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RFID Business Applications

Radio frequency identification can be used in many different ways to create value. Here are the most common ways businesses are using RFID today.
By Bob Violino
Jan 16, 2005Radio frequency identification is an enabling technology, which means it doesn't provide much value on its own, but it enables companies to develop applications that create value. The Internet is another enabling technology, and just as the Internet enables companies to communicate, collaborate, educate, sell, entertain and distribute products, RFID enables companies to do many different things. This article looks at the major ways RFID is being used by companies today to create value and at some of the ways it might be applied in the future.

Keep in mind the RFID is used to identify objects or people. Its advantages are that it requires no human intervention, tags can usually be read even when a tag is not facing a reader antenna (tags can't be read through metal and some other materials), and the information can be transmitted to computers in real time. Typically, when a read reads a tag, it passes three things to a host computer system: the tag ID, the reader's own ID and the time the tag was read. By knowing which readers are in which locations, companies can know where a product is, as well as what it is, and because of the time stamp, they can know everywhere it's been.


NYK actively monitors containers
Asset Tracking
It's no surprise that asset tracking is one of the most common uses of RFID. Companies can put RFID tags on assets that are lost or stolen often, that are underutilized or that are just hard to locate at the time they are needed. Just about every type of RFID system is used for asset management. NYK Logistics, a third-party logistics provider based in Secaucus, N.J., needed to track containers at its Long Beach, Calif., distribution center. It chose a real-time locating system that uses active RFID beacons to locate container to within 10 feet (subscribers, see Logistics Gets Cheaper by the Yard).

Air Canada is saving millions of dollars each year by tracking food carts used at airports around the world. It chose to place active transponders under the carts (passive tags were too hard to read on the metal carts) and readers on the entrance and exits of catering facilities around the world (subscribers, see Air Canada GETS Asset Tracking). It not only loses fewer carts and spends less time and money taking inventory, it also is able to better manage the movement of carts so there are always carts at the airport catering stations that need them.

RFID Journal has published case studies on other successful applications, including El Paso County's use of 915 MHz passive tags to track computers and IT and office equipment (Tracking Assets from Prairie to Peak); law firm Fish & Richardson P.C.'s use of 13.56 MHz tags to track files (RFID Brings Order to the Law); and a Singapore company's use of 13.56 MHz technology to track samples of construction concrete that must be tested to ensure building safety (Tracking Concrete Cubes for QA).

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