobile computers with an RFID reader and antenna built into them. Manufacturers add a barcode scan engine, along with Bluetooth technology and Wi-Fi radio in certain models.
  • RFID primarily uses three frequency ranges to wirelessly track assets: LF (low frequency), HF (high frequency), and UHF (ultra-high frequency). The range most commonly used is UHF, which consists of active and passive RFID. Of those, passive is preferred, primarily due to its lower tag costs.
  • Passive RFID tags have no power source or transmitter; they use all three frequencies to reflect energy from the readers’ antenna. This design significantly reduces their costs. However, they only have a read range of up to 30 feet and experience interference from liquids, metals, and electromagnetic components, such as conveyors with nylon belts and robots on manufacturing lines. Sometimes cordless phones and wireless computers can also interfere with transmissions, which can be prevented by using specialized RFID tags.
  • Active RFID tags contain a power source (usually a battery) and a transmitter to broadcast signals to RFID readers. Because of these components, they cost more, making them prohibitive for many businesses. Too, like passive tags, they can experience interference in certain settings. However, active RFID offers extremely long read ranges (up to 300 feet), lower reader costs, and high transmission rates.

First things first, identify your RFID labeling requirements.

According to Statista, “the global market for RFID tags was around 5.6 billion (U.S. dollars) in 2010.” They expect that number to exceed 21 billion in 2020, which is also when experts predict the tipping point for the Internet of Things (IoT) will occur. In fact, Gartner estimates that “by 2020, global suppliers of products and services will generate incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion” using IoT solutions, which include RFID.

Is this a coincidence? Who knows? But, these numbers do prove that RFID is a booming business—which is why it's important to correctly choose the right tag before hurrying down the RFID path. If not, you could end up wasting money on RFID tags that won't work.

To determine which type of RFID tag you need, consider your requirements for:

  • Read range. At what distance will you be reading the tags? Do you expect this to increase in the future?
  • Size. What is the size of the area where you will attach the tag? Is it tiny or large, oddly shaped or
  • Surface. What type of surface will you be tagging? Is it metal, plastic, wood, or paper? Is it curved or flat, rough or smooth?
  • Environment. What are the conditions in which the tagged items will be stored? Is the area excessively hot or cold? Is it moist, dirty, or overly dry?
  • Security. What are your requirements for security? Do you need a tamper-proof tag to prevent fraud?
  • Attachment. How will you adhere the RFID tag to its surface? Will you use adhesive, epoxy, rivets, screws, or cable ties? How long does the tag need to remain attached and readable?

Choose the right RFID tag for your situation and environment.

Once you identify your labeling requirements, it's time to pick the right RFID tag.

There are literally hundreds of tags from which to choose, some of which are more expensive than others. Usually companies require consulting in selecting the right RFID tag since the price varies depending upon the type and volume. For example, metal-mount and rugged RFID tags are more expensive than RFID wet inlays or RFID labels. Likewise, the cost per tag increases when quantities decrease.

While manufacturers offer various tag combinations, each also provides basics commonly used to identify and track assets and inventory. These include:

  • Standard RFID tags work best on non-metal surfaces upon which tags are directly attached. Available in different sizes and shapes, these tags offer read ranges of up to 20 feet. Standard RFID tags are ideal for plastic surfaces.
  • Metal mount RFID tags use foam adhesive, which reduces RF interference. Ideal for metal surfaces, these tags have a read range of 5-6 feet.
  • RFID hang tags are not placed directly onto items. Instead, fasteners such as plastic ties attach to the item. Hang tags are easy to remove and reattach.
  • RFID windshield tags can transmit from 18 feet or more. That’s why they are used to control access to gated communities and parking garages and to collect tolls.
  • RFID folded tab tags are a great alternative to metal mount tags and typical inlays/tags for items with limited space. These tags have a read range of up to 20 feet.
  • RFID hard tags are designed for heavy-duty use because of their resistance to impact and water subversion. You may affix these tags using mechanical fasteners or adhesives. Their design provides a long read range.

Think RFID asset tracking is right for you?

We'd be happy to assist you in the transition to a complete RFID asset tracking solution. Our solution advisors will help you better understand your options, from the RFID asset tag to the RFID scanner to the RFID asset tracking software.

Tracking Consult

One of our advisors will contact you to discuss your needs in depth.

Let Us Show You How It Works

Request a free 30-minute demo of AssetCloud.

Free One-on-One AssetCloud Demo