I would like to use an RFID device for attendance purposes at a school. How much would it cost to do this in total, and what would be the proper approach to take?
The cost would depend on many different factors. This includes whether you want real-time data about the locations of students or are content to know that a student passed through an RFID portal into a classroom a minute ago or four minutes ago, as well as whether you want to know where students are within the school, including in hallways.
If you require real-time data and want to know where students are located in your school, you will need to use a real-time location system (RTLS). This means purchasing active RFID tags, which can cost $50 or more per tag. You will also need to purchase software and readers, usually from the same vendor. There are active systems that can leverage existing Wi-Fi networks, so that could reduce the cost somewhat if you have Wi-Fi access points already installed throughout the school. But the cost will be $50 times the number of students, plus the expense of the readers (or additional Wi-Fi access points), software and installation. Depending of the facility’s size and the number of students involved, this could range from $50,000 to $1 million or more.
If you do not need real-time data and information about the locations of students in hallways, you could possibly deploy an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID system, with battery-assisted tags. With this type of system, you would install a reader antenna (or possibly more than one) at each doorway. The cost of each active RFID student badge would be much less expensive, perhaps $1 to $2 depending on volumes. But if you have a lot of classrooms, it could be expensive to install a reader or reader antenna above each doorway. You would also need to purchase software, though you could possibly hire a local programmer with knowledge of databases to create a system or have the RFID data flow into your existing attendance system through an application programming interface (API). The cost of this system would be roughly $2,000 per classroom and $1 per student, plus the price of software and installation.
The total cost and proper approach really depends on your facility, the number of students and the information you need to collect. I would recommend getting in touch with a good systems integrator that can help you figure out the best approach and the costs involved.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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