Understanding the Challenges of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Technology

Imagine heading out to your favorite auto dealer in search of a new car. You know exactly what your family needs, but you lock in on a fully loaded sports car that’s out of your price range and only seats two.

It’s a scenario also befitting organizations in search of a solution for tracking assets.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has revolutionized the asset tracking practice for many companies, as it offers a quicker way to track multiple items over extended distances. For some organizations, RFID is the perfect solution. For others, it’s the fully loaded sports car that doesn’t necessarily meet their most basic needs.

While RFID technology has some limitations that have slowed it from overtaking the barcode, a reliable and often more cost effective solution, it may be the marriage of the two that presents the best option when implementing a system for tracking assets.

If you’re all in on RFID technology, however, it’s wise to consider these challenges:

  1. RFID can be more costly: Whether it be software or hardware, RFID requires more costly equipment that needs to be maintained through the life of the solution. Additionally, tags, whether they be Active, Passive or Semi-Passive, can set a business back a ways. Although prices have fallen with RFID upgrades since the 1970s, businesses are still taking a pass because of the steep prices.
  1. Trouble with metals and liquids: RFID has long had a difficult relationship working among liquids and metals, as both make it harder to get proper reads on assets. With metal, the problem stems from the radio waves bouncing all over the place. Liquids play havoc with RFID in that it can absorb signals sent from a tag.
  1. Tough-to-grasp technology: Understanding the different tags and frequencies as well as how to use RFID equipment can be a challenge. Managers need to be up on the technology so they can train their employees on the ins and outs of RFID and a new work flow.
  1. The RFID collision course: In dealing with RFID technology, workers come across reader and tag collisions. With reader collision, a worker might come across interference from another reader in the field. Tag collision is a little different, in that workers with readers face issues in reading an abundance of tags at one time. It happens when more than one tag reflects a signal, and it confuses the reader.

For companies trying to track assets or manage a supply chain, RFID has presented itself as an alternative to barcodes. An expensive price tag and certain problems have stunted its growth, but it’s worth doing your research on RFID to determine whether or not it is the right solution for you.

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