RFID: Can it help your business?

Summary:In 10 years almost everything will be tagged, say the experts. So what are these little chips that are soon to be so pervasive, and how will they take over your business?

Starving for standards
Secrets and trials
Chipping the chains
RFID a real asset
Future potential
Executive summary

RFID a real asset
"In the short term, we think asset tracking is going to be the growth area [for RFID]," says Taleb, because it's easier to make a case that covers the relatively high cost of tags and because asset tracking is an in-house activity that doesn't rely on collaboration and standards to work. Only a small amount of data is involved (eg, the ID number of the asset and its location at a particular date and time), so it is a relatively simple application and it is easy to migrate from a barcode-based system, says Edwards.

Hong Kong airport has the world's largest RFID deployment, says Edwards, with around 500 read points to check that passengers' bags are going into the correct containers.

The healthcare industry may use RFID to track medical instruments, says Hudson, as it is important to know the location of expensive items when they are needed.

Barrows says a steel company is using tags to identify reels of steel. This means the overhead crane operator can "see" the reel's identity and movement instructions on a screen inside the cab, rather than relying on people on the floor to do the identification.

This change has a significant occupational health and safety impact, he says, as well as maintaining an accurate record of each roll's location. Packaging firm Visy has described a similar system for tracking reels of paper in a warehouse, directing the forklift driver to the right spot and ensuring the correct reel is picked up.

One Australian company has piloted the use of RFID to track specialised tools between a shared store and multiple workshops, says Habraken, while a mining company has used active tags thrown into the ore as it is removed from the face to track the quality of different batches.

Many applications are driven from a compliance or safety perspective, says Dawes. RFID can be used to ensure goods are not stored in conditions that may cause (possibly hazardous) degradation, geriatric,or paediatric patients can be protected from wandering or unauthorised removal, and the authenticity of goods can be checked.

RFID also provides an opportunity for capturing and using the history of an item. For example, the service history of a machine might yield clues about the likely cause of the current failure or help predict imminent failure of another component.

Once manufacturers start item-level tagging, purchasers will be able to use those tags for their own asset tracking and for other initiatives, avoiding the need to attach their own tags, says Armstrong.

Topics: Processors, Security

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