From Supply Chain Management Encyclopedia
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is a technology that uses radio waves to transfer data from an electronic tag, called RFID tag (chip), attached to an object (package, box, pallet, etc.), through a reader to a computer/database and then work with it. The goal is to identify and control (track) this object. Logistics and supply chain management are the main users of RFID technology. RFID tags are used to identify and/or track inventory, to avoid lost or obsolete inventory, to about counterfeiting, etc. RFID helps to reduce counting and increase accuracy and order processing lead time. It is possible to say, that RFID tags are the next level of bar codes and it is more convenient, however, more still is expensive. Unlike bar-code technology, RFID technology does not require contact of sight for communication.
RFID tags might differ on several parameters: ‘’’Frequency:’’’
- Hi-frequency tags. High-frequencies are from 3 MHz to 30 MHz. They can be read from short distance and transmit data faster than low-frequency tag, but energy consumption is much higher in this case.
- Low-frequency tags. Low-frequency tags don’t consume energy, but have less capacity.
‘’’Active/passive/battery assisted passive:’’’
- Passive RFID does not use a battery, while an active has an on-board battery that always broadcasts or beacons its signal. The minute electrical current induced in the antenna by the incoming radio frequency signal provides just enough power to transmit a response.
- A battery assisted passive (BAP) has a small battery on board that is activated when in the presence of a RFID reader.
- Active RFID tags have their own internal power source, which is used to power the integrated circuits and to broadcast the response signal to the reader. Communications from active tags to readers is typically much more reliable (i.e. fewer errors) than from passive tags due to the ability for active tags to conduct a "session" with a reader. In turn, active tags are generally bigger, caused by battery volume, and more expensive to manufacture, caused by battery price. Many active tags today have operational ranges of hundreds of meters, and a battery life of up to 10 years. Active tags may include larger memories than passive tags, and may include the ability to store additional information received from the reader.
The cost of RFID is still high compare to bar-codes (that cost almost nothing), however, the price on silicon-based tags is constantly goes down and RFID tags might be now purchased as low as 5 US cents per tag. A passive 96-bit EPC inlay (chip and antenna mounted on a substrate) costs from 7 to 15 US cents. Active tags are more expensive and cost $25 and up. Active tags with special feauters or extra-long battery life or sensors can run $100 or more. The cost of RFID reader depends on the its type. Active readers are typically purchased as part of a complete system, with tags and mapping software to determine the tags location. Most readers cost from $500 to $2,000, depending on the features in the device. Companies may also have to buy each antenna separately, along with cables. Antennae are about $200 and up. A low-frequency reader model (a circuit board that can be put into another device) can be under $100, while a fully functional standalone reader can be $750. High-frequency reader modules are typically $200 to $300. A standalone reader can be about $500.
In 1991 the North American rail industry adopted a mandatory standard based on RFID technology. All railcars in interchange service in North America are required to be equipped with our radio frequency tags, allowing railroads to manage cars and locomotives nationwide. The system electronically identifies and monitors rail and intermodal equipment. This allows rail, port, marine and trucking companies to track and monitor equipment effectively, resulting in increased equipment utilization and reduced re-handles, dwell time and overhead.
Disadvantages of RFID
- privacy risk (risk of being monitored by third party; to avoid privacy risk, the retailers that use RFID tags have special equipment to erase all information from the tag, however, the most of benefits of after-use of the tags are leveled after it)
- security risk (risk of leaking information to third parties, including competitors)
- data flooding (the same tags, with identical information written on, might be read several times)
- absence of standards (several different standards in US and Europe)