RFID The role of RFID technology in Supply Chain What is RFID? Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is an automatic identification method, relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using devices called RFID tags or transponders. An RFID tag is a small object that can be attached to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person. Transponder: An automatic device that transmits a message in response to a received signal. What is RFID? RFID tags contain silicon chips and antennas to enable them to receive and respond to radio-frequency queries from an RFID transceiver. Passive tags require no internal power source, whereas active tags require a power source. Transceiver: a device which combines both transmission and reception capabilities within a single housing. It is a semiconductor device designed to send and receive digital data. An RFID tag used for Wal-Mart An RFID tag used for electronic toll collection Types of RFID tags RFID tags can be either passive, semi-passive (also known as semi-active), or active. Passive RFID tags Passive RFID tags have no internal power supply. The electrical current induced in the antenna by the incoming radio frequency signal provides just enough power for the integrated circuit (IC) in the tag to power up and transmit a response. Most passive tags signal by backscattering the carrier signal from the reader. Passive RFID tags Lack of an onboard power supply means that the device can be quite small. Commercially available products exist that can be embedded under the skin. As of 2006, the smallest such devices measured 0.15 mm × 0.15 mm, and are thinner than a sheet of paper. Semi-passive RFID tags Semi-passive RFID tags are very similar to passive tags except for the addition of a small battery. Semi-passive RFID tags are faster in response, though less reliable and powerful than active tags. Active RFID tags Unlike passive tags, active RFID tags have their own internal power source which is used to generate the outgoing signal. Active tags transmit at higher power levels, allowing them to be more effective in "RF challenged" environments like water (including humans/cattle, which are mostly water), heavy metal (shipping containers, vehicles), or at longer distances. Active RFID tags.. Many active tags have practical ranges of hundreds of meters, and a battery life of up to 10 years. Some active RFID tags include sensors such as temperature logging which have been used in concrete maturity monitoring or to monitor the temperature of perishable goods. Active RFID tags.. Companies have successfully used active tags to reduce logistics costs and improve supply chain visibility for more than 15 years. At present, the smallest active tags are about the size of a coin and sell for a few dollars. The RFID system An RFID system may consist of several components: tags, tag readers, servers, middleware, and application software. The purpose of an RFID system is to enable data to be transmitted by a mobile tag, which is read by an RFID reader and processed according to the needs of a particular application. The RFID system.. The data transmitted by the tag may provide identification or location information, or specifics about the product tagged, such as price, color, date of purchase, etc. The use of RFID in tracking and access applications first appeared during the 1980s. RFID quickly gained attention because of its ability to track moving objects. The RFID system.. In a typical RFID system, individual objects are equipped with a small, inexpensive tag. The tag contains a transponder with a digital memory chip that is given a unique electronic product code. The interrogator, an antenna packaged with a transceiver and decoder, emits a signal activating the RFID tag so it can read and write data to it. Electronic Product Code (EPC) The Electronic Product Code, (EPC), is a family of coding schemes for RFID tags. It is designed to meet the needs of various industries, whilst guaranteeing uniqueness for all EPC-compliant tags. EPC was the creation of MIT Auto-ID Center, a consortium of over 120 global corporations and university labs. The EPC system is currently managed by EPCglobal, Inc., a subsidiary of GS1, creators of the UPC barcode. The RFID system.. When an RFID tag passes through the electromagnetic zone, it detects the reader's activation signal. The reader decodes the data encoded in the tag's integrated circuit and the data is passed to the host computer. The application software on the host processes the data, often employing Physical Markup Language (PML). Physical Markup Language Physical Markup Language (PML) is a markup language based on XML for communicating a description of physical environments and the objects, their relationships to you, each other and the space. Within a location the devices (RFID tags) controlled by the PML language act as parts of a browser. Each device contains a component that interprets the PML related to the devices’ capabilities. Components of RFID System RFID tags used in libraries: square book tag, round CD/DVD tag and rectangular VHS tag. Smart Key/Smart Start with RFID Starting with the 2004 model year, a Smart Key/Smart Start option became available to the Toyota Prius. The key uses an active RFID circuit which allows the car to acknowledge the key's presence within approximately 3 feet of the sensor. The driver can open the doors and start the car while the key remains in a purse or pocket. RFID in inventory systems RFID technology has two values for inventory systems: First, the visibility provided by this technology allows an accurate knowledge on the inventory level by eliminating the discrepancy between inventory record and physical inventory. Second, the RFID technology can prevent or reduce the sources of errors. Benefits of using RFID include the reduction of labor costs, the simplification of business processes and the reduction of inventory inaccuracies. RFID in Supply Chain Wal-Mart and the United States Department of Defense have published requirements that their vendors place RFID tags on all shipments to improve supply chain management. Due to the size of these two organizations, their RFID mandates impact thousands of companies worldwide. The deadlines have been extended several times because many vendors face significant difficulties implementing RFID systems. RFID in Supply Chain.. RFID tags are often envisioned as a replacement for UPC barcodes, having a number of important advantages over the older barcode technology. They may not ever completely replace barcodes, due to their higher cost. The new EPC, along with several other schemes, is widely available at reasonable cost. RFID in Supply Chain.. The unique identity is a mandatory requirement for RFID tags. RFID tag data capacity is big enough that any tag will have a unique code, while current bar codes are limited to a single type code for all instances of a particular product. The uniqueness of RFID tags means that a product may be individually tracked as it moves from location to location, finally ending up in the consumer's hands. RFID in Supply Chain.. Moreover, the tracing back of products is an important feature that gets well supported with RFID tags containing not just a unique identity of the tag but also the serial number of the object. This may help companies to cope with quality deficiencies and resulting recall campaigns, but also contributes to concern over post-sale tracking and profiling of consumers. RFID in Supply Chain.. It has also been proposed to use RFID for POS store checkout to replace the cashier with an automatic system which needs no barcode scanning. However this is not likely to be possible without a significant reduction in the cost of current tags and changes in the operational process around POS. Meeting the Customer Order Without RFID 3 times we need to enter information to the computers. Meeting the Customer Order With RFID We need to enter information only once at the assembly. Controversy The use of RFID technology has engendered considerable controversy and even product boycotts by consumer privacy advocates who refer to RFID tags as "spychips". How would you like it if, for instance, one day you realized your underwear was reporting on your whereabouts? Controversy.. The main privacy concerns regarding RFID are: The purchaser of an item will not necessarily be aware of the presence of the tag or be able to remove it; The tag can be read at a distance without the knowledge of the individual; If a tagged item is paid for by credit card, then it would be possible to tie the unique ID of that item to the identity of the purchaser; The EPCglobal system of tags create, or are proposed to create, globally unique serial numbers for all products, even though this creates privacy problems and is completely unnecessary for most applications. How does a computer act on information about a product? The whole point of automatic identification is to take people out of the loop, to enable computers to gather information and act on it. For that to happen, computers must be able to not just identify a product, but also interpret some basic information about it. To make this possible, the Auto-ID Center started to develop a new computer language called the Physical Markup Language. How does a computer act on information about a product?.. PML is based on the widely accepted eXtensible Markup Language (XML), which is used to describe common types of data (addresses, dates, invoice numbers and so on) and transactions (purchases, requests for quotes and so on) in a way computers running different proprietary applications can understand. How does a computer act on information about a product?.. PML files will be stored in the EPC Information Service. EPC Information Service will reside on computers distributed across the Internet. Some information about each product will be stored in a PML file, such as a product's name and broad category (soft drink, auto part, clothing and so on), when it was made and where, its expiration date, its current location, even its current temperature, if that's important. How does a computer act on information about a product?.. PML files will provide information to existing enterprise applications. The PML file could contain instructions for where a pallet should be shipped. It could contain instructions for a point-of-sale display to lower the price of an item when its expiration date approaches. Or it could contain instructions for how long your microwave needs to cook a particular brand of frozen pizza. Use information in new and innovative ways By making all this information available in a PML file, companies will be able to use information in new and innovative ways. A company could, for instance, set triggers so the price of a product falls as its expiration date approaches. Third party logistics providers could offer service- level contracts indicating that goods will be stored at a certain temperature as they are transported. What is the Object Name Service? The Object Name Service (ONS) is an automated networking service similar to the Domain Name Service (DNS) that points computers to sites on the World Wide Web. When an interrogator reads an RFID tag, the Electronic Product Code is passed to middleware, which, in turn, goes to an ONS on a local network or the Internet to find where information on the product is stored. What is the Object Name Service? ONS points the middleware to a server where a file about that product is stored. The middleware retrieves the file (after proper authentication), and the information about the product in the file can be forwarded to a company's inventory or supply chain applications.
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