What Is RFID Tracking for Asset Tracking? A Quick Guide

Ever wondered what it’d be like to have complete clarity over your business assets?

Imagine you could see, in a moment, every piece of hardware, technology, vehicle, and machine, including an entire report on each item.

With RFID tracking, you won’t need to track hundreds or thousands of your assets individually to understand what’s going on. 

The RFID tags market is expected to reach $15.72 billion by 2027, so it’s clear that it’s a valuable technology, especially for businesses with many fixed assets.

The technology allows you to gain a clear view of the entirety of physical assets by setting up a simple asset-tracking system.

In this article, you’ll learn everything about RFID tracking, how it works, and how you can use it to accurately track your company’s assets.

Main Takeaways From This Article:

  • RFID tracking uses electromagnetic fields to identify and track tags attached to objects, providing real-time insights into the location and status of business resources.
  • RFID asset tracking works by scanning RFID tags attached to assets. RFID readers initiate communication, and RFID antennas facilitate this communication, enabling automatic and accurate asset tracking.
  • Types of RFID tags include active RFID tags with their own power source and long-range, passive RFID tags powered by readers with a shorter range and lower cost, and semi-passive RFID tags that combine features of both.
  • RFID tracking enhances inventory management, captures comprehensive asset data, improves efficiency through automation, enhances accuracy, boosts security, offers durable tags, and enables informed decision-making.
  • Challenges of RFID tracking include interference from materials, higher initial setup costs, data security vulnerabilities, standardization issues, and privacy concerns.
  • RFID tags allow for simultaneous scanning without a direct line of sight, compared to barcode and QR code tags that require direct visibility and have limited data capacity.
  • To get started with RFID asset tracking, identify your tracking needs, choose the right RFID equipment tailored to asset characteristics, add assets to tracking systems, and place RFID tags on assets.
  • RedBeam's RFID asset-tracking solutions streamline processes and improve operational efficiency.

What Is RFID Tracking?

What Is RFID Tracking?

RFID tracking, or Radio Frequency Identification tracking, is an innovative technology that uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects. These tags contain digitally stored information that can be read from a distance, unlike traditional barcodes that require a direct line of sight.

How Does RFID Asset Tracking Work?

Instead of manually scanning a barcode, RFID uses electromagnetic fields for automatic identification and tracking. This technology primarily involves three components - an RFID tag, an RFID reader, and an RFID antenna. Let's briefly look at these RFID components and understand how they enable asset-tracking systems.

RFID Tags: Radio frequency identification tags, or RFID tags, are attached to every asset meant to be tracked. These tags hold relevant data about the item, be it the product name, serial number, or specific remarks. Essentially, these stickers are the identity badges for your assets.

RFID Readers: The readers are like action initiators, triggering responses from the tags. They emit radio waves, and when a tag comes within their range, the tag responds by transmitting its stored data back to the reader. Instead of visually checking off items on a list, the reader interacts with tags in a wireless, hassle-free manner. 

RFID Antennas: The RFID antennas facilitate the communication between readers and tags. They receive the radio waves emitted by readers and transfer them to the tags. Upon receiving a response from the tags, they relay this data back to the reader.  

So, this is how they work together: An RFID tag attached to an asset enters the range of an RFID reader. The reader, through the antenna, sends out a radio frequency. The tag picks this up and responds by sending its data. The antenna catches this data and transfers it back to the reader.

In short, your assets are constantly on your radar, telling you where they are and ensuring you have full visibility over your resources.

Types of RFID Tags

What Is RFID Tracking?

There are three types of RFID tags: active, passive, and semi-passive tags.

Active RFID

Active RFID tags have their own power source. Often powered by a battery, they continuously transmit a signal. Active tags are often used to monitor processes in real time, such as vehicle charging and tracking. They typically transmit a signal range of about 150 meters or just under 500 feet. This type of tracking system is usually more expensive than passive RFID asset tracking.

Passive RFID

Passive tracking lets you add and remove RFID readers as needed. It also lets you track different items efficiently by adding different RFID readers. Passive RFID tags don’t have an internal power supply. Instead, they’re powered by an antenna or RFID reader. They are commonly used for supply chain management and inventory tracking. The range is shorter than active RFID tracking and is typically cheaper.

Semi-Passive RFID

Semi-passive RFID tracking combines the two RFID tags above. It has an internal battery, an antenna, and an RFID chip. The signal range is low compared to active RFID tags. However, the combination of the battery and antenna allows it to have real-time monitoring and sensors. Semi-passive RFID tags are typically used when monitoring the environment or temperature-controlled areas.

Benefits of RFID Tracking for Asset Management

Benefits of RFID Tracking

RFID tracking revolutionizes the landscape of asset management with a slate of benefits. These go beyond the obvious convenience of tracking your assets in real-time to:

  • Facilitate Inventory Management: RFID tracking enables immediate and accurate location updates for assets, allowing businesses to streamline their inventory management.
  • Capture Comprehensive Data: Each RFID tag can store a significant amount of information, providing detailed records about each asset. Access data such as maintenance schedules and depreciation is done directly on the RFID tag.
  • Improve Efficiency With Automation: By scanning multiple RFID tags simultaneously, RFID technology significantly accelerates asset management processes and reduces manual labor.
  • Enhance Accuracy: RFID tagging curtails errors prevalent in manual data entries, promoting high accuracy in asset tracking and reducing potential losses.
  • Boost Security: RFID tags enable real-time visibility of your assets' location, minimizing misplacement or theft and bolstering asset security.
  • Offer Durability: Designed to withstand harsh environments, RFID tags maintain functionality over extended periods, reducing costs linked to tag replacements.
  • Enable Informed Decision-Making: The extensive data provided by RFID technology facilitates informed decision-making and enables proactive maintenance and asset utilization strategies.

Challenges of RFID Tracking for Asset Management

While RFID tracking is a game-changer in asset management, it's not without its share of challenges. Understanding these challenges can help you prepare and devise strategies to mitigate them effectively.

  • Interference: RFID signals can be affected by metal and liquid materials, which can distort radio waves and cause read errors.
  • High Cost: Initial setup costs for RFID tracking systems can be higher in comparison to traditional tracking methods such as barcoding, which are ideally suited for businesses with larger inventories or valuable assets.
  • Data Security: Like any wireless system, RFID has potential vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers. As such, robust security measures need to be in place to protect your data.
  • Standardization Issues: Different types of RFID systems operate on various frequencies, and not all of them may interact seamlessly with each other.
  • Privacy Concerns: Since RFID tags can be read from different distances without any direct line of sight, privacy concerns could arise, especially in scenarios where personal data is involved.

At RedBeam, we offer advanced RFID solutions that address these issues, ensuring your asset tracking system is as seamless and efficient as possible.

Asset Tracking With RFID vs. Other Asset Tags

While RFID tags are one of the most common ways to track your assets, there are a few other types of asset tags, including QR codes and barcodes.

RFID Tags vs. Barcode Tags

Everybody knows what a barcode is. It’s what the grocery store clerk scans on the side of your milk jug to add it to your bill. Barcode tags are a set of black and white bars that contain data like a stock-keeping number, universal product code (UPC), or both.

Barcode scanners retrieve these numbers and cross-reference them with your asset or inventory database. Barcodes are easy and cheap to create and require a direct line of sight for scanning.

On the other hand, RFID tags use radio waves to store more data directly on the tag and can be read without a direct line of sight, supporting the simultaneous scanning of multiple items. This enhances efficiency and provides real-time tracking capabilities. However, RFID technology comes with higher initial costs and may require more investment in infrastructure and training.

While each technology is suited to different needs, barcodes are used for economical and straightforward tracking, and RFID is used for more complex and efficient asset management.

RFID Tags vs. QR Code tags

QR codes, or quick response codes, are similar to barcodes in that they are a kind of 2D barcode. They’re square codes printed on paper or plastic made up of black and white squares. Unlike barcodes, QR codes can store complex data. The codes can be used to direct someone scanning it to a website or app. They can also include over 4,000 characters of text. QR codes are printed like barcodes, making them cheap and easy to create.

On the other hand, RFID tags utilize radio waves for data transmission, enabling them to convey more information and be read without a direct visual connection. This facilitates the swift, automatic tracking of multiple items, improving inventory management and operational efficiency significantly.

While QR codes are widely used globally for marketing and information sharing, their adoption for inventory tracking in the U.S. is limited due to less common QR-compatible systems. Conversely, RFID technology, despite higher initial costs, is favored in sectors like logistics and retail for real-time tracking and efficient large-scale asset management.

In a nutshell, QR codes are great for quick, cost-effective information sharing, and RFID is great for advanced, efficient asset tracking.

How To Get Started With RFID Asset Tracking

How To Get Started With RFID Asset Tracking

To successfully track your assets, you need to make sure you have everything set up properly. Here are a few simple steps you can take to track your assets with RFID tags:

1. Identify Your Needs

Defining your goals is the essential initial step to RFID asset tracking. Perhaps you want to tighten up inventory management, simplify asset location tracking, or improve asset utilization. It’s important to get clarity on what you aim to achieve through RFID asset tracking

Next, catalog all the assets you think need tracking. While doing this, remember to take into account their size, value, and the environment—indoor or outdoor—in which they operate. These factors will prove crucial later when choosing the best RFID solutions. 

Now, estimate the volume of the assets. A large inventory may demand a more robust RFID system. You should also consider the range within which the assets need to be tracked—are they located in a single building or spread across multiple locations? Accurate estimates of volume and range will effectively guide you in choosing between passive and active RFID tags.

2. Choose the Right RFID Equipment

To set up a reliable RFID tracking system, it is crucial to select the appropriate RFID tags. With guidance from RedBeam, you can choose the ones that best match your asset properties. Consider factors such as environmental conditions and the material of the asset. Remember, different tags have varying degrees of resistance to conditions like heat, dust, and moisture, which can heavily influence their performance. 

Next, picking the right RFID readers is essential in this process. RedBeam currently supports the Zebra TC52 with the eConnex 8-pin connector configuration matched with the Zebra RFD40 sled. To simplify the process, make sure the TC52 is correctly assembled and installed on the RFD40 sled before logging into RedBeam. Assistance on this can be found at RedBeam Support.

Now, to ensure optimal functioning, the RFID system must be properly integrated with your current asset management or ERP system. RedBeam's team can help with this, ensuring that your data flows seamlessly between platforms to streamline your management processes, reduce errors, and save valuable time.

3. Add Assets to RedBeam

As a RedBeam user who utilizes RFID tagging for your assets, adding those assets to your system will be a breeze. Simply use the 'update' function to start visualizing your assets in the system. This function lets you create, view, edit, or delete your assets. 

For an asset without an attached RFID tag, just type in or scan its barcode in the 'Scan Asset ID or Serial #' field. If you're using a TC52 for this, the large trigger buttons on the sides of the device will come in handy. The moment you scan an asset that's not part of your system yet, its ID will be displayed, prompting you to input other asset details. After entering asset details, click on 'save,' and your new asset will be added to the system. 

Should you wish to assign a fresh RFID tag to your new asset, equip yourself with the RFD40 RFID sled. Start by pressing the trigger to read the RFID tag. Just make sure that the tag is out of the range of other RFID tags to avoid multiple readings. When your tag is read, it's labeled as an "unknown tag" in the grid. Click on it within the grid, and it will lead to creating a new asset assigned to that RFID tag. 

4. Place RFID Tags on Your Assets

Next, it’s time to place your RFID tag onto your asset. This can be as simple as peeling off an RFID tag sticker and placing it onto your asset. You may want to place your RFID tag on the bottom or back of your asset so it’s not too distracting. Remember, RFID tags can be read by a scanner regardless of where they’re located on an asset (unlike barcodes and QR codes).

Work Smarter With RedBeam's RFID Tracking System

Now more than ever, effective asset management is crucial for any thriving enterprise. Effectively tracking and managing your assets has a colossal impact on your business's efficiency, and RFID technology is definitely a game-changer. 

This ingenious technology, breathing life into countless applications, is helping businesses streamline processes and significantly boost productivity. RFID tracking facilitates real-time updates, lessens human error, and opens the door to intuitive data analytics for asset management.

If you're committed to leveraging an RFID asset tracking system to improve operations while elevating resource management, RedBeam warrants your serious consideration. We value the importance of technological advancements in streamlining business operations, particularly asset tracking and management. 

Our user-friendly asset-tracking tools utilize RFID technology to its full potential, driving resource management improvements.

If you’re ready to take your asset management to the next level, then schedule a free demo with RedBeam today. Our top-performing RFID asset tracking software can help you simplify and automate your asset management process to save you time and improve your bottom line. Get your asset management on track today!