What Is RFID technology? The Basics of RFID Asset Tracking


Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is not new technology. It dates back to World War II, when it was used for espionage and friend-or-foe identification. In the early 1970s, RFID technology developed by scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory eventually became the first automated toll systems. However, what is relatively new is the explosive growth of Wi-Fi based RFID, which is expected to grow 100% annually to become a market with a net worth over $27 billion by 2024. What is RFID, and what features make it so beneficial for asset tracking?

What is RFID Asset Tracking Technology & How Does It Work?

An RFID asset tracking system uses a reader which sends a radio signal to a tag or label and reads the return signal. The tags can be active, passive, or semi-passive. Active tags are powered by a battery and send out a signal continuously or at pre-programmed intervals, and a reader receives the signal. Passive tags have no battery and wait for a signal from the reader to respond, using the reader for power. Semi-passive tags have a battery, but still use the reader’s signal to power communication.

An active tag can typically send a signal 300 feet or more, with some newer ones reaching 1,500 feet. Passive tags are a cheaper alternative where range is less of a concern. Depending on the frequency, a passive tag’s signal ranges from less than a foot to around 20 or 30 feet.

Wi-Fi and RFID have always been closely aligned – one of the first uses for Wi-Fi was to transmit signals to an RFID reader. Today, RFID tags that conform to IEEE 802.11 standards are used as a cost-effective way to track assets and people. Wi-Fi RFID tags are active tags that can be located and identified using regular wireless network access points. This technology has made RFID-like applications become widespread by offering more affordable solutions that are easier to implement and maintain.  

Advantages of RFID Over Bar Codes

RFID asset tracking systems have a number of advantages over bar codes, including:

  • Needs No Line of Sight. There cannot be obstructions between a bar code and the bar code scanner. An RFID reader doesn’t need line of sight for it to function; it just has to be in transmission range of the tag.
  • Durability. The tags can also be embedded in almost any non-metallic material for weather-proofing and durability.
  • Can Be Used Over Distances. Bar code scanners need to be in close proximity of the bar code tag to be effective, often within inches or a few feet, while RFID can be used over greater distances, expanding the potential applications RFID can handle.
  • Uniqueness. Bar codes also fall short when specific items need to be identified or tracked. Bar codes identify groups of similar items instead of unique items. For example, a bar code can identify that a 19 ounce can of tomato soup was purchased, but it can’t tell you which particular can. Each RFID tag has a unique serial number that can identify particular assets on an individual basis.  
  • Speed. Bar code scanners read one bar code at a time, while RFID readers can scan multiple tags at once – at greater speeds than bar code readers. This also makes it possible for one item to have several RFID tags.
  • Reusability. Bar codes are read only, so once they are created, they can’t be changed. RFID tags can be read only, read/write, or write once/read many (WORM). Read/write tags can be modified by the RFID reader, making it possible to add or change information stored on the tag when necessary.

What to Look for in RFID Asset Tracking Solutions

To be of any benefit to you, a good RFID asset tracking solution needs to have certain characteristics. Here are five things to keep in mind when asking what is RFID technology and looking for a good RFID system:

  1. Easy Integration. No IT manager wants the cost and headache of completely revamping or replacing an existing infrastructure. If it isn’t easy to integrate, it will be harder to get everyone on board for implementation.
  2. Must be Configurable. Every situation is unique, and one-size-fits-all just doesn’t apply to asset management. You need a solution you can adapt to your specific needs – and fits your budget.
  3. Must Not Compromise Security. You want an asset management system that offers safeguards. Creating reports for auditing and compliance, as well as monitoring and sending alerts, should be part of a good RFID tracking solution.
  4. Full Visibility of Assets. You need a system that tracks inventory in any environment, whether it is in a controlled indoor environment, a wide open outside yard, or a moving asset. A good asset system should have real-time tracking to provide accurate up-to-date status, location, and condition reporting.
  5. Cost Effectiveness. A good asset tracking solution should not be difficult to install or maintain, nor should it require significant training or additional staff. In the long run, it should not negatively affect your bottom line.

Let Us Help You Find the Right RFID Asset Tracking Solution

All of the advantages and “must-have” boxes of a good solution are checked off in a Surecom WiFi RFID system. For more information on how we can help you improve productivity, safety, and security through better asset management and tracking, contact us through our website, or call 1300 446 947, today!

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