RFID technology has come a long way since they were first used during World War II. Today, its market worth is set to hit $31.4 billion by 2029, which isn't surprising as RFID tech can be found almost anywhere.
One of the areas where we’re seeing more RFID use, is in tracking business assets. Many companies are throwing out their asset spreadsheets in favor of an automated RFID asset tracking system.
Implementing an RFID tracking system will enable you to find out the real-time status of assets and help you keep on top of asset maintenance to increase operational efficiency. Asset information can be stored and controlled using asset management software like BlueTally.
In this article, you can learn more about RFID asset tracking technology to help you decide how it could work for your business.
What is RFID Asset Tracking?
First, we'll review what RFID asset tracking is and how it can benefit your company.
An RFID (radio frequency identification) asset tracking system uses radio waves to identify assets. An RFID tag transmits identifiable data on an asset via radio waves back to an RFID reader when scanned. The data stored on a tag includes a unique asset ID and other distinctive information represented as a number. The numbers point to the corresponding information kept in the database of a secure asset register like BlueTally.
Why RFID Asset Tracking Is Important?
RFID asset tracking can benefit your business regardless of its size, and here are some reasons why.
Data Accuracy, Time and Money Saved
An RFID tracking system is a cost-effective, quick, and dependable way to track and manage assets without mistakes. The technology can be configured to automatically track asset movements and changes while keeping the asset register updated. With minimal manual intervention required, resources can be utilized elsewhere.
An RFID asset tracking system allows you to keep your assets in optimal working condition with scheduled maintenance. Less downtime and longer-lasting assets will contribute to a healthy bottom line, as you’ll be able to reduce costs relating to maintenance and repairs.
Increases Asset Visibility
You can quickly find misplaced items, stop items from going missing, and prevent duplicate purchasing by knowing how much you have of each asset. Cloud-based asset management systems like BlueTally offer a comprehensive dashboard with an asset status overview and detailed life cycle information accessible company-wide.
Different Types of RFID Asset Tags and RFID Asset Tracking Systems
Types of RFID Asset Tags
Active and Semi-Passive RFID Tags
Active and semi-passive RFID tags both power their circuits using an internal battery.
The active tag uses its battery to broadcast radio waves and continuously transmit data to a reader up to 150 meters away. At the same time, a semi-passive tag depends on a reader to power its broadcasting. Both are more expensive than active tags as they come with more hardware and are more complex.
Active and semi-passive tags are the preferred choice for more expensive items. They offer real-time tracking for an accurate real-time location system (RTLS).
Passive RFID Tags
On the other hand, passive RFID tags are powered by electromagnetic signals sent from the RFID reader and not an internal power source. They can read up to 20 feet away, are small, and are relatively cheap to make. For these reasons, they are common in companies with a significant physical asset inventory.
The two most common types of passive tags are inlays and hard tags. Inlays are the more economical option and are usually attached to the asset. Hard passive tags are rugged and best for assets in high temperatures and adverse weather.
Types of RFID Asset Tracking Systems
Handheld RFID Reader-Based Systems
Handheld-based readers accommodate faster auditing and discreet RFID tags. It offers distance scanning without needing a line of sight, so it’s ideal for scanning assets to verify that they're in the location they’re supposed to be. In addition, a handheld reader can connect to your smartphone through BlueTooth, so you can read RFID tags using your phone.
Fixed RFID Asset Management
Fixed RFID asset tracking offers automated location tracking of your assets. Here you can position your RFID readers in strategic areas throughout your site, and anytime RFID tags come in contact with a fixed reader's radio frequency field, it will detect the asset and analyze where it’s going.
Examples of RFID Asset Tracking Uses
Most assets can be tracked using RFID tech. Here are how some industries use RFID systems to track valuable assets successfully.
- Education - RFID asset tracking systems are prevalent in education and are mainly used to prevent school property from loss and theft.
- Healthcare - Hospitals utilize active and passive RFID, RTLS, and Wi-Fi systems to track high-value equipment and patients for admission and placement purposes.
- Manufacturing - Manufacturing companies may use RFID tech for their smaller assets, like work tools, to large assets, like shipments.
- IT - IT companies will tag things like their computers and laptops to identify each item throughout its life cycle. All asset information is stored in a database or via asset management software to find real-time information, including the asset's location, current owner, and maintenance history. Or it may be used in employee IDs to allow authorized access to secure areas.
How to Choose the Best RFID Asset Tracking System
1. Define Your RFID System Objectives
Consider discussing with your team what you expect to achieve by implementing an RFID asset tracking system. How will it meet the business requirements? Establish what assets will be tracked and the type of information you need to capture. Defining and agreeing on the system's objectives with stakeholders will create boundaries, give the implementation process direction, and help decision-making.
2. Understand the Tracking Environment
Is your tracking environment indoor or outdoor? The radio signals used to communicate between the tag and tracking system can be prone to interference. Thus the selected technology should be able to handle the challenges that come with it. For example, a typical indoor environment with electronic equipment, large amounts of metal, and people can weaken signals through absorption.
On the other hand, radio signals can be weakened through dispersion and absorption by trees, buildings, and various weather conditions. Tags with dual-mode capability can be used in different environments if you want to track assets indoors and out.
3. Tag Size and Read-Range
The tag size matters as it usually correlates to the read range. Passive RFIDs are more common. However, they come in several shapes and sizes, so you will likely find a size to fit your requirements.
4. Find Out the Operating Frequency Required
RFID tags are categorized at the frequency they are designed to operate, for example:
- Low Frequency (LF): This cost-effective method has a low read range and slow processing speed. It's a good choice for permanently tagged items and close-range reading apps. Plus, LF readers are not affected by environmental factors.
- High Frequency (HF): This type offers better tag and reader placement flexibility thanks to its higher read range, accuracy, and faster processing.
- Ultra-High Frequency (UHF): UHFs offer a read range of up to 25 feet and can scan truckloads of tagged assets simultaneously. However, they are more susceptible to disruption from their surroundings.
The cost will play a significant factor in your decision. Perform an analysis of the fees against whether the technology will meet the business requirements and objectives established in step one.
For instance, if you want a passive RFID system, you'll need to factor in the reader, cabling, and antenna costs. And to achieve location granularity, you'll need a dense network of readers. In addition, this setup is typically powered over Ethernet (POE) to passive RFID devices, which will increase overall equipment costs.
On the other hand, the kit required for an active RFID asset tracking system is significantly cheaper. Here are some additional costs that you'll need to factor into your budget:
- Installation costs - passive RFID systems must be installed by an expert.
- Tag costs - the active RFID tags cost more than the passive tags, and battery maintenance will cost extra.
- Ongoing license costs - passive RFID tech typically requires ongoing license costs for software upgrades and support.
Use Blue Tally to take Your Asset Management to the Next Level
Using RFID technology to manage your IT assets can benefit your business in so many ways. It allows you to know their whereabouts at any time, helps you to maximize the value of your assets by keeping on top of maintenance, and sends accurate updates and real-time information straight to your asset management system.