RFID WORLD NEWS
Dec 31, 1969 05:00PM
Intelligence at the Network Edge
Among the most compelling aspects of RFID is its ability to extend intelligence to the edge of enterprise networks. RFID allows for individual items to have a unique identifier and can identify many items at once. Hence RFID can collect large volumes of actionable data each second from immense numbers of RFID-tagged items as they move across conveyors, through dock doors and even off of store shelves. As part of a network, RFID systems enable the first step towards integrating that valuable information into enterprise systems and processes where it can be analyzed and used to trigger decisions and actions.
How RFID Works
A RFID system has several components including chips, tags, readers and antennas. In its simplest form, a small silicon chip is attached to a small flexible antenna to create a tag. The chip is used to record and store information. When a tag is to be read, the reader (which also uses an antenna) sends it a radio signal. The tag absorbs some of the RF energy from the reader signal and reflects it back as a return signal delivering information from the tag's memory.
UHF RFID systems communicate using frequencies around 900MHz with a maximum read range of 10 meters (approximately 30 feet) under ideal conditions. This makes UHF RFID a promising solution for reading pallets and cartons off of conveyors or in portals from a distance. But this capability does not in any way preclude UHF from near field and near contact applications as UHF systems can be easily tailored to meet lower range requirements. This can be accomplished by reducing power at the reader, reducing the size of the reader antenna, and/or reducing the size of the tag antenna.
RFID tags are designed and produced in a variety of shapes and sizes, dependent on application requirements. As UHF RFID has a large maximum read range to begin with, using extremely small tags for such applications as near field item level tracking (where tags may reside under bottles caps or behind product labels, for example) is promising. Applications such as pallet or case level tracking of commodities on conveyors or passing through portals, and read from a distance, typically require larger tags.
RFID readers are generally composed of a computer and a radio. The computer manages communications with the network, allowing tag data to be communicated to enterprise software applications such as ERP systems. The radio controls communication with the tag, typically using a language dictated by a published protocol such as the EPC Class 1 specification. This particular protocol, one of several in use, is the most common language used by tags in supply chain applications.