RFID in General
RFID is bringing you a better and safer world
RFID is technology used to track and trace objects. Tagged items, such as cases of chocolate bars, are identified via radio waves with special RFID-enabled readers.
RFID systems are considered a generation ahead of barcode systems because they allow producers and suppliers to scan items in bulk, thus saving time and money. Instead of having to identify each item individually, RFID technology can identify 20 chocolate bars at once.
Each RFID application consists of tags, readers and a computer system. Tags are made up of a microchip and an antenna and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but as the technology advances, tags are getting smaller.
The market has developed a variety of tags to meet different tracking and tracing requirements. Some tags are passive, meaning they do not emit any signals. These are the more typical and low-cost tags and the ones most often used to track consumer goods and food. Other tags are active, sending out signals to readers at predetermined intervals.
Reading tagged items
Once items are tagged, a reader is needed to transmit information via radio frequency identification between the tag and the computer system. Readers can be stationary or hand-held mobile devices. Readers include built-in antennas, or they are connected to antennas. They also contain electronic components and a power source, such as a battery.
A common RFID application used by retailers includes passive tags placed on stationary readers mounted at the dock doors of their distribution centres. When a worker moves a pallet or a case from the warehouse on to a truck’s loading bay, the RFID reader at the dock door activates and reads the tags on the pallets or cases.
In most cases, the information collected via the reader is a long number that contains no personal or product information. It simply gives the object a unique identity. In other words, it distinguishes one type of chocolate bar from another.
Transferred via reader to a system’s database by special software, the number can be associated with important information, such as production date and location in the supply chain, serial and batch numbers, and a record of intermediary suppliers. If a chocolate bar were to go bad, this information would be crucial in helping suppliers track the problem to its origin. The information also helps suppliers and retailers manage inventory, so that the chocolate bar you want is sure to be on the shelf when you walk down the confectionery aisle.
RFID for access control
In some cases RFID is the basis for access control systems, such as keyless entry to office buildings. All you need to do is wave your building pass with a tiny RFID tag on it in front of a reader. If the card’s unique ID matches your personal data stored in a special computer system, the door will unlock and you will be admitted to the building. Companies which operate these security systems can collect information on the movement of workers through secure sites, but the use of this information is limited by practice and regulations.
Another example: some countries are placing RFID in passports to speed up border control procedures. In this case, personal information, such as birth date and a physical description, may be stored on a computer system and linked to a tag’s unique ID; in other cases, biometric data could be stored on the chip. Here again, this information is safeguarded by strict regulations already in place.
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