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RFID tag

Did you know that the predecessor of Radio-Frequency Identification was an espionage tool developed for the Soviet Union in 1945? Although an interesting piece of technology history, this application is not exactly relevant to the present-day purposes of RFID tracking—at least not in any mainstream sense.

So where has RFID become the most useful in the two-thousand-teens? Here we’ll take a look at the top five areas in which RFID is the most applicable. 

Materials Management

In the construction industry, managing the flow of materials is one of the most important aspects of any project, and the materials themselves the most expensive. For particularly large projects, even the simple issue of locating needed materials can become a major logjam in the workflow. 

It was only natural that RFID would enter into this arena as a solution to prevent material readiness issues. Concretely, the technology can be used to collect, process, and present actionable data in order to avoid fabrication delays. In short, when you remove the obstacle of material readiness, construction projects tend to go much more smoothly.

Item-Level Inventory Tracking

Tracking assets on the item level has tremendous value across many different industries, though it has shown a particularly high return in the retail industry. The ability to track items along the supply chain all the way up to the point of sale creates a gold mine of actionable data, as long as there is a well-thought-out inventory system in place. Employees working on the floor can even use a handheld RFID reader to quickly count inventory. 

Logistics and Supply Chain Visibility

operator_with_tablet

Efficiency and optimization are the golden words in supply chain, and RFID has been implemented to improve just that. RFID tracking can reduce errors and improve quality in turbulent manufacturing, shipping, and distribution channels by managing the real-time data on the status of individual items and thereby producing insights on actionable measures. In short, RFID creates visibility in a domain where in the past we were often going in blind.

Attendee Tracking

As turbulent as supply chain can be, conference management may be a close contender in the category of chaos. One huge breath of relief RFID can bring to large-caliber event organizers is the easy management of human traffic flow. The technology allows those equipped to be able to track and manage traffic in and out of individual seminars as well as the event itself, thus eliminating the need for registration lines at entrances. If you want to go a step deeper, analyzing traffic flow using RFID can even enable organizers to restructure and optimize the layout of their event. If, for example, analysis shows that certain areas of the event are experiencing lower volume, there may be a simple, on-the-spot solution (e.g. adding a sign, removing an unapparent impediment, etc.).

IT Asset Tracking

RFID_chip

If you think IT equipment (laptops, tablets, server blades, etc.) represents a major expense for a professional organization, imagine the incalculable value of the data these items hold. For this reason, many companies today use IT asset tags to quickly manage inventory and make sure all precious items are accounted for at all times. This use case overlaps with the idea of RFID tool tracking, which is a system put in place to manage which tools (or equipment pieces) have been borrowed, which individual has assumed responsibility for the item while it’s out on loan, and which resources have not been returned at the scheduled time.

The above use cases only represent a fraction of the global value that RFID has brought to hundreds of industries in the past decades. Other applications include kiosk management, access control, interactive marketing, library systems, and even laundry management. In short, where there is logistical chaos, RFID is here to restore order, security, visibility, and peace of mind. 

IoT


Heading into 2017, there doesn’t seem to be many segments of business or leisure left untouched by the spread of IoT (internet of things). If you’re unfamiliar, IoT concerns the internetworking of physical devices vehicles, buildings, and other items. You may also be familiar with the recent trend of connected objects, which is the same concept. 

IoT depends on embedding these objects, or what have you, with electronics, software, sensors, etc. to enable them to collect, measure, and export data, which can then be manually or automatically analyzed. 

Thanks to this practice, objects are able to “communicate” with manufacturers, consumers, or even other objects. 

We’ve seen IoT revolutionize fitness activities, sports, agriculture, our homes, our gardens, and pretty much everything else where data has some value in improving the way things are normally done. 

So what about asset management?.

A Natural Fit

Frankly, putting one and one together—in this case IoT and asset management—was no great leap or stretch of the imagination. Given the nature of asset tracking, there has always been a real need to use technology to optimize processes. IoT is simply the next technology up.

Implementing IoT solutions in asset management is an exciting premise, though not an easy one. Last year, Forrester and SAP concluded via a study that 66% of manufacturer respondents had already implemented or planned to implement IoT technology for asset management purposes. It would be interesting to check up on those respondents today to see how many of them would consider their deployment a success, and how many of the ones who were planning to deploy actually went through with the implementation.

A Large Undertaking

Becoming an IoT-powered business is not as simple as hooking up a bunch of sensors and downloading a smartphone app. It may work like that in the consumer world, with products that help us to stay healthy or reduce energy consumption in our homes, but to truly transform an asset management process comprises a massive effort as well as financial investment. There’s no such thing as an easy upgrade when dealing with a process so complex, even if the solution is seemingly simple.

So what would manufacturer’s hope to get out of an IoT solution for their asset management? Pretty much the same thing they try to get out of any effort to improve their practices: better efficiency, cost savings, higher safety, etc.

IoT

Worth the Challenge

Despite the massive challenges of shifting to an IoT-powered system, the potential business benefits can’t be ignored. IoT has shown in other solutions across many industries, how valuable the mass collection of data can be, not to mention smart monitoring. 

Imagine a system in which one tiny aspect falls out of place or loses efficiency. Employed correctly, an IoT solution could potentially communicate this issue to a human in charge, not only alerting them to the problem but also telling them what actions they need to take. Even better, imagine a system in which issues like these were communicated even before occurring.

The potential value coming from predictive maintenance alone may justify the investment, though it’s only one benefit of many.

garage invetory

Other benefits

IoT can also benefit asset management in that it reduces the need for human intervention; quantifies decisions, setbacks, or improvements in real-time; and enhances the bird’s eye perspective of the end to end chain. 

In a smarter world, with smarter objects, we are able to equip smarter people and manage smarter systems. That’s the whole idea behind IoT, and asset management only stands to benefit from this trend—that is, if the initial hurdles of implementation can be overcome.

assets

1. Why asset tracking is important ?


 A lack of asset tracking may place the company at risk of bleeding both money and time. It may also naturally lead to issues with company scaling. You want your business to be streamlined and reduce unnecessary workload, such as service experience, administrative tasks, and accountability. In short, asset tracking saves you a lot of headache and pain in favor of organization and efficiency.

One of the most innovative and popular technologies used for asset tracking is Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID). It is a wireless technology that uses radio frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data, identify and manage assets without users needing to enter data manually. Businesses can use this technology for manufacturing, inventory control, warehousing, distribution, logistics, automatic object tracking, and last but not least: supply chain management.

Large corporations, including Walmart back in 2007, chose to incorporate RFID technology into their business to boost their supply chain management optimization and enable more efficient inventory management practices. Thanks to this adoption, the group managed to successfully reduce the volume of excess inventory as well as out-of-stock dilemmas.

2. Passive vs Active RFID Tags


 For an RFID system to work, it requires tags to be attached to items that need to be identified. There are two types of RFID tags available: passive RFID tag and active RFID tag.

In short, a passive RFID has no power source and cannot broadcast a signal to devices on its own. What it does instead is it ‘collects’ the electromagnetic energy transmitted from the RFID reader to generate a signal, allowing it to respond with data. It can be used for things such as file tracking, supply chain management, smart labels, and so on. Due to the lack of an internal power source, passive RFIDS are more affordable.

An active RFID has its own transmitter and power source to transmit a signal. The power source is usually in the form of a battery that lasts 3 to 5 years. These tags have an added benefit of behaving like a broadcasting beacon to allow real-time location tracking. Of course, since you can track them in real time, their read range is far longer than passive tags. However, since an active RFID takes advantage of its own power supply, they are higher priced.

RFID tag


3. Which enterprises could take advantage of a passive RFID ?

 The average passive RFID tag will only have a read distance between a few centimeters and a few meters. Its use is not as flexible as an active RFID tag; however, it has other creative ways it could be applied, such as with smart fitting rooms. Using the RFID system to scan dressing room items, providing the consumer with feedback such as recommendations, product data, and alternative items. In addition to these features, the RFID system also acts as reliable anti-theft technology. Hospitals are also big investors of the passive RFID option, allowing them to tackle simple but serious problems through wristband readers, monitoring sophisticated systems, medication management, and other valuable uses.  

4. Who should invest in active RFID ?

 When it comes to active RFID, the dominant markets taking advantage of this form of tracking are the oil and gas, medical, mining, construction, manufacturing, and shipping/logistics industries. Specifically, industries that have products and assets that are highly time-sensitive.

It is also the most common alternative used in these fields due to the extremely long range, extended functions as well as its synergy with technologies such as GPS, sensors, etc. Active RFID tags are also designed to deal with harsh environments.

garage invetory


5. In conclusion

 RFID is a convenient and efficient asset tracking system that helps businesses better manage their assets/inventories and reduce cost in the long term. The type of RFID that is right for you, wholly depends on your business' needs and investment budget.


garage invetory

Remember the last time you cleaned out your garage? There were specific steps you took to reach your goal, which was most likely to have a more organized, easy-to-access, useful space.

Streamlining your asset inventory process is a lot like this. The ultimate goal in this case is to improve efficiency, which most often leads to an increase in the bottom line. To this end, following are three steps any organization can take to streamline their asset inventory process.


1. Create Categories


When you first looked at the assortment of items piled up in your garage, your first reaction may have been to shake your head and wonder where to start. You probably quickly realized that you needed a sorting system, eg: keep, sell, donate, etc.

The same philosophy can be applied to streamlining your inventory process. You first need to create categories. There are many ways to categorize assets, eg, by value, appreciation or depreciation, and/or department, to name a few. There is no right or wrong way to categorize assets. The best way is the one that works for your organization.

The important thing to remember is that assets must be assigned categories so that key particulars like which ones are fixed, moveable, renewable, toxic, etc., can be concretely gleaned, as these are key tangibles that impact the bottom line.

MapYourTag makes it easy to create categories. All you have to do is assign an asset a tag and fill in some information. The technology allows for complete customization, so categories reflect the way your company conducts business. 


2. Automate Where Possible


A very general rule of thumb for inventory carrying cost is that it should be somewhere between 20 and 30 percent. With this being said, this is different for every industry; hence, it’s important to know what that number is for your particular business, and where your company falls within those parameters.

Organizations that aren’t precise about this can literally be sitting on thousands of dollars in profit; or bleeding out thousands of dollars in losses. And, this is why automation must be a part of any inventory streamlining process.

Businesses that utilize asset tracking software are able to reduce inventory accounting mistakes; accurately track goods; and quickly scan and enter parts, supplies and equipment. This makes practices like over ordering and under ordering practically a thing of the past.

3. Improve Communication

Misaligned communication cost small and medium-sized business an average of $26,041 per knowledge worker per year in the U.S. and UK, according to a 2009 "Communications Pain Study" by SIS International Research. 

Translation: the ability for team members to be able to communicate effectively is critical to the bottom line. It literally costs when they can’t or don’t.

MapYourTag's easy-to-use, cloud-based software stores information in a centralized database.  Asset specifics like status, location, expiration and deadlines are available for ease of recall by any authorized user – anywhere, at any time.

4. Conclusion

Effectively managing inventory is an often overlooked or back-burnered business process because it's not flashy or sexy like, for example, sales and marketing.

If you hold too much inventory, you risk getting stuck with it. If you stock too little of it, you risk alienating customers, causing them to turn to your competitors. Either path costs you money, and it’s why inventory management is such a balancing act; one that must be carefully managed to consistently maximize earnings.

Luckily in this digital age, cloud-based, asset control software like MapYourTag is readily and affordably available, which means inventory management doesn’t have to consume a substantial amount of your time resources or … leaving you free to tackle that garage. 

barcode>

Quick Response (QR) codes, Near Field Communication (NFC) tags, and barcodes are all data management systems used to transfer large amounts of information in a small format. Although they all provide the same overall function, there are varying differences between the three systems and the purposes for which they were designed.

Quick Response Codes

scan qr code

The Quick Response (QR) Code is the trademark for a type of two-dimensional barcode. They are composed of a series of black and white squares, and are typically scanned by a QR Code reader on a smartphone for users to access a particular URL or other information that it links to.

The most notable benefit of QR codes are their ease of use. They can be added to anything, be it a flyer, a poster, or a business card. They also have a range of uses, and can extend a user’s experience by rewarding them for scanning the code. For example, the code can give them access to a microsite with a special promotion on it. QR codes are designed to reward users beyond what they may ordinarily be able to find online or on social channels.

QR codes are useful for marketers who can gain valuable insight into user behavior and how their marketing efforts are working (or not). By using web analytics and unique codes, QR codes and their users are trackable, which can help businesses make better marketing decisions. Furthermore, they are cost-effective, and can help to keep marketing costs low.

Near Field Communication Tags

tap NFC tag with smartphone


Near Field Communication (NFC) tags, also known as smart tags, are a short-range wireless technology that allows information to be conveyed by simply touching two devices together. NFC fields are used in a number of applications, including the London Oyster transport card; embedding a smart tag into a flyer, which is tapped to reveal a website to the user with further information; and tap payments, which has gained much traction in recent years.

Smart tags tend to be easier and more convenient to use than QR codes, as they simply require a touch, rather than an app to scan a barcode and wait for an analysis. Furthermore, they offer more flexibility, and they can complete complex transactions quickly.

However, the ease of use and simplicity of NFC tags opens up the system to potential security issues and any use of the system requires security features to prevent eavesdropping devices from stealing data.

Barcodes

QR code

 A barcode is a ‘machine-readable code in the form of numbers and a pattern of parallel lines of varying widths, printed on and identifying a product.’ They have been around for decades, and you likely have seen them on packaging in the supermarket, or on the labels of clothes in retails stores.

They are commonly used in shipping and to manage and track large amounts of items efficiently. They are widely used because to their versatility, their cost-effectiveness, and their assistance in driving speed and efficiency.

So Which One Is Best For My Business?

Despite all being designed to serve the same function - the transfer of data - the question as to which system to use is largely dependent on the needs of the business, circumstance, and budget.

Barcodes are good for managing large numbers of items in manufacturing industries, but they are limited in their ability to offer a user a good user experience.

NFC tags tend to be faster and easier to use, and despite the need to prevent eavesdropping devices from stealing data, they offer more secure transactions and options, which is why companies such as VISA use them for payments.

QR tags presently have a wider user-base as there are more phones that have the functionality to read QR codes than those that can read NFC tags. However, NFC tags are increasing in popularity, so the gap will narrow.

While the best asset management technology for your specific business may vary, the cost and ease of implementing data managements systems make any a good solution for day-to-day business operations.

For more information on all three types of data management systems visit: