RFID Asset Tracking and Inventory Management: Things to Know

Businesses in the construction, manufacturing, logistics, retail, and healthcare sectors largely employ barcode, QR, and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) asset tracking and inventory management systems.

RFID-based asset tracking systems are taking over conventional tracking methods because there are several limitations to barcode/QR-based systems like:

  • Direct line of sight
  • Short tracking range
  • Slow tracking and scanning speed
  • Need of sequential tags
  • Read-only tags
  • Tracks one asset at a time
  • Can’t be automated fully (human element is needed)
  • Possibility of human error
  • Can’t identify an individual asset

With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), RFID-based asset tracking and inventory management have become the go-to technology for organizations looking to reduce asset tracking overhead, eliminate human intervention, and automate real-time asset tracking.

IoT-enabled RFID asset tracking system can:

  • Automate asset maintenance schedule
  • Trigger asset/inventory date sensitive alerts (ie; Expiration, Maintenance, Calibration, etc)
  • Trigger an alert if an indispensable high-value asset is missing
  • Map asset operating hours and downtime logging data with the asset maintenance records to analytically reduce bottlenecks.
  • Asset inventory optimization

What is RFID-based asset tracking system?

RFID asset tracking and inventory management system is employed by organizations to achieve workplace efficiency while staying cost-effective. In this system, organizations can tag and track movable and immovable assets or people.

Where are RFID asset tracking and inventory management systems employed?

RFID asset tracking systems are generally used in:

  • Manufacturing and logistics industry
  • Healthcare and pharma industry
  • Supply chain management systems
  • Inventory management
  • Access control
  • Vehicle/Fleet tracking
  • Retail industry
  • Art Tracking
  • ALF (Assisted Living Facilities)
  • Out-Patient Medical Facilities
  • Construction
  • Fire & EMS
  • Government & Education

How Does an RFID-based asset tracking system work?

In the RFID asset tracking and inventory management system, an RFID tag is placed on an asset to identify and track the asset.

To track the assets, the RFID asset tracking system engages four components:

  1. RFID tag/label placed on an asset
  2. RFID reader
  3. Antenna
  4. Asset tracking software that is integrated with a database management system like SQL

RFID is a transponder (transmit and receive the RF signal) that stores unique tag information that is associated to the asset in the database.

Once the RFID tag is placed on an asset, the working off the RFID asset tracking system can be described in the following phases:

  1. An RFID tag (attached to an asset) transmits the data to the antenna
  2. The antenna receives stored data in form of an RF signal and transmits it to the RFID reader
  3. The RF reader turns the radio frequency signal into a representable form of data and transfers it to a computer or system cloud to be rendered to the user.

What are different types of RFID tags used for asset tracking and inventory management?

RFID tags/labels are manufactured in a variety of designs and sizes. An RFID tag is made of an embedded integrated circuit (IC) chip with read-only (R)/read-writable memory (RW), antenna coil (transponder), substrate layer (antenna and chip is attached to it), adhesive layer, and adhesive liner.

Low frequency (LF) and high frequency (HF) RFID antennas are coil-shaped while ultra-high frequency (UHF) antennas come in dipole bunny ear designs that were used with TV sets back in the 1950s and 1960s.

There are three types of RFID tags used in the assets tracking system:

  1. Active RFID tag
  2. Passive RFID tag
  3. A semi-passive RFID tag (“BAP” Battery assisted Passive)

Unlike passive RFID tags, active RFID tags have a built-in power supply (battery) and onboard electronics. The embedded power supply allows the RFID tag to transmit data without taking power from the RFID reader – unlike in the case of passive RFID tags. Battery life is 5-7 years, the tag will need to be replaced at the end of its life cycle.

The battery power also extends the reading range of an RFID tag. In contrast with a passive RFID tag which has a reading range of about 60 feet Max, an active RFID tag can be read by an RFID reader from a distance of over 400 feet.

Embedded electronic components (like sensors, I/O ports, and microprocessor) in an active RFID tag enable it to be used for a broad range of applications. This is where the IoT comes into effect. Active tags can “sense” all types of things such as temperature, humidity, wind, C02 gas.

Passive RFID tags edge out active RFID tags when it comes to forming factor and cost.  Passive RFID tags are smaller, lighter, and cheaper than their active counterparts.

Why consider RFID-based asset tracking and inventory management for your business?

As stated before, RFID asset tracking and inventory management systems offer many advantages over barcode/QR-based parallel systems. With RFID asset tracking system, businesses can:

  • Reduce operating cost
  • Reduce theft and loss of assets
  • Track and monitor assets in real-time
  • Improve workplace efficiency
  • Reduce scanning and data collection time
  • Achieve 100% data accuracy
  • Read multiple RFID tags at a time and eliminate the risk of missed tags.