What is RFID Asset Tracking?

What Is RFID Asset Tracking?

Asset Tracking is undergoing a silent revolution. This transformation is powered low cost solutions such as RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) technology. With RFID, every item, from a small package, waste bin to containers can hold its own digital identity and can be effortlessly tracked in real time. This innovation isn’t a mere concept; it’s a tangible reality propelling industries forward at an unprecedented pace. RFID technology- active, passive and NFC are all making this a reality and powering businesses to run more effectively and allowing them to save big money.

RFID’s roots trace back to the mid-20th century when it emerged as a military spy tool. However, its true potential wasn’t fully realized until now.

Consider this: according to a recent survey by Market Research Future, the global RFID market is projected to reach a staggering $40 billion by 2025, reflecting a compounded annual growth rate of over 15%. These numbers aren’t just arbitrary figures; they signify a paradigm shift in how organizations perceive and harness the power of tracking and managing their assets.

But what exactly is RFID asset tracking, and why has it become an indispensable asset for businesses worldwide? Let’s dive deeper into this transformative technology to unravel its significance and impact on modern-day asset management strategies, and how businesses can use it to improve their operations.

RFID asset tracking works with the help of hardware such as tags. As a business owner of high value assets such as equipment, IT devices, tools, or vehicles, you are most likely aware of the importance of asset tracking and inventory management as a means to support decision making, prevent losses, and maximize asset utilization rates.

There are many ways to track assets. The old fashioned way is to do it manually by using pen and paper or Excel sheets. However, for many real world use cases RFID technology is by far the most cost effective and efficient way.

RFID For Inventory & Tool Tracking:

tool tracking

How RFID Asset Tracking Works

  1. RFID technology operates on a simple yet powerful principle: using radio waves to transfer data between an RFID tag and a reader. The tag consists of a microchip that stores information- typically the unique ID of the item it’s attached to, and an antenna that enables communication via radio waves. When the tag is within the range of an RFID reader, typically a few inches to several feet away depending on the type of RFID tag and power of the reader, the reader sends out electromagnetic waves that power the tag and prompt it to transmit its data back to the reader.

    There are three primary types of RFID systems based on how the tags are powered and communicate:

    • Passive RFID: These tags don’t have an internal power source. Instead, they draw power from the RFID reader’s signal. When the reader emits radio waves, the passive tag’s antenna picks up the energy to activate the chip, allowing it to transmit its data back to the reader. Passive RFID tags are cost-effective and can be supplied in different forms such as stickers or waterproof tags making them suitable for a wide range of applications like inventory management, access control, supply chain tracking, bin tracking for waste applications and more.
    • Active RFID: In contrast, active RFID tags are typically powered by an internal battery and can transmit signals without relying on the reader’s energy. This allows Active RFID tags to broadcast signals over much longer distances and at higher frequencies compared to passive tags, making them ideal for tracking high-value assets, vehicles, or in scenarios requiring real-time location tracking and even in cold chain applications allowing temperature sensors to transmit wirelessly.
    • Semi-passive (Battery-Assisted Passive) RFID: This type combines features of both passive and active systems. Semi-passive tags have a battery to power the tag’s internal circuitry but still rely on the reader to communicate. They offer extended read ranges compared to passive tags and conserve battery life by only activating when in the presence of an RFID reader. This type is commonly used for monitoring temperature-sensitive goods during transit.

    RFID systems consist of various types of tags and readers based on frequency bands and applications. Low-frequency (LF), high-frequency (HF), ultra-high-frequency (UHF), and microwave frequency bands are used in RFID systems, each with its own advantages in terms of read range, data transfer speed, and resistance to interference.

    LF RFID is often used for access control, HF for payment systems and near-field communication (NFC), UHF for supply chain management and inventory tracking, and microwave frequencies for specialized applications like toll collection and vehicle tracking.

    Understanding these distinctions helps businesses choose the right RFID system for their specific needs, whether it’s enhancing security, improving logistics, or optimizing inventory management.

RFID For Shipment Tracking:

Trailer tracking systems

What Are The Benefits Of RFID Asset Tracking?

Go paperless –  Easy-to-use cloud based platform provides a visualized dashboard of pick up and drop off.
View, monitor and track in real-time the location of every asset and quickly see your entire asset inventory.
Know when an asset was picked up and where it was dropped off and by whom
Cost effective – A fraction of the cost of installing a tracking device on each asset.
Keep records of leased equipment and generate customer invoicing information based on actual usage.
Cloud-based web app that is accessible via computer, tablet, or smartphone

Case Study-Real-World Example Of RFID For Waste Tracking

A large waste management company in Canada was facing the relentless challenge of optimizing their operations amidst increasing demand for efficiency and sustainability from their customers and the cities they work with.

With our GPS trackers seamlessly integrated into their fleet of trucks, equipped with a robust passive RFID reader, the company revolutionized their waste collection process. Every residential waste bin tagged with a passive RFID tag became a part of an intricately connected network. As the trucks drive processes along their routes, the RFID tags on each bin is picked up by the RFID reader, automatically logging each pickup in real time.

In addition to this, the trucks are equipped with our comprehensive camera system. Six cameras- dual-facing dashcam, side cameras, a rear camera, and a dedicated hopper camera—recording the journey of each truck and waste bin from curbside to collection point.

This technological prowess wasn’t just about surveillance; it was about accountability and safety. The system diligently logged driver behavior events, promoting responsible driving practices and ensuring the safety of both drivers and pedestrians.

Moreover, a simple yet impactful addition to the system transformed the driver into an instant problem solver. A button installed within the cabin became a bridge between observation and action. If a driver noticed an issue with a particular waste bin—a broken latch, an overflowing container—he pressed the button, triggering the hopper camera to snap a photo of the concern. This image, along with the timestamp and geolocation, was swiftly uploaded to Fleet.Net, notifying the operator and streamlining issue resolution.

Through this innovative solution, the waste management company witnessed a paradigm shift. Operational efficiency soared as routes were optimized, pickups were precisely logged, and proactive issue resolution became the norm. The fusion of GPS tracking, passive RFID technology, and an innovative camera system transformed mere waste collection into a symphony of efficiency and responsiveness, setting a new standard in waste management excellence.

waste management gps tracking

Comparative Analysis

Each asset tracking technology—RFID, barcode scanning, and GPS tracking—comes with its own set of advantages and limitations, making them suitable for different use cases:

RFID Tracking:

    • Pros:
    • Efficiency: RFID excels in quick and automated data capture without requiring line-of-sight scanning. Multiple tags can be read simultaneously, speeding up inventory processes.
    • Durability: RFID tags are robust and can withstand harsh environmental conditions, making them suitable for rugged applications.
    • Real-time Updates: With active RFID, real-time tracking and monitoring of assets are possible, providing up-to-the-moment information about location and status.
    • Cons:
    • Cost: Depending on the specific use case, Implementing an RFID system is significantly more cost effective versus installing GPS trackers. In addition, Passive solutions require zero maintenance as no batteries are required to charge, replace or service.
    • Read Range: Both active and passive RFID read ranges are limited compared to other technologies, especially in certain environments or with certain materials that interfere with radio signals.

Barcode Scanning:

    • Pros:
    • Affordability: Barcodes are cost-effective and easy to implement. Creating and printing barcode labels is relatively inexpensive.
    • Universal Compatibility: Almost all products can be labeled with barcodes, and scanners are widely available.
    • Accuracy: Barcodes, when scanned properly, provide accurate data capture for inventory and asset tracking.
    • Cons:
    • Line-of-Sight Scanning: Barcodes require direct visibility to be scanned accurately, which can slow down the tracking process and lead to errors if labels are damaged or obstructed.
    • Limited Data: Barcodes typically contain limited information and may not be suitable for complex tracking needs or real-time updates.
    • Limited Use cases: as more and more businesses are looking to streamline their operations, barcodes are not able to offer a solution to many of the challenges these businesses face.

GPS Tracking:

    • Pros:
    • Global Tracking: GPS provides global coverage, allowing real-time location tracking of assets virtually anywhere on the planet.
    • High Accuracy: GPS offers precise location data, making it ideal for tracking vehicles, shipments, or mobile assets.
    • Real-Time Updates: Continuous monitoring and updates on asset movement and location are possible.
    • Cons:
    • Dependence on Satellite Signal: GPS requires a clear line of sight to satellites, making it less effective indoors, in dense urban areas, or in areas with heavy foliage or structures that can block signals.
    • Power Consumption: GPS devices, particularly those transmitting data in real time, may consume more power, necessitating frequent battery recharging or power sources for sustained tracking.
    • Cost: While GPS Tracking and smart GPS trackers are the ideal solution for most applications, it carries significantly higher costs- upfront costs for the device and a monthly cost for the cellular airtime.

Choosing the right technology often depends on specific business needs, the nature of the assets being tracked, environmental considerations, and the desired level of data accuracy and real-time visibility and of course – budget. Many businesses opt for a combination of these technologies to leverage their respective strengths and mitigate their weaknesses for comprehensive asset management.

Cost-Effective Tracking Solutions

For businesses looking for cost-effective tracking solutions, several cheaper alternatives to Apple AirTags exist, though with varying degrees of effectiveness and functionality. For commercial applications, however, investing in dedicated GPS tracking solutions offer better value over time, considering the enhanced features and reliability essential for business operations.

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