theSync: RFID Technology Explained

Many small business owners are curious about using RFID technology to monitor their inventory or perform standard asset management instead of barcode technology.  The allure for using RFID is understandable especially since the technology can automate many business processes that normally require people to manually scan items.

RFID tags can be read through many different types of materials and the readers can be configured to trigger database updates depending on specific events such as an item being moved, or shifted, or added.  Readers can be very inexpensive in the $100 price range or can cost more than $5000.  Tag prices can range from the cheap end at $0.05 or cost $10 or more for ruggedized tags that are weather proof and crush proof.

When considering an RFID system you must think about your data capture software. There are COTS products that can work with multiple RFID readers, or you can hire a developer to write a custom piece of software for your organization.  When considering any software system, make sure you have a firm understanding of your company’s business processes and the operations that will occur when an RFID tag event occurs.

RFID can really help your business become more productive and efficient. Like any business solution consider your internal processes, employee training, and cost.

If you’re on the fence about RFID technology I encourage you to try an inexpensive system that solves a specific problem.  Choose an annoying business process that’s currently being manually executed.  Implement a solution to automate this process, but keep your manual processes running alongside it to reduce your risk.  You’ll be able to measure your efficiency against the automated process.

Buy an inexpensive RFID reader from ThingMagic, element-ID, or Feig Electronics to get you started.  For a reader class that’s more industrial take a look at the ruggedized and retail oriented readers sold by Motorola Solutions.  Most RFID manufacturers offer inexpensive developers kits to get you up and running quickly.  Give the kit to an intern and have them create a solution over the summer.

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Full Disclosure.  I’m the President of BA Systems, LLC which is an RFID partner of the following RFID reader manufacturers:  Motorola Solutions, Feig Electronics, and element-ID.  I personally own stock in Motorola Solutions.