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Where is it used?
Potential applications for RFID may be identified in virtually every sector where data
are collected. Over the past few years, RFID has begun to move from its early, experi-
mental phase into a mature and proven technology; its inclusion in major consumer
applications underlines this. RFID systems may be roughly divided into four groups,
according to their applications:
- EAS (Electronic Article Surveillance) systems;
- Portable Data Capture systems;
- Networked systems;
- Positioning systems.
Electronic Article Surveillance systems are typically single-bit systems used to sense the
presence or absence of an item.The basic use for this technology is in retail stores, where
separate items are tagged and large antenna readers are located at each exit of the store to
detect unauthorised removal of the item as in the case of a theft, for instance.
Portable data capture systems typically contain portable data terminals with an embedded
RFID reader, and are used in applications where a high degree of variability in sourcing
required data from tagged items may be exhibited.
Networked systems applications can generally be characterised by fixed-position readers
deployed within a given site and connected directly to a networked information man-
agement system.The tags are usually positioned on moving or moveable items.
Positioning systems use tags to enable automated location and navigation support for
guided vehicles.
RFID technology is a good example of a technology which assists in the logistical
tracing of items. In recent decades, goods moving through a supply chain have been
monitored using barcodes. Barcodes, themselves, have limitations which make it difficult
for them to meet the needs of many business sectors. Barcodes require human interven-
tion in inflexible conditions in terms of distance from the equipment and orientation of
the material.They are easily damaged and can store only the most basic of essential infor-
mation. Use of a barcode initialises a procedure sending information to a database server
and initiating a whole chain of data processing operations.
High demands for speed, cost efficiency and theft prevention are the perfect spur for
developing new technologies to minimise the effects of the limitations of barcoding.
RFID technology is foremost among these current alternatives. Smart labels provide
greater freedom than barcodes. Orientation and distance are less important, human inter-
vention is minimised, labels can store more information and are reprogrammable.
RFID technology works at the forefront of data circulation within an organisation. In
this respect, a decision to use it will inevitably influence data management practices
within the organisation.
What problems does it address?
The first use of RFID technology dates from the late 1960s. At that time tags had a
memory capacity of only one bit, and were used exclusively as electronic article surveil-
lance (EAS) anti-theft deterrents.This first application area shows a typical problem that
continues today.
Smart Labels
and Smart Tags