What Is RFID Tracking? (Quick-Start 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 hunt down hundreds or thousands of your assets one by one to figure out what’s going on.
The RFID tags market is expected to reach $15.72 billion by 2027, so there’s no doubt that it’s a valuable technology, especially for businesses with plenty of 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 there is to know about RFID tracking, how it works, and how you can use it to accurately track your company’s assets.
What is RFID tracking?
RFID tracking, or RFID asset tracking, is an identification system to help monitor business equipment using radio frequency identification tags. Businesses can use RFID tracking on their assets, which could include anything from computers to vehicles to expensive machinery.
You can place RFID tags on physical assets and information on those assets can be transmitted through radio waves back to RFID readers. RFID readers are typically placed at stationary locations. The data from the RFID readers can be stored within a computer system so management can access information on assets whenever they like.
An RFID system can help businesses track the location of their physical assets. However, the best RFID systems, like RedBeam’s asset tracking, can also store information like the condition of the assets and their maintenance requirements.
Since data can be written to RFID tags, the possibilities for RFID tracking use are endless.
For instance, environmental monitoring can be improved with the help of RFID tracking. Also, medical equipment can be tracked to help identify contamination in controlled medical environments.
History of RFID tracking
Over 80 years ago, during World War II, Great Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) used the first type of RFID tracking system.
Radar was used to detect approaching planes. But, they couldn’t figure out if it was an ally or enemy plane. So, members of the RAF noticed if their pilots rolled their planes when approaching, their radar showed them this signal. That way, they could tell if it was the RAF or enemy planes approaching.
Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt, the inventor of radar, also developed a similar system for pilots to identify enemy planes right from inside their own plane. This type of communication between two devices is the basis of how RFID tracking works.Fast-forward to the 1970s and the first RFID patents were created by Mario W. Cardullo for an active RFID tag. In the 1990s, IBM created a patent for the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) RFID system.
Active vs. passive vs. semi-passive RFID tags
There are three types of RFID tags: active, passive, and semi-passive.
Active RFID tags have their own power source. Oftentimes, powered by a battery, these tags continuously transmit a signal. Active tags are often used to monitor processes in real time, such as vehicle charging and tracking. Active RFID tags 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 tracking.
Passive tracking lets you add and remove RFID readers as you need. They let 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. These 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 tracking is a combination of 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.
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 contain a small microchip wrapped in plastic or paper protection. This microchip stores all data assigned to the item like dimensions, weight, and manufacturing costs of the product).
To read an RFID tag, you need a near-field communication (NFC) scanner. The RFID scanner activates the RFID tag’s microchip using radio waves. Because the asset’s data is stored on the microchip, you don’t need the internet to access the information.
RFID tags can be read by scanners from any direction (unlike barcodes and QR codes that need to be scanned face up). They can also be scanned at a distance and from behind objects like a wall, making it easy to access the asset’s data when needed.
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 are used to pull these numbers up and cross-reference them with your asset or inventory database. Barcodes are easy and cheap to create. And barcode scanners are cheap to buy and available on most smartphones.
One downside to barcodes is that they have to be flat to be scanned, making them a bit temperamental and harder to scan quickly. Unlike RFID tags, they don’t contain any explicit information about the asset they’re attached to. Those details are maintained in a database you have to access externally.
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. However, they’re more effective than barcodes since only one-third of a QR code needs to be readable for it to be scanned.
One downside to QR codes is that they’re not used too often in the United States, so QR-compatible point-of-sale (POS) systems and scanners aren’t too common.
How does RFID tracking benefit asset management?
RFID tags are one of the best asset tracking tags you can use to improve your asset management. Regardless of your industry, if you want to ensure your assets are kept in order, your business is functioning properly, and you get the most out of the assets, then RFID tracking is a crucial way to do this.
Here are a few ways RFID tracking benefits asset management:
Tracking and identifying assets
The main benefit of implementing RFID tracking is that you can better track and identify all of your assets. RFID tags are designed to give you a unique identifier for every asset in your organization, whether it’s a product, equipment, tools, or vehicles. With RFID tags in place, your business can be more organized in how you track and manage your different assets.
Keeping records of essential financial information
RFID tracking can improve your asset management by enabling you to have clear and accurate records of important financial information. RFID tags can help you maintain detailed records of crucial information like the price you purchased each asset for, the condition, and even maintenance history. This can help you make informed decisions about maintenance and replacements. Plus, it can help you whenever you need to conduct an audit on your assets.
Automating asset tracking
RFID tracking can help your asset management by eliminating a variety of manual tasks and automating them. Automated asset tracking systems powered by RFID tags can help by notifying you when assets need maintenance, when you should conduct an audit, and when it’s time to purchase new assets.
Real-time data to improve decision-making
Another benefit of RFID tracking tags is the ability to make informed decisions based on real-time data. RFID asset tags can give you precise information about the location and condition of your different assets so you know when you need to replace or repair assets.
Up-to-date data on your assets can help you reduce maintenance costs, minimize downtime, and ensure your assets are always kept in good condition.
Another important benefit of using RFID tags in your asset management is the security of your goods. For example, RFID tags can help prevent theft by enabling notifications if an asset exits the RFID range. It can also help you quickly find and recover any missing items.
Improving asset life cycle
RFID tags can improve your assets' lifespan by showing you what condition your assets are in, when they need to be maintained, and when it’s time to upgrade. This will allow you to schedule maintenance in advance, reducing the risk that your asset fails, breaks down, or malfunctions. Your assets won’t be neglected, which means saving time and money on costly repairs and replacements.
Complying with regulations
RFID tracking can help you quickly find and identify every asset, including all important information and specifications on it, so you'll be able to stay in the clear when it comes to regulatory compliance. RFID tags simplify your auditing processes so you can quickly find critical asset information, enabling easy and accurate record-keeping.
How to successfully track assets with RFID tags
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. Choose an asset tracking system
The first step you’ll need to take to track your assets is to pick an asset tracking system. An asset tracking system will include everything you need to manage your assets.
An asset tracking platform acts as a database for all of your assets’ information. This means what kind of item it is, its condition, the asset tag, its age, location, and more.
The asset tracking software you choose should align with the tag you choose, the assets you want to track, and your overall goals.
To get started with a trusted asset tracking system, check out RedBeam today.
2. Give each asset a unique identification number
Once you have your system in place, it’s time to give each asset its own unique identification number. Depending on the system you use, there may be premade numbers available to use, or you can create your number manually.
3. Add any relevant asset information
Once you have a number for your asset, it’s time to add any important information. This could include:
- Type of asset
- Purchase price
You may even want to include the date of its last maintenance or its expected lifespan.
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 an RFID tracking system
RFID tracking is one of the simplest and most accurate ways to manage your assets.
These small, yet effective asset tags offer any business, large or small, a variety of benefits to help manage your assets with ease.
If you’re ready to take your asset management to the next level, then schedule a free demo with RedBeam today. Our top-performing 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!