RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is a wireless system that transfers data to identify people or objects. It works by the use of electromagnetic fields to transfer and read electronically stored data from tags attached to objects. Similar to a bar code or magnetic strip, the RFID tag must be scanned to retrieve information. While it is not new technology, it has proven its usefulness across a variety of industries over time. Here are 5 examples of industries that have been redefined by the use of RFID.
The medical industry has experienced a number of benefits due to the application of RFID in a number of areas. It has revolutionized how inventory, assets, and even people are tracked and identified. Pharmaceuticals have greatly benefited from its tracking abilities. RFID chips are embedded in drug containers to track and prevent theft of controlled drugs. It's also utilized to organize complex pharmaceutical stock.
Hospitals implement RFID to track and identify medical equipment and patients through identification bracelets. This is especially beneficial for patients who suffer from afflictions like Alzheimers or Dementia, where patient safety is a high priority. Even medical labs have found use for its tagging abilities using high frequency tags to track tissue samples, urine, blood, and other critical samples. RFID has not only save the medical industry countless dollars, it has vastly improved patient care.
In the shipping, transportation, and logistics industry, RFID is an efficient method for keeping track of equipment, inventory, and items for delivery. It allows the creation of a substantial number of tags to be made simultaneously, thus eradicating the need for the one by one identification method used by its bar code predecessor. Plus, it tracks the whereabouts of tagged items, essentially eliminating the need to view each item in order to identify and process it.
This is particularly valuable in effective order picking and shipping error reduction. RFID has been utilized in three major seaport operators in the US for cargo container tracking, as well as Ikea's distribution center, and other major shipping systems.
RFID has been notably revolutionary in the retail sector. Because of its ability to simultaneously tag many items, it has consolidated inventory tracking, while reducing the manpower and expenses needed to do so. Within the past decade, retail giant Wal-Mart recognized the potential of RFID and insisted its use among its suppliers.
Other retailers such as Macy's and Exxon Mobile have followed suit, with Macy's use of the technology for inventory replenishment and Exxon Mobile's SpeedPass payment system. RFID has the unique ability to have detailed categorization (such as dividing merchandise between online and in-store inventory), and theft prevention of tagged items. The checkout process is also streamlined with the ability to scan multiple products at once for payment.
The airline industry has a unique dilemma with the vast amount of passenger luggage that travels throughout its wide network daily. Lost luggage has been an increasing complaint over the years. Airlines like Continental and Delta have been utilizing RFID tags to track and reduce the number of lost passenger baggage. Even the check-in process has been improved under RFID, with Quantas Airlines and others using RFID for self-service check-in.
Quantas uses permanent electronic bag tags for frequent fliers, but other airline have employed RFID tags for all luggage through their respective self-service kiosks. This not only saves time and manpower, it also improves the customer service offered by live ticket agents due to less passengers needing their assistance.
RFID has proven especially effective in the Security industry. It is an effective way to provide access and restriction control on a premises through the use of RFID smart cards. This works hand-in-hand with security guards and video monitoring systems to keep areas secure. It is also effective for asset control, where supplies are accounted for and easily located through the use of tags. The tags are programmed to stay within a preset boundary. If a piece is moved beyond the boundary, security is notified immediately so that it may be retrieved. This simplifies asset control and safety for security guards, while safeguarding against theft.
Because of RFID's innovative application across a variety of wide variety of industries, it is poised to continue making significant advances in the future. Its ability to quickly share information makes it a powerful technology to leverage.