I believe an RFID-based solution would work for my use case. I run a hyperlocal e-tail model. There are approximately 100 delivery agents servicing around 300 routes for a volume of about 20,000 to 25,000 customer orders per day. I see huge instances of missing items or shortages of consumable products during last-mile deliveries. Eventually, I end up with a refund rate of about 20 percent of the total sales per month (US$10,000 to $15,000).
Hence, I would like to build an Android-based app that would help me track units at the customer order level. I’ve explored a few options with Zebra Technologies using passive RFID tags. However, this wouldn’t provide a cost-effective solution, as I cannot afford to provide an RFID sled to every delivery agent. Perhaps I could have two to four sleds at a warehouse to write data to tags in bulk, and then scan exit times from the warehouse. My question is this:
Can I build an Android app for delivery associates to scan the number of products delivered at the customer location, with the least amount of human intervention? Say, a tag written with customer-order and item-level information could be scanned for delivery time at the customer’s location. If the answer is “yes,” then what type of RFID tags would be useful for tracking purposes, utilizing a basic Android mobile phone that supports Bluetooth?
UGrokIt, which is now part of Turck, developed a reader for an Android phone. The company also developed some Android-based software that you could use to manage your inventory. There are many other RFID “sled” readers that can connect to a smartphone to allow you to read passive UHF tags via a phone. Most would require you to purchase software separately, though there are other options similar to what UGrokIt offers.
Almost all Android-based phones now have Near Field Communication (NFC) readers built into them. You could also employ QR codes, which are cheaper to print. The problem with both options is they would require staff members to scan each item. Sometimes, workers forget to scan goods, and then the system would begin to break down. Any hands-free solution by which tags could be read automatically would be expensive.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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