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What RFID Options Are There for Shipping Applications?

Posted By RFID Journal, 01.30.2019

I have shipping containers and trucks that are packed densely with equipment. Traditional RFID hasn't worked well for me. What other options do I have for reading all equipment at more than 20 separate locations?

—Scott

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Scott,

There are many different types of radio frequency identification technologies, such as active, passive, ultra-wideband (UWB) and so on. I do not know which type you tried, but my guess is that you were using a passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID system. With densely packed equipment, it would be difficult to get enough energy from the reader antenna to the tag to power up the tag—and even if you did get power to the tag, the signal might be too weak to respond.

If you were to use battery-assisted passive (BAP) RFID transponders on the equipment, these would give you a stronger signal and you might well be able to utilize passive UHF RFID readers to capture information about all of the equipment within each container. BAP tags are more expensive (about $1 or $2 apiece), but they may well do the job. One downside, besides the higher cost of the tags, is that the batteries would need to be replaced every two or three years.

Another option would be active RFID transponders. Active tags cost $30 or more each, but they broadcast a signal so you would certainly be able to read the transponders on all equipment within each truck. In addition, Sonitor sells an ultrasound solution that works like an active RFID system, but instead of emitting an RF signal, the device sends out an inaudible sound wave that can be used to identify tagged objects.

One other way to know what is inside each container would be to tag the objects and use the RFID reader to track what goes in and what goes out. If the system were designed properly, you should know what's in a particular container at any given time, since you would have removed from inventory any items that left that container, and you would have added into inventory any items that were placed within it.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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