What are the differences between Wi-Fi-based real-time location systems and active RFID-based RTLS technology?
W-Fi-based real-time location systems employ active RFID tags that communicate via Wi-Fi access points. You might be able to utilize your existing access points if you have them spread around your production facility, or you may need to deploy additional access point to achieve the location accuracy you require. Active RFID-based RTLS solutions are similar, but instead of communication with Wi-Fi access points, they send signals to antennas located around your premises.
I’m not sure that either is the best option for tracking sewing machines, however. Generally speaking, active tags (including Wi-Fi tags) are fairly large, since they need to house electronics in hard plastic. Larger tags could interfere with production of the machines. Additionally, these tags are expensive—$50 or more. You could recycle them, but an active solution might be expensive. (If your machines are placed on carriers, then tracking those carriers with an active tag might be a good option.)
Typically, when monitoring work-in-process, you would want to know that a specific unit has proceeded from one station to the next. Placing a passive high-frequency (HF) or ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) label inside a sewing machine’s housing, as well as reader antennas at each station, could be a cost-effective alternative. This is the solution used by HP Brasil to track printers (see Extracting New Value From Old Printers and Keeping Tabs on Printers), and many other companies have implemented the technology as well.
The best thing to do would be to hire a reliable consultant or systems integrator to evaluate your site, your business processes and the data you need to collect in order to improve your processes. That person could recommend the best type of RFID (or other technology) for your particular needs, and suggest some appropriate solution providers.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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