Radio frequency Identification, or RFID, is a method of using radio waves to read information from a tag attached to an object. The system is made up of the tag and reader that captures the radio waves, which then translates them into electronic data. The reader can be several hundred yards away from the tag and can still read the tag accurately. The tags come in a variety of sizes, some of which are very small and can be easily concealed. RFID can be used for a wide variety of applications, such as to track data for inventory, marketing, security and to provide other types of vital information.
1 - Retailers
RFID has been a boom to retailers like Dutch bookseller Boekhandels Groep Nederlands who uses the system to improve stocking and inventory management. The large volume of units made it difficult to maintain a manageable inventory system, leading to inefficiencies and increased warehouse expenses. The system has enabled better customer service and improved invoice payments to suppliers.
2 - Forestry Services
The German company Cambium-Forstbetriebe harvests 2.8 million cubic feet of timber each year. A lengthy process is involved in preparing the trees for harvest, processing them and transporting them to market. Slowdowns and losses are common along the line. RFID technology helps the company to track inventory throughout the processes, ensuring more efficient processing and lower operating costs.
3 - Mining Industry
The mining industry is finding that RFID technology can help to facilitate equipment tracking and ensure that it is properly distributed and maintained. Currently, the technology is being used at the Anglo American Platinum's Paardekraal mine in South Africa to track batteries for the lamps that miners routinely wear on hats to illuminate their work in the mines. The water and metal present in mining conditions offered a number of challenges that required special consideration in utilizing the technology.
4 - Academic Administration
RFID can also be used to organize complex file systems that can take hours of office staff time. Florida State University found that the use of RFID allowed workers to locate files quickly, increasing efficiency and productivity, while improving costs and worker satisfaction. Creating more organized workspaces can be used in any university context where the volume of important files becomes so large that the ability to maintain physical order is negatively impacted.
5 - Stadium Security
Another way RFID technology is being used is to test public spaces for signs of unusual chemicals or toxic substances that can put visitors at risk. RFID can be designed to include sensors that transmit chemical information to the reader device. McAfee Stadium in Oakland is using the sophisticated technology to sort out benign chemicals that are commonly found in large crowd situations and distinguish them from more hazardous chemicals that may be dispersed during a terrorist incident. RFID sensing systems can provide greater safety in stadiums and at large outdoor events to help safeguard the public from attacks.
6 - Hospitals
St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama uses RFID to check on patients' movements within the hospital, ensuring their safety return from betting lab tests, x-rays and other procedures. A large board above the nurse's station tells them exactly where the patient is at any given time. The system also enhances quality of care and improves capacity management at the facility.
7 - Shipping
Sernam, a former subsidy of the French National Railway, found the RFID technology allowed them to complete their package delivery services in faster time and with lower costs. Overnight shipping is a high-value business, but it involves financial penalties for failing to deliver before 8:30 a.m. The RFID system provided information about the location of packages to customers and cut handling times for greater efficiency.
8 - Blood Banks
The Mississippi Blood Services has found that RFID systems allow them to keep better track of their inventory of blood, platelets and red cells to ensure that they are ready for any emergency that may require immediate action. The system improves record keeping and allows them to cut costs while improving their ability to save lives.
9 - Clothing Manufacturing
The German clothing manufacturing company Gardeur AG uses RFID technology to reduce losses, improve their supply chain and reduce costs. Multiple readings of the RFID tags along the supply chain allow them to better track their merchandise as it flows from individual facilities to the central distribution warehouse and on to individual retailers.
10 - Military Use
RFID systems can help agencies such as the Naval Inventory Control Point to track broken parts that must be replaced throughout the base systems. RFID ensures that the parts are returned to the Defense Logistics Agency or any of the 100 contractors that repair these items for the military. The system ensures faster transport of the parts, as well as ensuring that they are properly labeled for easier identification and repair.
RFID provides businesses an easy method of tracking and reporting data that can be used to increase efficiency and reduce operating costs in a number of ways.