RFID Tracking Applications: The Do's and Don’ts

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When using RFID for your tracking applications there is a lot to remember and it could get a little overwhelming. But it certainly doesn’t have to be. The following is a short list of do’s and don’ts list from the tag perspective for when you are thinking about implementing RFID.

Do – Understand the RFID tracking objective

This should be the very first thing you do because without a clear direction of where you want to go, how can you expect to discover the best way of how to get there? You may even discover RFID might not be the right technology to achieve your objective and if that is the case, wouldn’t you want to know that as early in the process as possible? If you discover it is, then congratulations – you have made an even stronger case for your application.

Do – Qualify the application

After determining the objective this should be the next thing you do. I could write an entire article on qualification of the application because this is something that we focus A LOT on – and for good reason. The labor to apply the tags is one of the most important expenses in an application so why would you want to do it more than once?

Choose the tag that is going to work best to achieve your objective even though it may not be the “cheapest” one – it will end up saving you money in the long run. When we qualify an application at Metalcraft we look at things like what is the rfid tag going on like metal , how long it needs to last, what kind of read range is required, what is the environment going to be like, etc. The more you know about the application, the better match you can make with your tag requirements and ultimately the tag’s performance.

Do – Test the RFID tags in the actual environment

Metalcraft thoroughly tests all of our tags and publishes all of our results in our support literature; however, there is no possible way to replicate all of the environments our tags could be used in. Therefore, we strongly recommend testing the tags in the actual environment they will be used in prior to implementing the entire solution in order to minimize or even eliminate any issues that may arise.

Don’t – Assume all RFID tags work the same

Even though the tag is typically one of the last things users may think about when implementing an RFID system, they really are a critical aspect because they provide the link between the item the tag is on and information about the item. This “don’t” is directly linked to the qualification “do” listed above. There are so many different tag options out there depending on the size you want, read range you need, what the tag is going to be applied to and environment the tag will be exposed to.

Don’t – Make it more complex than it needs to be

We often tell our customers just because there is the ability to write a lot of data to the RFID tag doesn’t mean you should. We recommend using a “license plate approach” which basically means you assign a unique serial number to an asset and they associate the additional information about that asset to it on the backend. This makes it easier to change information if necessary because you wouldn’t need to reprogram the tag, rather just change the information about the asset in the database.

Don’t – Forget about bar code

The majority of RFID tags we produce we also print with a bar code. This adds very little to the cost of the tag, but offers a lot of benefits. Having the dual technology within the same tag allows data redundancy if there is a reader malfunction or if the tag is going to be used in multiple locations where not all of the locations are RFID enabled. Most of the time the bar code information printed on the tag is the same information written to the RFID tag, but that does not have to be the case.

This short list of do’s and don’ts is designed to make you think before implementing an RFID tracking system. Putting in this effort beforehand will go a long way in making your system the most effective for your specific application and ultimately save you time and potential headaches down the road.

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