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Home >Technology

RFID Technology
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has become an essential tool in helping companies automate manual processes, improve efficiency, and increase task accuracy. With RFID technology integrated into your business operations, monitoring and tracking your assets becomes faster and more precise.

Types of RFID Technology
Before you hire a consultant or attempt to implement RFID on your own, you need some basic knowledge about the technology. 
RFID Tags
RFID tags are available in three configurations:
* Passive tags have no internal power source, but they draw power from the reader. These are usually the most inexpensive tags and are often disposable.
* Active tags contain a battery used for transmitting and are usually more expensive but can often be reused.
* Semi-passive, a hybrid of passive and active, use a battery to operate the RFID chip, but communicate using power from the reader.

RFID Frequencies
RFID tags are also available in various frequencies. These include low frequency (LF), high frequency (HF), ultra-high frequency (UHF), and ultra-wide band (UWB). Typically, higher frequencies offer more bandwidth and data exchange, and a higher communication range, Thompson says. Likely, you'll need UHF, the "supply chain frequency," mandated by Wal-Mart, the DoD, and Sam's Club. 

RFID Starter Kits
As complex as RFID may sound, "it isn't sorcery," Thompson says. Nor is it as expensive as it was a few years ago when Wal-Mart mandated RFID from 100 of its larger suppliers. Some suppliers initially balked, with estimates of up to $1 million for new RFID systems, but technology vendors soon responded with easy-to-implement and lower cost "starter kits" and "slap-and-ship" applications, which allowed small businesses to experiment with RFID and try one application at a time.

"Many RFID equipment providers will provide starter kits for as low as $2,500, including a reader and some tags," Thompson says. "For $25,000, many implementers will provide some kind of express ROI assessment or focused implementation, including one or two readers, some tags, installation, and support."

The best type of project for a small business to start with is one that is small, confined to one application (such as asset tracking), and in a "closed loop," which means within the four walls of your property. Businesses can always expand the applications or the types of goods tracked, and the data can be integrated into enterprise computer systems, but it's important to master the technology on a small scale before attempting a larger undertaking, experts say.

How does RFID Technology work?
RFID technology stands for Radio Frequency IDentification. It refers to small electronic devices that consist of a small chip and an antenna. The purpose is the same as a bar code or a magnetic strip on the back of a credit card; it provides a unique identifier for that object. And, just as a bar code or magnetic strip must be scanned to get the information, the RFID chip must be scanned to retrieve the identifying information.

The RFID chip, the SafeEx system uses, stores a unique identification number. The information to the chip is written when registering the equipment. This is information such as model data for the specific piece of kit, the chip is mounted on. This means, that when scanning the chip for the first time, you have to associate it with the equipment by entering all data prompted by the handheld device. The information is then uploaded to the SafeEx web system. From here, you can approve the information and attach any photos, certificates, manuals etc. to the equipment. The next time you scan the chip, the system recognizes the equipment, and loads all information, attachments and checklists – making it easy for you to conduct the checks directly on the handheld device.

Equipment reliability increases through the power of knowledge. Real time management of equipment, utilizing the RFID technology, improves the equipment maintenance process. It provides your personnel with the information necessary to manage the equipment. This means, that downtime can be reduced, as fixes are made when necessary. By using RFID Technology, SafeEx also provides a time-stamp of what, when and where. This is your certainty of the inspector’s presence – and receiving information in time.

Is RFID Technology Secure and Private?
Unfortunately, not very often in the systems to which consumers are likely to be exposed. Anyone with an appropriately equipped scanner and close access to the RFID device can activate it and read its contents. Obviously, some concerns are greater than others. If someone walks by your bag of books from the bookstore with a 13.56 Mhz "sniffer" with an RF field that will activate the RFID devices in the books you bought, that person can get a complete list of what you just bought. That's certainly an invasion of your privacy, but it could be worse. Another scenario involves a military situation in which the other side scans vehicles going by, looking for tags that are associated with items that only high-ranking officers can have, and targeting accordingly.

Companies are more concerned with the increasing use of RFID devices in company badges. An appropriate RF field will cause the RFID chip in the badge to "spill the beans" to whomever activates it. This information can then be stored and replayed to company scanners, allowing the thief access - and your badge is the one that is "credited" with the access.

The smallest tags that will likely be used for consumer items don't have enough computing power to do data encryption to protect your privacy. The most they can do is PIN-style or password-based protection.


 
     
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        A smart card is a small plastic card containing a computer chip. People use smart cards along with personal identification numbers (PINs) to log on to a network, a computer, or a device. Using a smart card is more secure than using a password because it's more difficult for someone to steal a smart card and learn your PIN than to learn your password.Smart cards are generally issued by information technology (IT) departments in large organizations. To use a smart card, you also need a smart card reader—a device that’s installed in or connected to your computer and that can read the information stored on a smart card.