The Evolution of RFID Technology in Labeling Applications
Over a series of three posts, we’ll be covering three examples of advanced labeling and adhesive tools and applications. Using these advanced methods, companies can improve reliability in their warehouse operations with specialty adhesive, security and performance in their assets with polyimide, and security in data transfer with RFID labeling. Let’s get started.
Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is a modern solution to high demands for information communication and efficiency in both industrial and consumer applications. Everything from warehouse inventory labeling to theme park wristbands uses RFID to convey information quickly and reliably.
RFID uses radio frequency to store large amounts of information within a label and to transmit data across locations. Labels are then interpreted by two-way transmitter/receivers called “readers.”
Readers can either be in a fixed position for a more automated inventory process, or handheld to offer more control and employee interaction with packages. Industries ranging from manufacturing to shipping and logistics to retail all make use of RFID labeling for asset tagging to streamline operations while maximizing the information available in a label.
RFID Labeling vs. Barcode Labeling
When determining appropriate labeling practices, you have to think about how much and what type of information you’ll need from the scan. A typical one-dimensional barcode can hold just a few alphanumeric characters. RFID chips are more comparable to two-dimensional barcodes, averaging about 2KB of storage.
But what sets RFID labeling apart from the two-dimensional barcodes is the fact that it can both read and write information, and that you don’t need to manually scan each item with an RFID tag. RFID labels are made to be scanned in groups, meaning that many assets can be scanned at once, reducing the manual labor aspect of individually scanning every item.
This is also a fast-acting technology when compared with other means of tracking assets. One split test conducted by Northern Apex Corporation demonstrated a small inventory sample processing in 37.9 seconds when labeled using barcodes, but that same sample taking just over 1 second when processed with an RFID system.
As a result of this greatly increased processing rate, RFID systems are capable of reading an entire warehouse of inventory in a matter of minutes and effectively reducing the inventory process from days and weeks down to hours.
One advantage unique to RFID labeling is related to proximity. Barcode technologies depend on line of sight from the reader to the label. In order to read a barcode, an employee must be standing directly in front of the item, physically pointing the scanner at the barcode. Conversely, RFID labels rely on “near field” technology, which simply requires that the scanner is within a specified range from the label for a clear and accurate reading.
This allows an employee to scan an entire set of inventory from a single location regardless of line of sight, eliminating the need to unpack boxes or navigate a busy warehouse. Once assets have been inventoried, they can be located almost instantly using RFID labels, greatly increasing productivity.
Evolving to Meet Modern Demand
RFID labeling can now even be integrated within GPS technology, helping companies to keep track of assets beyond the borders of their own campuses. The combination of near field technology and GPS can create an almost entirely automated system that marks the geographic location of inventory as it moves from place to place within a network. This allows for more accurate product life cycle management in addition to increased efficiency and accountability.
RFID is not a new technology, having existed in some form since 1945. However, improved technology and more affordable pricing have made it increasingly more accessible for a variety of business uses.
The cost of RFID technology has fallen steadily in recent years and is expected to drop even more in the near future. And the technology is quickly evolving to overcome existing limitations, such as a tendency for signal interference when tags are underwater or behind corrugated metal barriers.
There are benefits to RFID, and there are benefits to barcode scanning. To find out what’s best for your specific application and discuss options, contact TRG today. We’ll help you determine the pros and cons of each and how they play into your needs and goals.