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Technology Essay: Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in Business
Technology is everywhere nowadays. It’s being constantly used at home, in the workspace, and at schools. But on a larger scale, how do businesses normally use technology outside of the typical office setup? Currently, the most efficient way for business owners to conduct business, typically for those in the industrial, manufacturing, and delivery sectors, is by using mobile computing and Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) technology. Specifically, businesses, even small ones, opt to use RFID. Read more on this research paper to find out why business owners find RFIDs useful.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Technology
Radio Frequency Identification, otherwise known as RFID, is a type of technology under AIDC. The way it works is similar to barcode technology. The difference is in RFID, there is no need to actually see the RFID tag for it to be scanned. It may be covered with multiple layers of clothing, put under the skin, or under non-metallic materials and it can still be scanned. But even then, RFID tags can only be detected by an RFID reader within a specific range.
RFID is a small electronic device, usually a microchip , that can store large amounts of data. It requires little to no human interaction as the technology uses low-power radio waves to scan the RFID tag. This means that RFID, unlike a barcode, is able to scan multiple items simultaneously as long as it is within range. The tiny RFID chip is able to collect, store, and enter the data gathered into computer systems. There are different types of RFID tags that differ in frequency levels and active or passive tag communication.
Low-frequency RFID tags have the smallest range, and reads data a lot slower, but are preferred in environments where liquids and metals can be found. High-frequency tags are often used in the hotel, bank, and security industries. It can be found in hotel cards, credit cards, and ID cards. Ultra-high frequency RFID tags are typically used by global-scale businesses because they require faster data transfer for retail inventory and to prevent counterfeiting. Passive tag communication is much more widely used since it costs less. The tag needs to be read by the RFID reader before the data can be transmitted. An active tag, however, has a battery attached so it could transmit data continuously.
Advantages of using RFID technology
RFID is currently on the rise in the business industry. Business people are taking advantage of this technology for a long time now but it has been booming recently. RFID can be used for a lot of things and usually for less cost, but this depends on the complexity of the system that is needed for a particular business. It proved to be really advantageous as it doesn’t usually require human intervention and is in the line of sight. The tags can be read even under harsh weather conditions. RFID is obviously better than optical-based technologies because it has fewer restrictions.
RFID technology is chosen over barcodes or optical-based technologies where it is deemed ineffective. Also, RFID tags can be read in less than 100 milliseconds. As active RFID tags can read and store information continuously, it lessens the maintenance personnel needed to constantly update the database. An active RFID is capable of collecting and storing data, along with identifying items without the RFID reader. RFID technology is continually being developed so that a chip will be able to hold even more data, can be read within a wider range, and read data a lot faster than its predecessors.
RFID also reduces the risk of human error in manual data encoding. Therefore, effectively saving time and money needed to hire actual human employees that will encode the data gathered. The data collected is usually stored using cloud-based systems which ensures that no critical data will be lost. With these, accuracy is heightened and the status of items can be easily monitored. This is especially important in manufacturing businesses where items are being produced at large quantities. RFID makes it possible to identify individual items and ensures that all items are in optimal condition.
RFID has had a huge impact in terms of loss prevention, improved productivity, better visibility, reduced labor costs, as well as inventory accuracy. By equipping the products with smart tags, the retailer can benefit from a smooth streamlined flow of merchandise, real-time product tracking, product counterfeit security, accuracy in distribution, and most importantly consumer satisfaction. It provides hassle-free management coupled with the benefit of speed, accuracy, and reduced labor charges.
Moreover, there will be considerably reduced out-of-stock items, yet again resulting in annual benefits to the retailer. Therefore, what we can examine here is that by introducing this technology, speed and visibility are enhanced, and the store's effectiveness and operational efficiency also increased considerably, thus providing consumers hassle-free shopping experience. This flow remains consistent, and in turn the sales increase as well.
Disadvantages of using RFID technology
The benefits of using RFID are endless. However, there are still disadvantages to using them such as the cost of upgrading, being vulnerable to viruses, and possible security breaches, among others. Even if RFID advocates praise the technology, its disadvantages should not be overlooked. There are a number of concerns about RFID technology despite its being on the rise in businesses.
First off, RFID technology is particularly expensive. Active RFID tags cost about 10 times more than barcode technology. Passive tags are significantly cheaper but some businesses require RFID to constantly update the database by itself. The installation and upgrade of a company’s equipment and facility to accommodate RFID technology are also costly.
After that, a business owner has to consider if their suppliers, shipping, and partner companies are using the same system. If they do not, this would inevitably lead to product tracking and management disconnect. This is particularly troubling as the purpose of companies in using RFID technology is to save time, energy, and money. Businesses would end up doing the opposite if they and their partners do not have compatible technology.
Another disadvantage is RFID tags, like barcode scanners, cannot be read under certain conditions. For RFID tags, metallic surfaces and liquids can cause interference as RFID uses radio waves to transmit data. For some locations and businesses, exposing products with RFID tags is inevitable and therefore will only lead to ineffective implementation and more expense.
Lastly, active RFID tags are prone to security breaches and software viruses as most chips lack solid security features. Businesses are concerned that highly confidential information may be stolen due to security breaches and important information be lost to software viruses. Some companies choose to overlook this risk as their likelihood of gaining from using RFID technology is greater than the risk of losing vital information.
How can RFID technology be used in business?
It has been previously discussed how RFID can benefit businesses. That’s just the tip of the iceberg as those are only some of its basic functions and businesses can do so much with RFID. Again, RFID is beneficial for businesses of all sizes and types because it helps the company be more efficient while also improving the quality of service or products. Here are a few examples of how RFID can be employed as an important asset to a business:
- Inventory management. Even small businesses have trouble with managing their inventory as this may get confusing at times especially when the inventory count is done manually. With RFID, managing and tracking is a whole lot easier because there is no need to count each item as the number of items and where they are found can be seen using RFID applications.
- Better production line tracking. This is ideal for complex manufacturing processes like making bread, mixing liquids, and heating at certain temperatures. RFID can ensure that the right components end up in the right production without needing personnel to go around or manually monitor the products one by one. This also helps monitor how much time it takes for a product to be assembled so that production can be improved where needed.
- Enhance quality. RFID can help ensure that the products in the manufacturing lines have been assembled correctly and nothing has been missed. This helps with keeping customer satisfaction high because high-quality items are sure to be delivered to them. Using RFID effectively helps in reducing wasted materials and the number of items being returned due to defects and other issues.
- Shipment tracking. With RFID, packages don’t need to be turned over and over just to find where the barcode to be scanned is. This reduces the possible damage to the packaging and the item itself. Also, it makes the tracking process go a lot faster because the items can be scanned in batches.
- In-depth management information. Because RFID allows the real-time capture, storage, and access to data, it enhances the management of information that is needed for planning and operational purposes. This effectively keeps those who manage each unit of the company to be informed of what needs to be informed in the business operations.
- Personnel tracking. RFID is also integrated by some businesses to their employees’ identification cards. This helps them keep track of their employees’ activities more effectively. RFID also lessens the manual logging in and out of employees.
- Access control to restricted areas. As some identification cards of employees are embedded with RFID, some authorize it to be used to access restricted areas without needing to keep another card that will solely be used to unlock a door.
Industries that Use RFID Technology
To be more specific and not only touch on the common benefits RFID technology can offer businesses, but this section will also tackle how industries use RFID in their day-to-day operations. Because, again, every type of business can use RFID to their benefit. Consumers unknowingly encounter RFID technology in retail stores, hotels, travel, and hospitals.
- Retail. From groceries to clothing, the retail industry has long since tapped into using RFID technology. In fact, the fashion industry is the biggest user of RFID. They use RFID not only to track their goods and prevent theft but also in helping their customers make decisions by installing touchscreen mirrors. The mirrors can identify RFID tags and allows the customer to customize and even add accessories to the item they are fitting.
- Manufacturing. Manufacturing involves products being exposed to intense conditions like changes in temperature, pressure, chemicals, and humidity. Using other AIDC technology like barcodes would not prove effective in this kind of situation. Because active RFID tags constantly update information on their own, the manufacturing process of a product can be improved easily.
- Aviation. The aviation industry uses RFID to effectively track and maintain the aircraft. This reduces the possibility of human error which in turn saves aeronautical mechanics a lot of time. Passengers, on the other hand, benefits from RFID in tracking their baggage and reducing the possibility of losing baggage significantly. Airports use RFID to prevent queues from getting too long and to provide better service.
- Hospitality. Hotels have a number of people coming and going each day. And hotels are a minefield of valuable items like carpets, electronics, and paintings. RFID can be used to maintain, track, and prevent the theft of those valuable items. RFID tags are also used on inventories like bedsheets, towels, and staff uniforms. Some hotels even use RFID to unlock doors.
- Security. RFID tags are installed on passports in select countries as a security measure. Some advanced RFID tags change in color if tampered thus providing clear evidence of tampering. In addition, facilities install RFID-enabled devices to ensure that only authorized personnel are to gain entry to controlled-entry spaces.
- Healthcare. Clinics and hospitals utilize RFID to check on a patient’s status, track and maintain the quality of medical supplies, and monitor critical systems. The RFID tags in patients’ wristbands contain the medical records of the patient. This helps lessen unnecessary rounds and effectively maximizes the number of patients that are needed to be checked on during rounds.
As time progresses, technology never fails to show that it can indeed alleviate what used to burden people and businesses in their daily activities. A business, no matter how small, is never easy to manage. There is a lot to take into consideration, lots of PowerPoint presentations and spreadsheets to prepare, personnel activity to keep track of, numerous things are needed to be constantly checked and updated. RFID technology was successfully uncomplicated and made business operations flow more smoothly. It has long proved to be helpful for small and global-scale businesses alike.
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