A Business Revolution Providing Strategic and Competitive Advantage
Point of View
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a wireless data collection
technology developed during World War II that has been used in
tracking and accessing applications for about a decade. The
technology transfers data wirelessly between a tiny transceiver and
atag. A tag is a combination of an electronic transponder with an
antenna that can be attached to items such as a razor blade, an
infusion pump in a hospital, a bottle of soda or a military tank. When
the tag comes within the range of the transceiver, anywhere from
inches to nearly three hundred feet, the transceiver decodes the
information electronically programmed on the tag. Advances and
standardization in the protocol, tags and RFID readers have brought
scale and prices to the point where use of the technology for asset
tracking and location services is feasible.
Tags include extremely small microchips that are about the size of a
pepper flake. However, the required antenna makes the tag about
1squareinch. The microchips listen for a radio query sent out by a
RFID transceiver. The chips then respond via a defined protocol by
transmitting their stored, unique identification code through the
antenna. The transceiver receives the data and decodes the signals.
Transceivers are usually integrated into handheld terminals. They can
also be part of readers fixed to a door or wall in a facility, or even
integrated into Wi-Fi access points. The data collected by the readers
are sent over a network, either wired or wireless, to host computer
systems. These systems could be in the same building or located
around the world.
RFID technologies currently in use today generally fall into one of four
radio frequency ranges:
"Low Frequency Devices (125-134 kHz) areuseful for limited range
applications, such as animal identification and where metal items
aretagged (such as in warehouses)
"High Frequency Devices (13.56 MHz) would be used in environments
where moisture might be present
High Frequency Devices are used today for airline baggage
tracking and building access control applications
These devices do not work well with metal
"Devices that Operate in the UHF Range (868-928 MHz) may be
useful for pallet and container tracking and have a longer read-
range of over 1.5 meters
"Devices that Operate in the Wi-Fi Range (2.4 GHz) are useful for
longer read-range needs and are gaining wide acceptance with
healthcare providers for critical asset tracking
" RFID technology has been in use for many years, but
is finding a mass-market application in supply chain
systems. Mandates to suppliers from large retail
firms and the government are accelerating adoption.
Standardization, which is occurring within the
EPCglobal organization, is also influencing RFID use.
"Technical and standards issues need to be addressed.
However, sufficient progress has been made so that
thereshouldbe widespread use of RFID for supply
chain applications within 2008-2009.
"Most supply chain applications have been at the pallet
level. Costs, operational issues and privacy concerns
have limited testing at the product level. Ensuring the
technology benefits accrue to the end customer could
alleviatesome concerns (i.e., receipt and warranty