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    Hong Kong Vando Co., Ltd.  ( Shenzhen, China)
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    What is RFID?

    Author:admin   Posted :2018-7-15  Read:2119

    A Brief Introduction to RFID

    Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a wireless technology used to transmit information from tags attached to objects in order to automatically identify and track those objects.

    RFID is part of a broad category of automatic identification (Auto-ID) technologies.  Auto-ID technologies include RFID, barcodes, optical character readers and some biometric technologies, such as retinal scans. Auto-ID technologies enable machines to scan, capture and "recognize" an identification for an object.  Machine-readable information (information that can be read by computers, scanners, etc) can be used to automate processes and to reduce errors, thus reducing the amount of time and labor needed for humans to recognize and manually input data about an object.

    Some auto-ID technologies, such as barcode systems, often require a person to manually scan a label or tag to capture the data. RFID is designed to enable machines called readers to capture data on tags and transmit it to a computer system—without the need for a person to be involved.

    RFID tags consist of a microchip attached to a radio antenna mounted on a substrate.  The antenna is typically attched to a microchip, although not all RFID tags use silicon chips. The chip can store data. Some chips store only a unique numeric identifier.  Or chips may store data about an object (an asset, a product or a shipment) - for example, the date of manufacture, destination and product information, all of which may be written to a tag.

    Retrieving the data stored on an RFID tag requires a reading device called a
    reader or an interrogator. A typical reader is an electronic device that has one or more antennas that emit radio waves and receive signals back from the tag. The reader then passes the information in digital form to a computer system.

    RFID technology is not new (see 
    History of RFID Technology).  It has been used for many years in livestock tracking, for identifying cars on toll roads and in electronic ticketing applications (see more on RFID applications).   But many new RFID-based applications are arriving on the market. 

    Until recently, the high cost of RFID has limited its use. For many applications, such as tracking parts for just-in-time manufacturing, companies could justify the cost of tags—sometimes a dollar or more per tag—by the savings an RFID system could generate.  Many times these tags are re-used or have a long life cycle staying attached to the same object for a long time. 

    Cost has been an obstacle for adoption for tracking goods in "open" supply chains (tracking beyond, or outside, a company), where RFID tags are put on cases and pallets of products by one company and read by another company. Tags must, in effect, be disposable because the company placing them on objects cannot recycle, or re-use, the tags. In such cases, the tags may get thrown out with the box. Tags built into pallets could be re-used, and some companies are looking to develop ways to recycle tags.

    Electronic Product Codes
    In 1999, the
    Uniform Code Council and EAN International teamed with Gillette and Procter & Gamble to fund the Auto-ID Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The center focused on the cost equation by working with private industry to develop an RFID tag that would be very low cost when manufactured in high volumes. The thought was to enable a 5-cent tag.  That way, companies could put tags on more objects and then connect them to the Internet through a network. The Auto-ID center eventual gained the backing of the U.S. Department of Defense and other large global companies, including Kimberly-Clark, Metro, Target, Tesco, Unilever, Wal-Mart. These companies were attracted to RFID because it held promise in offering supply chain visibility—the ability to know the location of any product anywhere in the supply chain at any time.

    The 5-cent tag is still an idea - today passive tags cost from 20 to 40 cents, depending on their features, packaging and the volumes purchased. The Auto-ID Center's contribution went beyond trying to create an inexpensive tag. To make an inexpensive tag, many of the features that drove the costs of the tag were removed or greatly reduced.  The computing power,
    memory, communication capability and security features were stripped from the tag.  The inexpensive tag became part of a larger networked-base solution.  The Auto-ID Center developed the concept of the Electronic Product Code (EPC), a numbering scheme that makes it possible to put a unique serial number on objects. It developed a way for tags and readers to communicate (called an air interface protocol) and designed the concept of a network infrastructure that stores information in secure Internet-based databases. With a networked architecture, a virtually unlimited amount of data associated with a tag’s serial number can be stored online, and anyone with access privileges can retrieve it.  This method of architecting RFID as a newtwork-based solution created the potential for less expensive tags.

    The Auto-ID Center handed off its technology research to a non-profit organization called EPCglobal.  EPCglobal has worked to commercialize EPC-based technology, creating a second-generation air interface protocol and developing the network infrastructure - the EPCglobal Network - to enable companies to share data about objects. Here is how it is planned to work. When Company 1 ships a pallet full of product (such as shoes or toothpaste), the tags on the cases and pallet are scanned as the shipment leaves, and software is used to automatically let Company 2 know (via the network) that the shipment has left the warehouse. Company 2 can look up (via the network) data associated with the serial numbers on the shipment and learn what's coming, when it will arrive and so on. When Company 2 receives the shipment, it scans the tags automatically, and a message can be immediately sent to Company 1 to let it know the shipment arrived.

    The potential efficiencies created by this kind of visibility for objects hold significant potential. Companies would be able to reduce inventories while ensuring that the right product is in the right place at the right time. And because no humans would have to scan the tags, labor costs and errors would also be greatly reduced.

    This EPC concept has the potential to change the way business is conducted.  Today, many companies make goods based on a monthly forecast. They then push the goods out into the supply chain and hope they sell. If demand is greater than they forecast, they lose sales. If it is less than forecast, they have excess goods that are sold at a loss or thrown away.

    It would be much more efficient if goods could be pulled through the supply chain based on real-time demand. RFID readers would monitor how many products are being sold, via retail outlets or via interim steps in the distribution channel. Readers would signal the backroom when the shelves get low and the systems could request more inventory be brought out. When inventory in the backroom gets low, readers there might signal the warehouse to send more product. When inventory in the warehouse gets low, readers would signal the manufacturer to send more product. And so on back through the supply chain to the manufacturer's suppliers.

    Wal-Mart was the first retailer to require suppliers to put tags on cases and pallets of goods. In June 2003, it told its top 100 suppliers that they should begin putting tags on shipments beginning in January 2005. If the giant retailer's top suppliers began buying tags, that would begin to drive the price down. Lower prices would enable more companies to use the technology. Then volumes would increase and tag prices would fall further.


    Why Is RFID Advancing?
    Retailer's initiatives (which began in the first decade of the new millenium) to use RFID in an "open" supply chain application is a big reason why the technology is more prevalent in the industry today. But it's not the only reason for increased adoption. Several important factors came together around the same time. One factor is the advance in Ultra High Frequency (UHF) RFID systems.  UHF systems are able to deliver the read range needed for supply chain applications, such as scanning tags on products as pallets are moved through a dock door or scanning cases on a high shelf in a warehouse.

    Another factor was the efforts by the Auto-ID Center to develop a system that is low cost and based on open standards. These are prerequisites for the use of RFID in open supply chains, where a company puts a tag on a product, and it's read by other companies in the supply chain.

    The ubiquity and advance of the Internet is another important factor. The Auto-ID Center realized that the Internet could be used to enable companies to share information about the location of products within the supply chain. Before the Auto-ID Center proposed the EPCglobal Network, there was no automated way (other than
    EDI) for Company 1 to let Company 2 know that it has shipped something, and there was no way for Company 2 to let Company 1 know that the product has arrived.  Many companies use phones, faxes, email and spreadsheets to communicate with each other regarding shipment status.

    With the network, companies can not only identify products in the supply chain, they can also share information about the location of goods. Company 1, for instance, could let Company 2 see—in real time—what is in Company 1's warehouse. Or Company 1 could let Company 2 know automatically that goods were scanned leaving the warehouse and will arrive at Company 2's facility the next day. It is this ability to share information about the location of products anywhere in the supply chain that makes RFID a potentially powerful technology for the supply chain.

    There are may other non-supply chain applications for RFID technology.  These applications continue to advance along with supply chain applications.  RFID technology continues to advance, to improve and to find new areas of application.  

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