Choosing Hardware Cost-Effectively

By Yedidia Blonder

To optimize a project's price tag, you can't just focus on tag costs.


When implementing a radio frequency identification system within their business, companies tend to fixate on the price of a specific type of tag, in order to choose the least expensive one. While such an approach might appear to reduce a project’s cost, that is often not the case.

A wiser approach would take into account the vision of the entire project’s total cost. Since every venture has its own unique needs, one type of hardware might be cost-effective for a specific project, but expensive with regard to another.

Projects tend to have six key elements:

• RFID tags

• RFID readers and room locators or zone IDs

• Additional infrastructure

• Implementation time

• Ongoing maintenance

• Software

Each element has its relative price in every project, which varies significantly from one technology to another. Therefore, in order to optimize a project’s total cost, the anticipated price tag for each venture and every technology being considered must be weighed vis-à-vis each of these six elements.

Some deployments involve simply tracking thousands of items, identified only if they are at a specific location. Such an endeavor would require a large amount of RFID tags, but a small quantity of readers. In such an undertaking, tag price is more important than reader cost.

On the other hand, for a project involving a small number of items that must be located in real time at room-level accuracy within a large number of rooms, choosing the proper interrogators and room locators would be more important than finding the lowest tag price.

The majority of track-and-trace projects include items of very high value, as well as those of low value that nonetheless must be protected. The quantity of such low-value items can be quite large. While it might make sense to employ pricier active RFID technologies to protect high-value assets in real time, low-value objects can be outfitted with inexpensive passive tags, and monitored in quasi real time using intelligent handheld readers. Selecting a software solution that can support the mixing and matching of different technologies would have a major impact on total project cost as well.

Certain readers and room locators require wired electricity and network connections, while others are wireless and sometimes battery-operated. Depending on the particular project being undertaken, the impact of the additional infrastructure required could represent a very significant amount of money, and that could be a major factor in preferring one hardware solution over another.

Implementation costs, as well as ongoing maintenance expenses, can vary significantly between various technologies. These pragmatic aspects should not be overlooked either.

Optimizing the cost of a deployment requires a wide perspective, far beyond the mere cost of tags or other individual items. Estimating the total price tag for the six aforementioned aspects is mandatory in the process of selecting the hardware and software best suited for your particular venture.

Yedidia Blonder is the product manager of Vizbee RFID Systems, a provider of a real-time tracking-software platform designed to support all leading RFID technologies, including different types within the same project.