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Automatic Identification Technology - RF ID
Automatic identification using radio frequency identification is an important technology that has been underused up to this point. First, the technology had not been entirely perfected. Second the price for the technology was high. Third, there was no uniform set of standards to regulate RFID use. All of that is rapidly changing, however. The industry has been challenged to perfect the technology to the point that it is cheap enough to be viable in the marketplace and standards are progressing as well.

The benefits of data capture using RFID technology are numerous and the advantages over other forms of automatic identification technology are substantial. For example, an RFID reader can read several radio wave tags at once and capture data from all of them, due its parallel processing capabilities. A bar code reader, as everyone who has ever visited the grocery store in a hurry knows, can only read one item at a time. Multiple data can be gathered at the same time and the RFID tag does not have to be visible to the reader. Bar code readers have to maintain a direct line of sight with the bar code they are attempting to process. That is not the case with radio wave technology. The readers can sense the ID tags several feet away and from any direction. Radio waves can be read through other substances, so they can be embedded in packing materials and never even be visible. That makes the tags handier to read and is also good for security purposes. Concealed tags can definitely prove ownership of an item or a carton of items and help to prevent counterfeiting of products.

Bar code readers require human operation. The b code must be passed in front of the scanner or the operator must move around carrying a portable scanning device. Limitations are posed by lack of a field of view, which is an inconvenience. RFID scanners, because they can read from some distance away, avoid most of the human intervention and field of sight problems created by bar code readers. Data is always captured and it is always captured accurately.

A piece of merchandise can be located at any time of the day or night because the tags are never turned off. Whenever there is a reader present to signal them, they are capable of responding. And, the tags can store many times the amount of information that can be contained in a bar code.

RFID technology requires only two items - readers and tags. There are two kinds of tags - active tags that contain their own battery and transmit whenever they come into contact with a reader, and passive tags that dont have a battery inside and only respond to a signal sent by the reader.

In addition, RFID technology is finding uses outside the warehouse, motivating more companies to invest in it. Any products that are bought or sold or moved through the supply chain in any manner can be tracked by RFID. Resources like cars, trucks, pallets, trailers, tools, etc., can also be protected with RFID. The technology makes vehicles and equipment easier to keep track of on a large site and prevents theft at the same time. A third use of RFID technology that is just coming into play is using it to track people. Individuals involved in supply chain activities can be tracked from area to area around the plant, allowing supervisors to monitor who is where and how close they are to a task that needs to be done. Some of the newest concepts in RFID tracking technology is to use it on people who have to be kept track of, for example Alzheimers patients who frequently wanders off. In the future, RFID technology may have applications in many more life situations.

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