Although RFID Technology is over 50 years old, its reintroduction into the supply chain of consumer packaged goods has increased the awareness of the public to this technology. And, let it be made clear that there is a lot of hype on what it can and can't do. RFID can provide valuable insight into a supply chain and improve the store and distribution center operations.
Although it is not yet widely used by supply chains, people are recognising its benefits more and more. However, unrealistic expectations and uninformed perceptions regularly get mixed up with the facts and become myths. In the first part of this blog post, we discuss and debunk the most common RFID misconceptions.
1. RFID is new/RFID is mature and stable
RFIDs have been in use since World War Two, when allies had transponders on their aircrafts to prevent fire accidents. The second part of the myth is that RFID is stable and mature. These two parts contradict each other, as the technology cannot be mature and new at the same time.
A lot of people use RFID without even knowing it – toll passes and employee ID badges, for instance use passive RFID in low frequencies or active RFID (needs a battery). UHF (passive) RFID is relatively new. The technology has evolved rapidly from the days it was deployed by retail giants like Wal-Mart. The devices are becoming more reliable, more powerful and more portable.
2. RFID can be used for continuous tracking
One of the common misnomers about RFID is that it can be used to violate one's privacy because of its ability to track objects and people. This myth makes two wrong assumptions:
- RFID tags can be used as a real-time geolocation device.
- People and their baggage will have RFID tags.
RFID can be used for tracking and tracing, but only insofar that it can tell you where the tagged device is and where it has been. To recognize a passive tag, it needs to be within the electromagnetic field. The field typically reaches around 10 feet.
Unless the tag is within the field, the reader cannot read it. Once it enters the field, you can track it and tag it. Therefore, to continuously track people, you would need millions of antennae and readers in proximity to get the necessary overlapping fields. And as for the second portion of the myth, we currently do not have the technology to implant a subdermal tag.
3. People can read the RFID tags in your house, and know all they want to about your possessions
Since RFID allows readers to read tags without needing a direct line of sight, people worry that anyone who is driving down their street with a portable tag reader can know the products they have. Burglars will love it, if that is the case, as it will let them identify houses with the most valuable possessions.
This is erroneous for a few reasons. Although you can read products without a direct line of sight, don't forget that the range for a UHF RFID is around 10 feet.
This would require the person or car to be really close to the house to read the tags. Secondly, RFIS is affected by metal and water. This means that not only will the reader have to be quite close, but there must be no interference from metal or water.
Thirdly, only cases and pallets are tagged. Since most of them are discarded at the distribution center or store, there are very few products to be read inside of a home. Item level tagging is still going to take many years to become a reality.