RFID-Tagging the world !

Posted in Operations & IT Articles, Total Reads: 3844 , Published on 29 March 2011

In business management, one of the most important things is to control and measure your inventory. A company should be aware about your inventory in hand at any point in time. The technology has evolved a lot in recent years. From manual counting to barcodes to the most selling technology called RFID. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). It’s a technology which uses radio waves for identification.

RFID technology typically has a reader and a tag attached to the object which has to be identified. They both interact to read the information related to the object.

The question that comes to the mind is Why RFID when barcodes are already existent and do almost the same thing?

RFID vs Barcode

The answer is Barcodes (even QR codes) have a disadvantage. Barcodes can be read only one at a time. Imagine a FMCG company with millions of products lying in the warehouse ready to be counted and identified. If we start using barcode technology it will take a long time to get them through. But here is the solution, RFID doesn’t have this disadvantage. It can be read hundreds at a time. So full warehouse can be identified and tracked in a matter of minutes without having to individually track products.

Barcodes have to be visible to the reader to be able to access it but RFID Tags can be accessed within boxes, cartons or cases. Also RFID Tag need not be in clear line of sight for being tracked. This makes RFID much simpler to use.

Still barcodes are much more popular where tracking has to be done at individual levels. E.g. When you go at a grocery store, barcodes are preferred as an individual product is being used and very small information is required to create invoice.

RFID is useful at backend inventory level whereas barcodes are much more useful at the front desk applications.

RFID Tags are of two types-Fixed and Mobile. It’s from the perspective of readers. If the reader is fixed, it’s the first one else it’s mobile.

RFID in addition to uses in inventory control and management has various other applications too. These days RFID enabled cards are used in companies to give access controls to employees and also track their movements in and out of the company premises. RFID tags are used to invoke many actions. These are being used in cars for instant payments as soon as you cross the toll centre. RFID in your car stores information about you and the reader at the toll booth reads when your car passes and processes the payment automatically.

Many similar uses can be made out of RFID tags.  RFID has one more advantage i.e. less human intervention. As RFID can count or read without line of sight or from within a box, readers can automatically read data through radio waves without having a dedicated human. Without human intervention chances of human error reduces a lot and the efficiency and productivity increase automatically.

RFID Tags are not free from any disadvantages or dangers. One major issue with RFID Tags is that they can store a lot of data and information about an individual or a product so there is a lot of risk of being misused by someone. A lot of people are against the use of RFID as they find them intrusion to their privacy.  A lot of info can be read without informing an individual. An organization can know about and track a lot about an individual without him/her knowing it.

Main risk with RFID Tags mainly is the risk of misuse. If that can be avoided RFID Tags have lot of advantages which make life of millions easier and will continue doing it.

Operations Science is about easing processes and increasing efficiency,  RFID Tags are definitely playing their role to perfection.


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