10 RFID Myths and Realities

Posted by on Feb 8, 2016 8:59:00 AM


There is so much information about the latest Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in magazines and on the Internet, but there is so much confusion about the emerging technology. It is not surprising many people are still confused about the technology and we want to make things clear for all. Here are the common myths about RFID and the realities.

Myth Number 1: RFID is "talking" barcode

There are people who had the impression that RFID tags are merely barcodes that are capable of "talking" to readers instead of being read by a laser or the imager. This is not entire false, but the real differences are glaring. RFID tags are not only powerful than barcode labels. A typical RFID tag is able to 2KB of data, which is more than what a typical barcode can do. An ordinary barcode can represent just about 10-12 digits. It is also significant to note that RFID tags can be easily programmed and then reprogrammed. This feature makes it useful for data collection solution where barcodes can be printed and then reprinted every time information is changed.

Myth Number 2: It’s possible to read every RFID tag all the time.

Many factors influenced the read rate, including the distance of the tag from the reader, and on what substance the tag is placed. Metal and water are poor conductors of ultra-high frequency signals and some low-frequency tags can be embedded easily in metal construction parts.

 The tag orientation and design can also affect tags readability. A solid engineering and system design will be able to increase the read rate of the tags. It is good to remember that some procedures may have to be altered in order to get acceptable read rates. So, in short, it is impossible to read every RFID tag all the time.

Myth Number 3: Preparing inventory possible with a push of a button

The technology that could allow such push is non-existent and even if it did, the cost would be extremely high. To take what is referred to as a "push-button inventory," users are required to position RFID readers at every 10 feet throughout their facility. Instead, in the real systems, inventory is tracked by identifying when an item enters, where it is placed, and when it left. RFID allows quicker inventory preparations when compared to current barcode practices, but taking inventory with ‘push of a button’ is unavailable for now and it will still take years for its development.

Myth Number 4: RFID comes out with perfect information.

The info the tag sends to the reader is only as good as the info that was put on the tag. This opens the door for human error in data entry. Information can also be affected if there is poor system design, unskilled or incompetent integration, bad software, unfriendly materials like water and metal, human mistakes, double reads, no reads and several other factors. However, a well-designed RFID system which detects and corrects errors can give a near perfect info about your supply chain.

Bonus: The Ultimate Barcodes vs RFID Comparison Guide. Which technology is best  for your business?

Myth Number 5: You can purchase RFID tags for only 5¢.

Fact is you cannot purchase a 5¢ tag. The tags are not that close to 5¢ yet, even though the cost has dropped in the last two years. Earlier, we see tags for a nickel,,. A uniform standard needs to be maintained and this will allow RFID tags to be manufactured in billions. For e.g, Gillette some time back ordered as many as 500M tags from Alien at 10¢ each.

The good news now is that tags need not be 5¢ in order to receive an ROI.

Myth Number 6: The tag cost is important for deployment pay off.

The costs of tags are just one variable. Among other expenses, you may have to buy readers, WLANs, software along with database integration. You can build many profitable applications with the same technology at the same prices. For e.g., North American railways use the $25 tags and $40000 readers. These tags get permanently affixed to the rail cars and they can be read and written over thousands times before being replaced.

Myth Number 7: RFID is basically supply chain tech.

RFID is more than merely a supply chain technology. It has been effectively deployed in various fields:

  • Automobile industry
  • WIP, just in sequence, right parts
  • Payment for fuel and merchandise
  • Access control & security
  • Toll gates 

As such RFID represents an add value system as against the basic functions of tracking items.

Myth Number 8: Using RFID means end to privacy.

Many people are apprehensive that the use of RFID in consumer products would invade their privacy. They are concerned that the radio chips embedded on them would enable others to "see" what they have bought by simply driving by their house and scanning with an RFID reader. RFID technology is evolving, so will privacy protection technology. There are some consumer “kill” software which immediately renders an RFID tag useless as soon as it leaves the retail store. This is similar to those security devices on DVD's in electronic stores. One the bill is prepared; tags are killed so as not to trigger a security sensor at the door of the store. 

Myth Number 9: RFID is simple and easy to deploy.

Demonstrations shown in many commercials indicate that RFID technology is easy to deploy, but it can be quite complex especially when you want to use it in warehouses, retail stores and manufacturing units. Sometimes, even professionals find it challenging and frustrating. The entire setup needs to be analyzed, including types of shelving, lighting and radio interference. Even a legacy 900MHz phone signal can cause interference with RFID tags and readers. To successfully deploy RFID system stores, a proper wireless site survey is must so as to identify every possible source of signal interference and attenuation. 

Myth Number 10: I can wait, let others try it first.

It’s better to get RFID deployed for your business than wait. We recommend you start early, moves slowly and learn the technology step-by-step. This way you will avoid rush or the necessity to deploy suddenly due to competitive pressure. Many big firms are studying how Wal-Mart is tracking its cartons and how they make pallets works so that they would be ready to use the technology when the time comes.

So, don’t put yourself in a place where you have to tag all the products for your customers, without being able to derive any value from such tags within your business operations.

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