RFID: Enabling Business

Most companies are aggressively adopting RFID technology for managing security, access control, logisitics and real-time information
With increasing business benefits , decreasing costs and more and more applications and solutions becoming available, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is steadily finding acceptance and adoption across verticals. Retail ports, industries, warehouses , parking lots, toll roads, travel/car fleet units, banks, airports, judiciary and government are a few of the significant adopters of this technology. While priorities vary for industries, the bottom line expectations essentially stay the same. Most companies are aggressively adopting RFID technology for managing security, access control, logistics as well as real time information access and update with tags, sensors, readers and state-of-the-art business application systems.
RFID uses radio frequency waves to transfer data between a reader/scanner and a movable item to identify, track or locate it. RFID does not require physical sight or contact between the reader and the tagged item, making it more efficient than traditional bar codes. However, it is not merely a better substitute for bar codes, RFID as a technology has varied applications across industries and business functions.

In the retail industry RFID is primarily used in inventory control. In a retail outlet all stocked items contain an inexpensive read-only tag that stores the product code and its description, including the manufacturer , brand, batch number, expiry date and price. The shelves, exit gates and warehouses are fitted with a small antenna that senses the RFID tags and reads the information to update the inventory system on a real-time basis. The benefits of such a system are the provisions for total asset visibility, full inventory history with tracking and reduced inventory-stocking levels that facilitate ‘just-in-time’ deliveries. It also ensures better process control for products in the facility, reduced shelf space and lead-time that shortens across docking time, higher-level security, fewer errors and better visibility of goods material.

In warehouses and container depots, pallets and containers are tagged with read-write RFID chips that contain details of origin, destination and other material details. Entry and exit gates, escape routes, vehicles and cranes are fitted with an antenna that senses the RFID tags and records and updates the system to check for any deviation in the schedule. With precise tracking of the location of pallets and containers within the warehouse, it is easy to pinpoint any unscheduled movements. The system also helps reduce costs and time for check-in and check-out considerably.
RFID is also finding its place in access control systems of parking lots and toll roads. Vehicles are provided with RFID cards that include their access status while all entry and exit gates are equipped with lowmedium power antennas to sense and direct vehicles according to their ‘status’ . Parking lots, equipped with RFID, benefit from faster, low-congestion , automated systems, with enhanced security, strict implementation of access rights, easy and fast tracking of vehicles. Through efficient management of automated status update it helps in better revenue generation in paid parking lots and toll roads.

In car manufacturing facilities RFID technology is effectively used to track the full inventory history of cars. Car carriers are attached with RFID tags that contain the details of the cars they carry. The entry and exit gates are equipped with antennas that enable automatic control and monitoring of the car inventory.

RFID also finds its use in banks, judiciary and government to track important document files. Files are provided with a RFID tag that contains details like of document type, case number and confidentiality level. In organisations, where confidentiality of documents is critical, RFID can be used to track, report, identify, manage and move such documents easily and effectively. The RFID tracking systems software also allows RFID document tags to be linked with the staff access control badge, thus allowing control over movement of critical documents into, out of, and within the facility.

Tracking movement of baggage, staff and passenger control — a vital function at airports — can be managed effectively if the baggage tags, staff badges, passenger boarding passes and visitor tickets are RFID enabled. At all relevant entry / exit points, sensors can be placed to sense their movement. It helps airport authorities provide improved security, reduce error in baggage handling and management and allow for area specific access to staff and passengers to avoid any security lapses.
RFID tags are also being increasingly used for hands free access control, where employee and visitor badges are RFID activated containing employee and visitor details and entry / exit points are RFID sensor-enabled . Such arrangements provide access control solutions that are truly hands-free and agile. Surveillance cameras and video recording equipment can be triggered when certain user-specified RFID incidents occur. The RFID tracker thus allows RFID asset tags to be linked with the owner’s access control badge that helps control movement of critical and high-value items into, out of, and within facility. RFID technology is effectively used in tracking animals in zoos, abattoirs, dairies and veterinary hospitals. It is also becoming popular for parcel tracking and management in courier/express industries, warehouses, godown and other similar functions where access is either required to be controlled or logistics are to be managed.

The success of RFID technology depends largely on its integration with existing business applications and enterprise solutions. It is critical that the user interfaces for RFID solution integrates seamlessly with the existing business applications and enterprise solutions thus creating least user dissonance as well as inter-operability of data and systems for two different RFID sources, for example cross-checking employee-asset rights and confidentiality parameters. Deployment of such systems will also require careful estimation followed by balancing of multiple database access and transaction loads.
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