Radio Frequency ID (RFID) Definition

Radio frequency ID also known more commonly as RFID is a relatively new technology that promises to change the way inventories are managed. An RFID device can vary in size depending on what it is being attached to. Small, individual products would have small devices whereas large items such as shipping contains would likely have a larger RFID device attached to them. The RFID device transmits a signal when it is activated by an RFID receiver. Depending on the device, this signal can have a range as short as 6 feet or as great as 90 feet. The data transmitted can include various product identifiers of value to the manufacturer, shipper, or purchaser. The signal emitted by an RFID device can help companies track the location and quantity of their inventory.

Here are some examples of RFID use:

  • One idea that has surface recently is to have cash registers pick up the price of goods as a consumer approaches and have the total calculated without the consumer having to remove a single item from his basket.
  • New York's Jacobi Medical Center tried a pilot where 200 patients were given an RFID device. Doctors and nurses were able to pick up the patients name, gender, and age with a handheld device. With this information, the medical staff could retrieve patient data from a central server.
  • U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer is using RFID technology to track inventory. Reports from management indicate that inventory tasks that once took 8 hours can now be accomplished in 1 hour simply by waving a scanner over a rack of clothes.

It is these sorts of ideas that indicate that RFID devices will one day replace barcodes. However, obstacles still remain. The industry hasn't agreed on a uniform frequency for the tags or on a specific type of hardware or equipment to read the tags. The next generation of tags known as Gen 2 were released in the fall of 2005.

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