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Expertly crafted custom mobile solutions to tackle any business challenge that organizations encounter.

Eliminate the stress of ELD compliance and managing devices across your fleet with business mobile solutions.

Customized solutions to connect remote sites, track assets, and manage drone fleets.

Give your techs the tools they need for successful service delivery.
Enable positive in-store experiences, reduce shrinkage, and leverage data to optimize inventory.

Boost efficiency, reduce cost overruns, and effectively manage shrinkage.

Take control of hospital operations, manage patient records, securely run telemedicine sessions, and get real-time imaging results.

Empower after-school programs and workforce readiness for kids in at-risk communities.

Unified endpoint management for your devices, IoT, wearables, and more with solutions that are right for your business.

Avoid telecom carrier lockouts and save with a telecom expense-managed solution. Mix and match carriers to each team’s needs within your organization.

Expertly crafted custom mobile solutions to tackle any business challenge that organizations encounter.
Blog Post

What is RFID?

March 20, 2024

Zebra ZT231 RFID printer in action

What is RFID?

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) uses radio waves to identify and track tags attached to objects and, in some cases, persons. Specific radio frequencies energize and activate RFID tags allowing RFID readers to access stored information. Unlike passive tags, battery-powered RFID tags constantly transmit and don’t need to be energized.

RFID was invented during WWII

Rudimentary forms of the technology served as listening devices that radio waves could energize or as powered transponders that identified friendly aircraft during WWII. In our modern world, the best example of the technology today would be the debit/credit card in your wallet.

How our customers deploy RFID across their business

Manufacturing and Warehouse

Manufacturers and fulfillment customers have similar requirements when it comes to their RFID deployments. While software systems may differ between the two customers, they primarily use RFID for inventory management. But you can get creative with the technology in:

  • Managing shrinkage
  • Just in time manufacturing
  • Quality control
  • Indoor telemetry

 

Transportation

Middle-mile fleet customers are starting to adopt active RFID tags on assets and cargo to prevent theft, asset check-in, and in some very specific cases, maintenance. Last-mile customers on the other hand use RFID/barcode primarily in package delivery. But let’s break the mold and go further. Modern RFID/barcode scanners are capable of more than just scanning. The right RFID solution for fleets can:

  • Track packages live (like Uber)
  • Allow customers to communicate directly with the courier (very common in Asian countries)
  • Track cargo at terminals and stops
  • Alert authorities of cargo theft
  • Process freight faster at congested terminals

How does RFID work?

How RFID works in a nutshell

RFID waves are the same as your car's radio but at different frequencies and for specific uses. For it to work, you'll need a reader/scanner (the transceiver) and a tag/label (the transponder). RFID readers/scanners transmit radio waves that energize RFID tags and read the stored data. Unlike barcodes, it doesn't need a direct line of sight or proximity. However, a reader's transceive range can vary; Zebra's RFD40, for example, can read tags up to 20 feet.

Types of RFID

Low Frequency (LF)- covers 30 to 300KHz with slow read speeds but is less prone to radio wave interruption. For example, livestock tracking uses low frequency.

High Frequency (HF)- operates at 3 to 30MHz, and is moderately prone to radio interference. Useful for ticketing, checkout, and data transfers.

Ultra-high Frequency (UHF)- starts from 860 to 960MHz. While most prone to radio interference, manufacturers like Zebra have designed antennas that experience less interference. Most use cases for RFID belong to the UHF category because tags and readers are easier and cheaper to manufacture. UHF applications range from inventory management to anti-theft and anti-counterfeiting systems to wireless device configuration.

What’s inside an RFID tag/label?

Tag

What's inside an active RFID tag

Tags can typically store up to 2KB of data or 128KB for some battery-powered tags. Tags are like mini radio receivers; they contain a circuit, and an antenna, enclosed in durable plastic. Modern RFID readers can read battery-powered active tags or energize passive tags. Tags can be read only or read-write. Read-write tags require specialized equipment like Zebra's portals, making deployment harder.

Smart label

Smart label on a shirt

If you've ever ripped up a price label on a shirt or a kitchen appliance, you've encountered a smart label. Modern use of RFID comes by way of smart labels. Which consists of simple circuits on an adhesive label with a barcode. These labels can be attached to anything, from Amazon packages to a hospital patient's wristband. And are very quick to deploy and encode with desktop RFID printers. It's hard to choose what's right for your business; we're here to help demystify it.

Why use RFID?

Man pointing handheld RFID scanner at containers

Incredibly accurate

Scan many tags and labels in one go because it doesn't require a direct line of sight, so they can reduce human error, which can occur with scanning individual barcodes.

Increased efficiency in automation

RFID readers can scan more items so that production processes can scale faster. As well as increase productivity for automated storage and retrieval systems in warehouses.

Cost savings

It introduces manufacturing and supply chain efficiencies, enabling businesses to trim operational costs.

A safer work environment

Safety systems integrate seamlessly with RFID for asset tracking, collision avoidance, equipment maintenance tracking, and more. It helps safety managers monitor safety on the production floor or at a construction site.

Theft prevention and asset tracking

It makes inventory management, stock checks, audits, and shrinkage reduction easier. Anti-counterfeiting operations can effectively clamp down on fake goods.

 

RFID VS Barcode

Tags Labels Barcodes
No direct line of sight required No direct line of sight required       Needs direct line of sight
Active tags can be read up to 300ft with UHF       Can be read up to 20ft* Can be read up to 70ft*
Can be updated Read-only Read-only
Physical device Printable label Printable label

*Depends on the scanner

Industries

  • Agriculture for tracking livestock
  • Retail for inventory and checkout
  • Distribution centers for fulfillment
  • Transportation for vehicle tracking and maintenance
  • Healthcare for patient management
  • Construction for worker safety
  • Field services for parts inventory management

Scanner? Reader? Printer? Portal? What’s the difference?

Scanners and readers mean the same thing, in that they both scan barcodes and read RFID tags and labels. The two most common types of RFID readers are handheld and fixed RFID readers.

Handheld RFID readers Fixed RFID readers
High-volume tag reads High-volume tag reads
Mobile Static fixed location
Can be loaded with WMS or productivity software       Must be connected to a server
SIM card, WiFi, Bluetooth compatible WiFi, and Bluetooth only
Can scan barcodes Can read RFID only

 

RFID Printers

Solve the problem of how to make the entire RFID system work. You need two things, an RFID printer and smart labels. A smart label has inlay RFID circuitry. The RFID printer prints a barcode on the smart label, while at the same time, it encodes information on the smart label’s RFID circuitry.

RFID Portals

In short, they're antenna for the RFID readers.

 

Is RFID risky?

Active tags with read-write access are risky. Thankfully, most tags and labels are passive and read-only, with encryption built into the circuits and readers. Most readers have radio shielding to prevent radio interference and signal cloning attempts.

The real risk for lies with personal devices or tags that reside inside debit/credit cards, where malicious actors can "skim" your cards and steal the information stored inside. Our solutions offer end-to-end security, from the tags/labels and readers to secure wired/wireless devices. Get peace of mind when you choose us.

Need help determining if RFID is right for your business? Let us help guide your transformation. Get a free consultation.

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