We are looking to buy an RFID system to manage the movements of items into and out of our organization, such as laptops, computers, furniture, smartphones, cameras and so forth. The system should be able to record when an item leaves the premises, when it returns, how long it has been out and to whom it has been given. What would be required to install such a system? What would such a solution cost, what would be required to install such a system, and what would the prices be for all components?
The first thing you would need to do is to create a complete inventory of the items that you want to track. Ideally, you should classify these items. So chairs, desks, tables and so on would be listed under furniture. Laptops and desktops would be listed under computers; printers and scanners would be listed under peripherals; and so on. You should indicate what each item is made out of—plastic, metal, etc. For items made of metal, you would need a special on-metal tag. These would cost more than a standard RFID label that could be used on plastic items.
You would need to set up a tagging station, at which a tag would be applied to each asset (a mobile phone, for example). The tag ID would be read and that ID would be associated with the specific phone in a database. When the phone was issued to someone, that person would need to be associated with the phone and the tag ID in the same database.
You would need to set up portal readers at each entry and exit, and also run electric power and Ethernet cables to them. You could also use Wi-Fi-enabled readers to reduce the cost of wiring. The readers would send data back to the database to indicate an item had left the building or returned. You would need software on top of the database to enable the tag ID-to-object association and generate reports and alerts.
My recommendation would be that you seek a skilled systems integrator to help you choose tags and readers, design the solution and determine the return on investment. But to give you a rough idea of the expense, it would likely cost 15 to 20 cents for each ordinary RFID label (less if you were buying in large quantities). It would likely cost about 50 cents to 75 cents apiece for on-metal tags. Fixed readers would cost about $1,000 to $1,500 each, but you would need portals and installation help, so I would estimate approximately $5,000 per exit or entry point. Software varies greatly; you could get something for as little as $10,000, or as much as $100,000.
I hope this helps you.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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