RFID (radio frequency identification) asset tracking involves tagging your assets with RFID tags, which contain a chip and antenna. RFID tags are scanned by either portable or mounted RFID readers. The read range varies depending on the type of chips and readers. It can be very short for low frequency RFID to across a room for ultra high frequency (UHF) RFID. The type of tag and reader must be carefully selected with consideration for the asset and the places where it needs to be scanned.
TrackAbout has clients using our asset tracking software around the world with both barcode tracking and RFID tracking systems. RFID has some advantages depending on the use case. However, in most cases we see our clients choosing barcodes instead of RFID as their data capture technology for the reduced cost and complexity of the tags, readers and implementation.
Whatever tracking technology fits your project and budget, TrackAbout offers tracking software solutions designed to bring order to the chaos of your inventory and put you in control.
Since the costs of implementing RFID inventory management are much higher than barcodes, organizations tend to use RFID equipment tracking when their property is of a higher value, making for a better return on investment. TrackAbout can help you find the right technology fit for you.
While barcodes are less expensive, they do have one significant drawback: a line of sight to each tagged item is required. If you can’t see it, you can’t scan it. RFID tracking systems eliminate this problem by identifying tagged within a certain distance.
Not requiring a line of sight is especially beneficial when you have assets positioned in such a way that it is not easy to access their tags, such as when items are stacked on top of each other.
While you need to scan barcodes individually, it is possible to identify several assets with a RFID tag simultaneously. This ability is advantageous when you have a large number of smaller objects to inventory, negating the need to read each one individually and saving time in the process.
For example, a pallet containing numerous items can instantly be read by the scanner, removing the need for the operator to scan each object individually.
You can read RFID tags at a distance, so you do not spend time orienting and getting up close to each one. As long as the tags are within the scanning device’s field and not blocked by metal or liquids, you can quickly log them with a wave of the reading instrument.
RFID tags can be overlain with barcodes, giving you the flexibility of choosing both tracking methods as your needs may warrant. Once dual RFID/barcodes are affixed to the assets you want to track, the choice is yours whether you want to monitor them via either method.
While RFID technology is a very useful asset tracking solution for many companies, it does come with disadvantages over managing your inventory with barcodes.
While TrackAbout gives you the option to scan barcodes using smartphones and tablets, RFID tags can only be read with significantly more expensive RFID readers.
There are several RFID standards to choose from (LF, HF, UHF). The hardware differs per standard. You may not find that a single standard produces the best scanning results for your entire asset fleet and the places where you scan them.
Once you choose a standard, if it was the wrong one, changing it is very expensive. You’ll need to re-tag your fleet of assets, which is usually prohibitively expensive.
RFID handheld scanning devices can cost around $2,500, while fixed (mounted) scanners can range upwards of $5,000 per reader. When multiple devices are required to cover multiple areas, this adds up quickly. Deploying installed RFID readers requires specialists and IT integration.
Compare this to the $1,500 average cost for rugged handheld barcode scanners or the cost of a typical smartphone and a rugged case. If you already own the smartphones or tablets, then your hardware cost is essentially zero.
RFID tags typically cost 20 times more than industrial barcodes. Depending on the size of your asset fleet, the cost disparity can be quite large.
While RFID technology is robust, there remains the possibility for items to get missed during the scanning process. While the ability to scan multiple objects is a great time saver, it can be difficult to know if all the assets in the area were successfully scanned. It’s also possible to scan an asset unintentionally and not know it.
Some materials such as metals and liquids can interfere with the RFID signal, making them inappropriate to use.
While barcodes are sufficient for most tracking needs, TrackAbout is proud to offer RFID fixed asset tracking systems as part of its state of the art asset tracking management software that helps you keep track of and protect your valuable assets.
If you can afford it, the ‘best of both worlds’ solution uses tags which include an RFID chip, a barcode and a human readable number that are all the same number and can be used interchangeably. In this scenario you have the maximum flexibility for data capture.