Thursday,30 May, 2024

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Knowledge Center

By: Tamer Abdel Kader from Egypt

For many years, the barcode-based systems have dominated the FMCG & supply chain markets. But many expect this era to dim; as the new Radio Frequency Identification (RFId) is strongly preparing to take this place.

Knowing the reasons will leave no wonder.

RFId is a term that describes any system of identification wherein an electronic device that uses radio frequency or magnetic field variations to communicate is attached to an item. The two most talked-about components of an RFId system are the tag, which is the identification device attached to the item we want to track, and the reader, which is a device that can recognize the presence of RFId tags and read the information stored on them. The reader can then inform another system about the presence of the tagged items. The system with which the reader communicates usually runs software that stands between readers and applications. This software is called RFId middleware.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFId) technologies offer practical benefits to almost anyone who needs to keep track of physical assets. Manufacturers improve supply-chain planning and execution by incorporating RFId technologies. Retailers use RFId to control theft, increase efficiency in their supply chains, and improve demand planning. Machine shops track their tools with RFId to avoid misplacing tools and to track which tools touched a piece of work. RFId-enabled smart cards help control perimeter access to buildings. And in the last couple of years, many major retail chains and consumer goods manufacturers have begun testing case-level merchandise tagging to improve management of shipments to customers.

• Supply-Chain Management:

An item can be tracked in the supply chain from where it is produced to the point where it is consumed or recycled. A plastic container of motor oil, for example, can be tagged at the point of production with a tag that contains a unique identification number.

Also one of the most important applications that belong to this class type is the Airline baggage tracking. RFId tags embedded in airline baggage tags can be used to provide an effective tracking solution. Such an RFId tag has sufficient storage to carry baggage handling and routing data so that this data is available locally, bypassing any need to access a baggage database.

Unlike barcodes, RFId tags can be read, in virtually any orientation (irrespective of overlaps with other baggage), resulting in faster and more accurate scanning as compared to bar codes. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has yet to adopt an industry standard to replace bar coded luggage tags with RFId and automatic handling of passenger baggage. In industry testing (British Airways in 1999 and Delta Airlines in 2003) of the technology, RFId tag labels resulted in accuracy rates in the 95 percent to 99 percent range, whereas bar codes could only offer accuracy rates in the range of 80 percent to 85 percent (approximately). This application has not yet been widely deployed commercially. Airline baggage tracking is an example of an emerging application member belonging to this prevalent application type (that is, item tracking and tracing).

It is obvious that the capability to attach an electronic identity to a physical object effectively extends the Internet into the physical world, turning physical objects into an "Internet of Things". Rather than requiring human interaction to track assets, products, or even goods in our homes, applications will be able to "see" items on the network due to their electronic IDs and wireless RF connections. For businesses, this can mean faster order automation, tighter control of processes, and continuous and precise inventories. Business partners will finally be able to share information about goods end to end through the supply chain and, just as importantly, to instantly identify the current location and status of items. For example, pharmacists will be able to track how long perishables have been out of refrigeration.

Military personnel, law enforcement officers, and rescue workers may soon use RFId tags to help build and configure complex equipment based on rules enforced by tag readers. RFId already tracks expensive and sensitive assets used in each of these fields. As for automobile industry, RFId system could be integrated with vehicle parts to add the value of location tracking.

For individuals, RFId could provide more effortless user interfaces so-called "smart" systems that could tell you, for example, which clothes in your closet match. Smart medicine cabinets could warn you against taking two drugs that might interact negatively. It's even conceivable that supermarkets of the future may not have checkout stands as you may fill your cart with goods and a reader in the cart will scan and add to your total. Video monitors on the shelves will offer specials on complementary products; they may even offer to guide you to all of the ingredients for a recipe, based on some of the items you've already chosen. As you walk out the door, you will place your thumb on a pad on the cart handle to approve payment. A shoplifter, however, wouldn't make it very far before the readers recognize unpurchased items passing beyond the sales floor.

Some of these applications are already running in pilot stages. Libraries and video stores use RFId to thwart theft. Some shoppers in Japan use RFId-enabled cell phones to make purchases from vending machines. Businesses use RFId to track goods, and animal tracking has been around for years.

RFId will enter homes and supermarket aisles when the prices of readers and tags become low enough and when the information infrastructure to use and maintain the new technology is in place. Some of these applications may seem far-fetched, but they are things we know we can do with a bit of engineering. What RFId promises most is to surprise us with uses we can't even imagine at this stage of adoption.

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