RFID technology (Radio Frequency Identification) uses electromagnetic fields to transmit data within transmitter & receiver systems without having to make any physical contact. So-called transponders (also known as tags) are essentially comprised of a microchip and an antenna. The microchip is used to store electronic information, such as an identification number or a product code. Reading devices, or readers, are able to scan and automatically identify objects that have been equipped with transponders. Unlike barcodes, transponders don’t have to be held under the readers to be registered, enabling the full integration of transponders into various objects.
Passive transponders are supplied with energy through electromagnetic induction as long as the source isn’t further than a couple of meters away, providing it with enough power to transmit data stored on its integrated microchip. For distances up to several hundred meters, active transponders with an integrated power source (battery) are used.
A RFID system is made up of two parts, the first one being an immobile or mobile reader. The second part is a transponder, which can be flexibly adapted to the object’s size and shape. Immobile RFID readers are often created in the form of a gate. Mobile readers are typically portable, handheld scanners.
Advantages of RFID Technology over Barcode Systems
No visual contact is required to capture data from transponders and they also don’t have to be placed in any certain way. Moreover, information can be recorded from up to several hundred meters away – much further than possible with barcodes. Unlike barcodes, several hundred transponders can be scanned in bulk at a time, saving time, and therefore money.
RFID technology is also immune to optical damage, unlike barcodes which are difficult to read if they are covered by another object, become contaminated with dirt, or simply through wear and tear. This beneficial aspect reduces read errors and minimizes manual data entry.
A further advantage of RFID technology over barcode systems is the writable capacity of the microchip in the transponder. In addition to being assigned a distinct ID, additional information can be stored directly on the transponder, even when the transponder and object are already in the middle of the process flow.
Usages of RFID Technology in Retail and Logistics
RFID technology has been an integral part of merchandise logistics for years. Single items, pallets, large boxes and containers can be equipped with transponders and automatically identified when they move through gates, allowing for an unimpeded flow of goods. This process opens up a number of possibilities, including the measurement of the volume of goods, or the transfer of comprehensive data sets, such as product characteristics stored on the transponder. Multiple measurement points can also be used to track goods along the logistical chain in order to determine accuracy and timeliness. RFID gates are often used to track the movement of goods in and out of warehouses, for inventory purposes, to track and control the process flow, manage production, and for picking orders.
Implementation of RFID Technology into Postal Processes
“You can’t manage what you can’t measure” – Peter F. Drucker
Spectos is a leading institute for quality measurements and process monitoring for international postal operators and logistics networks. To support our measurement methods in line with the Six Sigma methodology, we have invested in passive RFID technology to give postal providers more transparency and better insight into their own processes. By installing various measurement points along the process chain, such as at the entrances and exits in sorting centers, in hubs, and at logistical partner companies, completely new opportunities arise for the collection of various key performance indicators.