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How Is RFID Being Used for Mobile Handset Tracking?

Posted By RFID Journal, 03.26.2013

Furthermore, how much information can be stored on an RFID tag?

—Name withheld


To my knowledge, there have not been many projects involving the tracking of mobile phone handsets. In 2009, we wrote about Australian telecommunications firm Telstra, which completed an RFID trial that showed the technology could reduce labor costs and the incidence of product shrinkage (see Phone-Tracking Pilot Down Under Points to Big Benefits). During the three-month, trial—one of the country's largest item-level trials to date—Telstra tagged the packaging of 12,800 mobile phones, and then tracked them from its Sydney distribution center to six retail outlets around the nation.

Telstra reported that RFID improved its inventory accuracy by increasing visibility from 65 percent to 99 percent, while also reducing the amount it time spent receiving goods by 75 percent, the time spent verifying stock levels by 50 percent and the time spent searching for missing items by 50 percent. This reduction in shrinkage, combined with labor savings generated by the decreased time that workers spent counting inventory (which could then free up staff members to serve customers on the sales floor), was expected to save the company up to $4 million per year.

And in 2006, Dutch telecom carrier KPN and TNT Logistics, KPN's logistics provider, ran a trial in which the companies applied tags to packaging of individual mobile phones, and then tracked them as they were transported between a DC and retail stores operated by KPN (see KPN to Use RFID to Track Phones). The project, to my knowledge, did not proceed because tagging goods at a DC is labor-intensive and defeats the value of monitoring goods from the point of manufacture.

Handsets are valuable, so RFID can reduce supply chain shrinkage, improve inventory accuracy and save time and labor costs associated with tracking and counting handsets. As for the amount of information you can store on a tag, it depends on which type of tags you purchase. Some passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags can store just 96 bits of data, while others can store as much as 2 kilobytes of information.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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