rfid tags and smart labels

Other RFID Solutions

What’s Frequency Got to Do With It?

Category: RFID Solutions — Tags: — Posted by greggm - 2:56 pm

Contrary to Tina Turner, frequency like love has everything to do with it.  RFID technologies operate at many frequencies, but I will only cover the most common passive ones here:  low-frequency (125 MHz), high-frequency (13.56 MHz) and ultra high-frequency (860-960 MHz).

Low-frequency (LF) passive solutions operate around 125 MHz, use less power and are less susceptible to liquids.  Read ranges are in inches.

High-frequency (HF) passive RFID solutions operate around 13.56 MHz, use more power and are less susceptible to metals.  Read ranges are at most a few feet.

Ultra-high-frequency (UHF) passive RFID solutions operate between 860-960 MHz (depending on the country), uses the most power of the three and are less likely to pass through materials.  The data transfer rate is faster than LF and HF and the read ranges can be as high as 30 feet or more.

As you can see, frequency plays a role in determining the read range of a solution.  Next time I will continue with the role the reader and antennas play.

The Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift

Category: RFID Solutions — Tags: , , — Posted by greggm - 2:47 pm

Looking for just the right gift for Valentine’s Day for the technology-savvy person in your life?  Well, check out your local Ford dealership…they now have trucks available with RFID to keep track of your tools and other assets!

What Will Cupid Bring You This Valentine's Day?According to RFIDUpdate, The newest mobile RFID reader is more than six feet wide, 17 feet long, weighs a few thousand pounds, and is known more for its horsepower than its MHz. Ford’s popular F-150 pickup trucks are now available with an RFID reader integrated in the bed to monitor cargo. …Ford Work Solutions is a series of software and services for vehicle, worker, and asset management. It is targeted to contractors and other customers who use their vehicles for work. The applications rely on an in-dash computer now offered as an option for 2009 model year F-150 and F-Series Super Duty pickups and E-Series vans….Customers receive a supply of specially designed Gen2 RFID tags to apply to the tools, toolboxes, containers, or other items they want to track.

So, how cool is that?  Your truck can actually track your assets for you and before you leave a site you can check to make sure you have everything you came with!

If this is a little out of your price range, remember that flowers, cards and chocolate work well too!  Happy Valentine’s Day.

RFID Advice from a Non-Techie: RFID-Enabling Your Receiving Department

Category: RFID Tags — Tags: — Posted by greggm - 2:44 pm

I was chatting online with one of my fellow bloggers the other day.  He was telling me that the warehouse he works in is going to be receiving and processing RFID-tagged items in the near future.  Being somewhat of a non-techie himself, especially where RFID is concerned, he asked me if I knew how this might work and if I could explain it in non-techie terms.  Well, the first thing I told him was that I had to sit down because no one had ever asked ME for RFID advice before!  But seriously, I did know of a great RFID solution for his company…The BlueBean EasyInbound.

The EasyInbound is a RFID case receiving line, specifically designed and engineered to efficiently and accurately process both RFID labeled and non-RFID labeled cases.  As the boxes move down the BlueBean EasyInbound RFID case receiving line, the conveyor’s zones control spacing between boxes which allows for proper separation.  The box then passes through a lightweight RFID conveyor portal that is framed with RF-reflective mesh screens and over RF-transparent conveyor rollers to ensure bottom read capability.  These components provide highly accurate RFID receiving read rates.

Once the box goes through the portal on the EasyInbound RFID case receiving line, the status lights will indicate whether or not the box had an RFID read.  If the RFID tag on the box was successfully read, the green status light illuminates and it continues down the line. If the RFID tag was not successfully read, the red status light illuminates and it is automatically pushed off the line and down a conveyor specifically for non-RFID labeled cases or RFID labeled cases that failed to read.

So, now, I tell my friend, his warehouse can process both RFID-tagged and non-RFID shipments.   Awesome and, dare I say it, Easy(Inbound)!

So, there you have it, my first bit of RFID advice.  Keep those questions coming, fellow bloggers.  And, if I don’t know the answer, I’ll check in with one of my fellow RFID techies and attempt to translate to something us non-techies can understand!  Looking forward to hearing from you.

How RFID Tags Affect the Read Range

Category: RFID Tag — Tags: — Posted by greggm - 2:41 pm

With RFID UHF tags, there is a general rule of the thumb:  The larger the tag, the longer the read range.  This is generally true when comparing tags from the same time period.  As with any technology, performance improves while the size decreases over time.  Therefore, a 4′ x 4″ tag from 2005 will generally not perform as well as a 2″ x 2″ tag from 2008.

A critical component is the antenna design.  Unfortunately, there is no one best antenna design.  The optimal design is dependent on the application which includes form factor, size limitations, dielectric characteristics of the material to which it is being attached, frequency optimization, etc.
Various RFID tag antenna types

Another general rule of thumb is that a single dipole tag properly lined up with a linear antenna will have a longer read range than a dual dipole tag with a circular antenna.  In my earlier post about RFID antennas, I discussed the difference betwen linear and circular antennas.

Although this is a high-level view, the basic RFID tag factors which affect read range are:
1.  size
2.  antenna design
3.  type

The next in this series will discuss how the item itself affects the read range.

RFID and Recycling

Category: RFID Tag — Tags: — Posted by greggm - 2:38 pm

As the mom of two little girls, I am becoming increasingly aware of environmental issues and steps that I can take to make a difference for them and future generations. I use energy-efficient lightbulbs, reuse plastic containers and bags as much as I can, turn off the lights when I don’t need them on and we always make a point to recycle. So when I saw this article about Kraft and its recycling program I was thrilled. Here’s a big manufacturer taking steps to help our environment.

Kraft recycle binsCheck it out. Kraft foods has started a pilot program where they reward people for recycling! According to RFID Journal, “Kraft is the “official food sponsor” of RecycleBank, which has been expanding its offering across the United States with technology to weigh recycling bins as they are lifted into the recycling truck, while also recording whose recyclables are being weighed. The consumer can then use that record to download a variety of coupons and other rewards, based on the amount of recycling they did.” Read the article.

So how does RFID play a role? Each bin has a RFID tag and each customer has a unique ID code on their bin and to use when they log in online.

How awesome is that?!? Let’s hope some other manufacturers join in the program too.

RFID Acceptance – Not a Technology Issue

Category: Passive RFID Tag — Tags: — Posted by greggm - 2:11 pm

We have all heard and witnessed that RFID has not exploded onto the scene like initially predicted.  It has seen steady growth but no big breakthroughs…why?

We need to look back a couple of years and look at the market in 2003.  Proprietary RFID equipment (RFID Readers and RFID Tags) were being sold in small quantities but obviously no company was going to invest a large amount of money in proprietary RFID hardware – result: no market movement

In 2005 the EPCglobal Gen 2 standard was passed. Finally the RFID market would explode…wrong. It took most of this year to get the Gen 2 compliant RFID equipment into the hands of integrators and early adapters.  Intermec was claiming it owns the RFID patents and wants everyone to pay royalties – result:unsteady market and only pilot programs

In 2006 the results are being published of tests performed with the first release of  Gen2 compliant RFID Readers and Passive RFID Tags.  The test results are not spectacular.  Wal-Mart slows its roll-out plans – result: slow market growth

In 2007 (of late 2006) the second generation of RFID Hardware was released. Performance was much  improved  and  prices have dropped for both readers and tags – result: closed loop applications have become more common

In 2008 what will happen? The performance of RFID equipment is excellent for pallet and case applications.  RFID Tag and Reader prices have dropped and are very affordable.  Performance is good enough for item level applications to be considered.  What is the key to unlock the door that is holding back the RFID market?  One word…Volume!  If you talk to any of the RFID chip companies (i.e. Alien, Impinj…).  They need volume to drive down prices.  It is no longer an issue of technology it is an issue of economies of scale.  They need volume to drive down tag prices thus making item level applications (pharma, clothing …) become cost justifiable. Wal Mart, DoD and other retailers need to keep the pressure on and the FDA needs to mandate that all drugs sold in the United States be serialized with a RFID tag.

Wow!  Looking back on what I just wrote I was only planning on writing a quick post but I really got into this topic:)

Companies Beware

Category: RFID Tags — Tags: — Posted by gregg - 2:16 pm

I sometimes wonder how successful companies got that way when I see some poor choices they make. In my previous post I discussed why the RFID market has not seen the dramatic growth that was predicted. There was another factor that has lead to the slow growth. The companies who tried to implement RFID and failed for all the wrong reasons. They hired a systems integrator or a consultant that was not a RFID expert.

BlueBean receives calls frequently from panicked project managers that has a failed RFID project on his or her hands and needs to be rescued. At this point their budget is usually busted, the project is not near completion and the read accuracy is poor. The only out for this project manager is to blame the technology. He tells his boss that RFID technology is not ready.
Result: RFID gets the bad rap for a company hiring an inexperienced RFID vendor.

The lesson is that RFID projects require an experienced RFID consultant or systems integrator. Companies beware of bar code companies or IT shops pretending to be RFID experts. They can hide behind their technical expertise and be convincing but RFID is a very different animal. I would recommend asking questions like:
1. What percentage of your annual revenue is from RFID projects?
2. How many complete implementations have you done?
3. How long have you been implementing RFID?
4. Do you have any RFID certifications?

There are few pure RFID consulting and integration companies in the United States.  BlueBean is one of them with over 200 clients