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How Is RFID Used in Shipping Containers?

Posted By RFID Journal, 01.23.2015

What are some uses of radio frequency identification for shipments?

—Name withheld


Radio frequency identification technology can be used both on and in shipping containers. So let's take a step back and look at why you might want to use RFID in and on a container. Typically, companies have a pretty good sense of what they have in inventory, but once they put products into a shipping container and send it off, they have very little visibility into where those items are located and what is happening to them at any given time. The containers sometimes become lost in a distribution yard after arriving at a large warehouse, and are sometimes opened so items can be stolen.

RFID can help with each of these issues. By tagging cases, cartons, containers or individual items, a company can read the tags as the goods are placed into a shipping container and confirm exactly what is in each container, and that it matches what is supposed to be in it. This can be accomplished by staging the goods and reading the tags via a handheld interrogator, or by setting up a portal around the shipping bay. Information about what is in the container can then be written to an active tag that identifies that particular container. The active tag might also have a GPS or CPRS transmitter in it, so it can communicate its location via satellite or the cellular network. Now you have visibility of where those goods are as they travel to a distribution center or store.

When the truck arrives at a distribution yard or the container is offloaded from a ship, it might become misplaced. With an active tag, the specific container can be located in a large storage facility easily. If the active tag has a sensor, it can report if the door was opened without authorization. This can reduce theft, as well as the risk of terrorism.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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