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RFID Software
Radio frequency identification (RFID) software is a technology that has been in existence for a substantial period of time, but has not proven to be practical for product identification until very recently. This was due largely to the cost of implementation. Within recent years, with improved technology, the process has become cheaper to implement and may ultimately replace bar coding and other methods for product identification. The primary advantage of RFID is that it does not require line-of-sight to function, in the way that bar codes do. Instead, a radio frequency reader can pick up the signal if the device is anywhere within its range of operation.

Presently, most products are tagged with bar codes, either printed on the outside packaging, or stuck to it on a label. When a product is passed in front of a scanner, the bar code is read and information transmitted back to a computer system. The bar code has to be turned toward the scanner or it cant be read. In addition, standard bar codes only identify the manufacturer and the product, but cant identify the unique item. If the bar code is damaged in any way it can become impossible for the scanner to read, making it necessary to enter pricing information into the computer system by hand.

RFID tags are much more versatile. They work by embedding a microchip into the products packaging, or even with the product itself, in some cases. The microchip has a coiled antenna inside that when it comes into proximity with electromagnetic waves issued by the reader, combines with them to produce power for the microchips circuits.

There are several advantages to RFID tags. First and foremost, they do not ve to be within line-of-sight of the scanner to be read. And, because they contain a microchip, the amount of information that can be contained in them is substantial. Some manufacturers are building microchip tags that can store a serial number (in addition to the standard product and manufacturer information) that is unique to each individual product. In other words, a carton of toilet paper need not just be identified as a carton of toilet paper from a particular manufacturer, but each individual package with in the carton would have a separate identity that can be tracked using computer software.

The primary impediment to the rapid adoption of RFID tags is still cost. Even though the costs have dropped dramatically in recent years, a good tag can cost anywhere from 30 cents to $50 apiece, depending on its capacity and applications. Readers still typically cost $1,000 apiece, or more.

There are also several other difficulties that RFID tags can face. One of these is called reader collision. The signal from one reader can overlap with other readers when there is overlapping coverage. In some cases, readers have to be timed to operate during different intervals so they will not interfere with one another. In addition, there can also be a problem with tag collision, a term referring to a situation where more than one tag sends back a signal to the reader, all at the same time. However, different vendors are developing different systems for having tags respond to a reader and experimenting with different frequency levels as well, which may solve some of the signal interference problems.

Currently, one of the primary uses of RFID tags is for tracking animals, such as house pets. In the future, as prices go down, they have greater application potential for tracking goods in the supply chain, tracking assets, tracking parts moving to a manufacturing production line, security applications, and many other uses. These uses will be limited only by the users imagination.

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