RFID technology has the capability to both greatly enhance and protect the lives of consumers, and also revolutionize the way companies do business. As the most flexible auto-identification technology, RFID can be used to track and monitor the physical world automatically and with accuracy.
RFID can tell you what an object is, where it is, and even its condition, which is why it is integral to the development of the Internet of Things—a globally interconnected web of objects allowing the physical world itself to become an information system, automatically sensing what is happening, sharing related data, and responding.
RFID use is increasing rapidly with the capability to “tag” any item with an inexpensive communications chip and then read that tag with a reader. Endless applications range from supply chain management to asset tracking to authentication of frequently counterfeited pharmaceuticals. Applications are limited, in fact, only by the imagination of the user.
The Internet of Things brings together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before – turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals and countries.
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is the wireless use of electromagnetic fields to transfer data, for the purposes of automatically identifying and tracking tags attached to objects. The tags contain electronically stored information. Some tags are powered by electromagnetic induction from magnetic fields produced near the reader. Some types collect energy from the interrogating radio waves and act as a passive transponder. Other types have a local power source such as a battery and may operate at hundreds of meters from the reader. Unlike a barcode, the tag does not necessarily need to be within line of sight of the reader and may be embedded in the tracked object. RFID is one method for Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC).
RFID tags are used in many industries. For example, an RFID tag attached to an automobile during production can be used to track its progress through the assembly line; RFID-tagged pharmaceuticals can be tracked through warehouses; and implanting RFID microchips in livestock and pets allows positive identification of animals.
RFID is used for everything from tracking cows and pets to triggering equipment down oil wells. It may sound trite, but the applications are limited only by people’s imagination. The most common applications are payment systems (Mobil Speedpass and toll collection systems, for instance), access control and asset tracking. Increasingly, retail, apparel, aerospace, defense, manufacturing, consumer packaged goods and pharmaceutical companies are looking to use RFID to track goods within their supply chains. Health care providers, energy producers and construction companies are using active RFID system to track large equipment, tools and vehicles.
Use of RFID technology can increase business productivity and reduce associated costs. Below are some common industries which have been benefit, but not limited from RFID.
- Retail & CPG
- Clothing & Apparel
- Food & Drink Manufacturing
- Leisure industry & Service sector
- Logistics & Transportation
- Health & Pharmaceuticals
- Building & Construction
- IT, Electrical & Electronics
RFID is a proven technology that’s been around since at least the 1970s. Up to now, it’s been too expensive and too limited to be practical for many commercial applications. But if tags can be made cheaply enough, they can solve many of the problems associated with bar codes. Radio waves travel through most non-metallic materials, so they can be embedded in packaging or encased in protective plastic for weather-proofing and greater durability. And tags have microchips that can store a unique serial number for every product manufactured around the world.
Many companies have invested in RFID systems to get the advantages they offer. These investments are usually made in closed-loop systems—that is, when a company is tracking goods that never leave its own control. That’s because all existing RFID systems use proprietary technology, which means that if company A puts an RFID tag on a product, it can’t be read by Company B unless they both use the same RFID system from the same vendor. But most companies don’t have closed-loop systems, and many of the benefits of tracking items come from tracking them as they move from one company to another and even one country to another.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service by exchanging data with the manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure.
The term “Internet of Things” was first documented by a British visionary, Kevin Ashton, in 1999. Typically, IoT is expected to offer advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine communications (M2M) and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications. The interconnection of these embedded devices (including smart objects), is expected to usher in automation in nearly all fields, while also enabling advanced applications like a Smart Grid.
Things, in the IoT, can refer to a wide variety of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, electric clams in coastal waters, automobiles with built-in sensors, or field operation devices that assist fire-fighters in search and rescue. These devices collect useful data with the help of various existing technologies and then autonomously flow the data between other devices. Current market examples include smart thermostat systems and washer/dryers that utilize Wi-Fi for remote monitoring.
RFID was the prototype for the entity-connected domains now being brought into the Internet of Things. When it emerged on the back of cheap silicon-chip production towards the end of the 1990s, radio-frequency identification (RFID), termed as a generic technology, promised to tag the world electronically. Using a chip attached to an antenna, whenever the tag passes near a scanner the radio waves provide just enough power for the tag to fetch a code from memory and deliver it by radio to the scanner. The technology makes it possible to track goods as they travel around the world, just as long as there is a scanner at each point. RFID has proved a successful technology that in several ways presaged the IoT.