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Helping Solution Providers Help You

Here are a few tips for companies attending next week's RFID Journal LIVE! event that can ensure your RFID project gets off to a good start.
By Mark Roberti
Mar 25, 2019

I often receive emails from executives attending RFID Journal LIVE! asking which companies they should visit on the exhibit floor. I do my best to try to understand what they are trying to track and manage, the environment in which they want to use RFID and the benefits they hope to achieve, and I then recommend exhibitors that provide the products and services they need. I also offer a few tips that will help the exhibitors to determine what the companies need for a successful RFID implementation. I'd like to share a list of things I recommend attendees bring with them, as these can be useful to anyone interacting with RFID solution providers.

1. Photos of the items you wish to track.
Finding the right transponder for a particular item depends on knowing its size, the material it's made of and its shape. Having a picture of that item, particularly one with a ruler in it to show its size, will greatly help a tag provider find the right tag for your application.

2. Photos of doorways and portal areas.
It's also helpful to have images of the environment the items will be tracked in or through, particularly doorways, dock doors and other areas in which portals will be set up. Exhibitors will be able to quickly determine the right readers and antennas for specific areas, as well as any ancillary equipment that will be needed, such as stations for mounting reader antennas and bollards to protect them.

3. Video of workers taking inventory counts or tracking items using existing processes.
It's useful to see how employees currently do the job of counting, tracking and managing items, because it shows the issues they face, the inefficiencies that exist and the requirements the RFID system needs to meet. Such videos might also provide insights into challenges in the environment that the RFID system design will need to overcome.

4. Facility dimensions.
It's useful for RFID solution providers to understand the size of the area in which the system needs to operate. If you were trying to pinpoint the location of a hand tool at a manufacturing facility the size of three football fields, for instance, that would require one kind of RFID technology. If you were trying to locate a cell sample in a medical lab or a bottle of pills in the back of a pharmacy, however, that would necessitate a very different solution.

5. Information about RF devices operating at your facility, as well as any unusual characteristics that might impact the operation of RFID readers within the building.
It is useful to know if there are RF devices already in use, so that the RFID equipment selected will not interfere with the normal use of these devices. It's also good to know if there is metal diamond plating on the floors in certain areas, or other large metal objects that might reflect away RFID reader signals.

Having these items won't obviate the need for performing a site inspection prior to deploying an RFID solution, nor will it eliminate the need for solution providers to visit your facility before making a formal proposal. But it will reduce the amount of time that would be otherwise wasted talking to solution providers whose technology is not right for your application, and it will help those who have the right solution explain what it is and how they can help you.

RFID isn't yet completely plug-and-play, because RF energy bounces off some materials and is absorbed by others, but bringing the above items to LIVE! will help to ensure that you get the most out of the event. More importantly, it can help you smooth the path to a successful deployment.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal.

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