RFID technology enables efficient use of assets in gas cylinder industry

RFID technology enables efficient use of assets in gas cylinder industry
UPM Raflatac and Technology Solution Partners LLC have jointly developed a curved UHF RFID tag as part of a gas cylinder tracking and production solution called Trakaid CyTrack. The solution interfaces UPM Raflatac Belt RFID tags equipped with NXP’s U-Code G2XM chips with a four part application comprising tracking, interface, mobile and synchronisation systems.

The solution seamlessly integrates the production, warehousing and distribution processes. Each gas cylinder is tagged, and data from the tags is automatically read and entered into the system. This leaves no room for data entry errors due to illegible handwriting, poor readability, transcription or transposition.

Trakaid CyTrack was first implemented at Kay Nitro, a manufacturer and supplier of industrial gases including medical oxygen and nitrogen in Maharashtra, India. The company uses the solution to manage cylinder movement during receipt, filling and issue in order to reduce operating costs and improve productivity by automating data entry. This automation improves overall accuracy, allows an efficient use of assets, enables a faster turnaround of inventory, increases employee and customer safety, reduces cylinder loss and enhances the customer experience.

“The RFID solution helps Kay Nitro improve the visibility of the cylinders’ operational cycle and improve customer-facing processes while reducing untraceable assets,” says Yogendra Chaudhary, Manager of Kay Nitro. “We use RFID technology to shorten the production and turnaround time for cylinders to remove costs and down time from our processes. This also results in improved safety, which shows directly on our bottom line.” Kay Nitro implemented the RFID solution into its normal operating processes without any disruptions.

The benefits of an RFID implementation to the gas cylinder industry are measurable. Cylinders represent a highly valuable investment, and productivity is closely tied to how well these assets are managed. Overall, the average increase in productivity from receiving to shipping is 30%.

Will RFID overtake the barcodes?

Will RFID overtake the barcode?
In some industries, RFID is a must-have technology. In retail, for example, it has taken the clothing industry by storm because the return on investment for that vertical is just so good: reducing stock-outs from double digits to less than one percent and taking store inventory counts from 90 hours to three, as examples. Wal-Mart and other mega-retailers are also driving RFID adoption, but for the great majority of retailers RFID hovers somewhere off in the future. So the short answer, according to two opinion leaders in Finland, is yes, RFID will eventually replace the barcode, but not quickly. Jorma Lalla, CEO of Nordic ID, a manufacturer of mobile data collection handsets, explains that the slow pace of adoption is not due the cost of tags: Early in the millennium, research institutes and universities forecasted a revolution in identification of goods within a few years. As we all know, he continues, this didnt happen. Thats because retailers had invested huge dollars in barcode technology. No ones going to reinvest just because theres a new technology available.

Benefits and standards: the driving forces of adoption
Like any technology, the more RFID is used, the more valuable it becomes. In an open supply chain environment, RFID can play a major role in tightening inventory and shipping logistics along the entire chain. Because tags can store item-level information from site and date of manufacture to stock keeping unit (SKU) to transportation and logistics information every item carries a complete, individual history of its journey from manufacture (or harvest) to sale. Taking it a step further, tags can have sensors built in to log moisture, temperature and other parameters over the course of their journey. And because of the robustness of RFID tags and the accuracy and ease of reading them, items can be scanned in bulk, while goods are still in boxes, greatly improving inventory awareness and timing. Security is also a plus, says Lalla. The FDA is having problems with counterfeit pharmaceuticals. RFID tags can have encryption built in an easy way to find the fakes. And if youre looking for a needle in a haystack, try high frequency RFID. Think libraries and music stores.

A sticking point for any technology is the development of universal standards. We now have standards for many facets of RFID, including near field communication for payment cards and many industrial applications. Although RFID is currently used to track goods in open supply chains, however, there are still various standards at play. The RFID ecosystem has not yet undergone a VHS/Betamax-style battle royale, but the International Standards Organisation (ISO) is taking a leading role in developing conclusive, comprehensive RFID standards across the board.

Beyond inventory
Heikki Sepp, known in European circles as Mr. RFID, believes that we have reached a point of sufficiency in terms of standards. A professor with the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Sepp envisioned RFID technology 20 years ago and helped to bring it into existence. He thinks that existing data content and air interface protocol standards for tag-reader communication are robust and ready for the open market, and hes taking bets on RFID becoming a fixture of the consumer world within 5 years. RFID is the Internet of things, he says. You will soon be able to read product information, service records and more by touching a tag with your smart phone. So much information can be stored on these tags that applications are virtually endless. Take, for example, car maintenance. The vehicles tag shows the details of all previous service, as well as information from the cars own diagnostic system showing whats wrong. This scenario may not yet have made it to the consumer world, but it currently plays out daily in the airline industry, where high-memory tags allow maintenance crews to work effectively even if no WiFi connectivity is available.

Consumers will drive adoption
Retailer demand is currently leading adoption of RFID throughout the supply chain, but Lalla thinks that consumer demand will soon drive significant adoption. People are curious, they demand to be informed. Theres already significant interest in knowing the lifecycle of goods. In the grocery store, consumers will be able to scan RFID electronic product codes with their mobile phones and find out about allergens, where and when the product was produced or grown, and more. RFID is going to become a big part of the consumer shopping experience. Staying informed is one driver, but convenience could be another. Shoppers might simply walk past a scanner at the exit; the scanner would read all items in the cart at once and charge the customers account while adjusting the store’s inventory.

And the homely barcode? Lalla believes it will die a slow death as barcode reading equipment reaches end of life and the cost of RFID tags continues to fall. Lets say Im the retailer, my barcode reader is old and RFID is part of the items. Efficiencies are such that I will not reinvest in barcode. Sepp agrees, but thinks that the barcode may be around for some time. Industries will self-select. Some wont find good reasons to replace the bar code for years and years. RFID tags can carry a barcode, and many stores will adopt combined readers in fact they already exist.

Price gap narrows
But many more industries may soon be self-selecting out of barcodes and into RFID as chips increase in functionality while they shrink in price and size. When I worked at Nokia in the 80s, we were making mobile phones that weighed up to ten pounds, remembers Lalla. We thought we were at the peak of development, but our visionary director said that one day they would be very small, quite cheap and everyone would have one. We thought hed gone nuts, but of course it happened, and the same thing has happened with RFID chip technology in the past 10 years. Where you see a barcode today, in the near future you will see an RFID tag.

The benefits of RFID technology

The benefits of RFID technology
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has been in existence for many decades but it is only now that RFID is being increasingly used in many different applications – and the list is growing.

Quite simply, RFID is a technology that uses tags to receive and transmit radio signals to readers/interrogators that pick up the signal. The tags contain antennas to enable them to receive and respond to radio-frequency queries and an electrical transponder, which stores information that can be used to identify the item to which it is attached.

There are two main tag technologies Active and Passive. Active tags have a power source, typically a battery. They are normally relatively expensive. Passive tags receive power when they move into a radio field generated by the reader; this technology is cost effective when compared to active tags.

There are many benefits of using RFID technology over the bar coding. RFID tags contain a read-write option which means that data stored on a RFID label can only be read or modified by authorised users. There is no limit to the data capacity of an RFID tag, whereas a barcode is restricted to 50 bytes and RFID tags can be read again and again and again, with an expected lifetime of up to 10 years.

There are no tight controls on where an RFID tag should be positioned. Unlike barcode labels, which need to be read automatically and must adhere to standard positioning, the only requirement for the RFID tag is that it must be within the field of the reader and not blocked by metals or water. There is the added benefit that the reader can read numerous tags at the same time. Add to this the fact that RFID tags are not only robust, they are very secure.

So, it is not surprising that RFID technology is currently used for asset, document and software tracking, but it doesnt have to stop there. There is huge potential for RFID technology to be used in patient and people tracking, within the supply chain, in retail and in manufacturing. E pedigree, pharmaceutical, event ticketing and airline baggage tagging will also see business benefits.

When used for tracking assets RFID can greatly reduce the loss or misplacement of goods, minimise shrinkage and provide additional security for tagged items. By pairing the asset to its owner and or a location, the RFID tag can send instant alerts if an asset is moved out of a location without its owner, or moved to a prohibited location. The tag provides not only an audit trail of asset movement but also availability. And, the use of RFID tags for document tracking greatly reduces the time spent searching for books or documents. It can be used to identify items that are misplaced or not stored appropriately, thus improving the organisation of documents, materials and files. The system can automatically generate audit trails which include the movement of materials and usage rates. This can be combined with check in /check out systems which track time and usage of specific books and materials. The use of RFID increases security for sensitive materials and can be used as additional authentication.

There are some serious business benefits for implementing RFID technology cost reduction, improved efficiency and better visibility of product. So just why are businesses stalling when it comes to use of RFID tags? It all comes down to price. Traditionally the prohibitive cost of implementing RFID was due to the costs of the tags and it is those high costs that have been blamed for holding back the use of RFID by Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs).

The cost of RFID tags is largely dependent on volume, the amount of memory and packaging, a 96-bit EPC (Electronic Product Code) tag embedded in a thermal transfer label on which companies can print a bar code, typically costs US 40 cents (22p) or more. (RFID Journal*). Although the RFID Journal has projected that the RFID tag price will come down to 16 cents (9p) by 2008.

A new technological breakthrough from TOSHIBA will help make this financial target a reality. Until now, RFID tags have had to be inserted behind self-adhesive labels to meet the requirements set by major government organisations, retail chains and logistics-related enterprises. The TOSHIBA SX-series of barcode label printers are the only printers in the world that are able to successfully print label information straight onto RFID tags. This major technology breakthrough for RFID tag vendors brings a practical solution to market that combines TOSHIBA quality and innovation with cost-effective, high-volume RFID tag production. This new engineering process known as SPRINT (Short Pitch RFID Encoding Technology) is a customer-driven solution for RFID-mandated suppliers.

Enterprises using SPRINT will be equipped with a next-generation application infrastructure combining TOSHIBA B-SX barcode printers with low-cost RFID tags, for low-volume SME needs, as well as large volumes for international organisations. With costs rapidly reducing RFID will start to become a seriously attractive business proposition.

TOSHIBA Europe, which handles the customer-specific configuration of every laptop destined for the EMEA region, has implemented an RFID system at its plant in Regensburg, Germany. The system uses TOSHIBA TEC B-SX4 label printers and UPM Raflatec RFID tags which are coupled to an RFID reader from ADT Security/Tyco.

The Regensburg plant, one of the largest plants in Europe had suffered from severe congestion in its warehouses individual pallets containing 36 laptops were brought in by truck and stored, handling staff then scanned each individual laptop, resulting in 36 scans per pallet and warehouse bottlenecks. The introduction of the RFID system has allowed pallets to flow continuously through a single RFID gate with the entire content of each pallet scanned and booked in a single movement before it is stored for further processing. The new solution will dramatically reduce the problem of congestion and it is hoped increase worker productivity by an estimated 57 percent.

The Regensburg facility revealed that the end of 2006 saw its average throughput of configured and ready for shipment laptop PCs increase from 9,500 to 15,000 units per day. Toshiba anticipate an expected peak throughput capacity of up to 30,000 units per day using nearly 4 million RFID tags per annum.

“Toshibas solution clearly shows the benefits which item level RFID can bring to the supply chain of fast moving, high value items. We are saving time 90 percent of the time we spent before and it has allowed us to use warehousing storing positions in a much more efficient way. Importantly, we have removed the necessity of double handling and delays in product availability. said Gerd Holzhauser, Manager EMEA ENG QE at Toshiba Europe.

Benefits Of Tags

Benefits Of Tags
Tags, specifically RFID tags were developed as a substitute to the common bar codes technology. Tags are basically unpowered devices responsible for bouncing back a certain code every time they are struck with a signal from a device that transmits radio frequencies. Different from bar codes, tags are readable from any location provided they are in range. The following are benefits of tags.

1. Simplified reading
An employee walking through an occupied warehouse can see what is in all the crates without needing to climb over or opening any crate. RFID devices are able to work regardless how the tag is placed. In fact, RFID devices can work through huge barriers like walls. Since the device reveals a specific code only, an individual with a RFID reader but lacking the appropriate list cannot really see the contents of a certain crate.

2. Law enforcement
Tags also provide several benefits in the field of law enforcement. For instance, in Canada, the police are already making use of these RFID tags for ticketing speeders. In this case, the tag is mounted on vehicles and roadside devices are set up at fixed distances. As the vehicle passes every checkpoint, it is easily recognized by the devices. By calculating the total speed of vehicles through between each checkpoint, the system then sends a traffic ticket to the owner of the vehicle if their speed was over the set limit.

3. Highly durable
RFID tags are much more durable in contrast with using bar codes. This is because RFID tags are usually better protected and at times they are internally attached, enabling easy reading even in very harsh environments. Conversely, bar codes are not resilient as they are easily removable.

The demerit associated with using RFID tags is that they are more costly than substitutes like the bar code system. Using active tags is even more expensive because of their complexity.

Benefits Of RFID Technology

Benefits Of RFID Technology
RFID technology was used for years by different companies, but was not popular initially because the cost of employing this technology was high. For this reason, most people knew less about the RFID technology. RFID is the acronym for radio frequency identification, popularly used to identify reception of radio signals. Basically, they have two types of tags, passive tags and active tags. Both tags are expensive depending on the battery used. Here are main benefits of using RFID technology over the tedious barcode system.

1. Reduces warehouse and labor costs
It replaces the barcode labor-intensive process of tracking cases, pallets, individual products and cartons with sensors. This can help reduce labor costs as well as service charges of shelf inventory and stock management. Moreover, RFID has unique tags, which make the system error-free as compared to the bar code system.

2. Cuts labor-intensive cost
With RFID enabled goods, calculation can be done with a swift scan of all products in the cart reducing labor-intensive costs. Additionally, this will improve the current system being used, helping to enhance adoption, thereby eliminating fraud.

3. Eliminates losses
Inventory accuracy helps to eliminate missing/excess inventory, write downs and losses. With RFID, you can minimize inventory errors so that the records provided are factual. RFID tags are also popular since they can withstand harsh temperature and environment.

4. Improves planning and forecasting
Visibility improvement can improve the planning capabilities to keep track of the inventory and what changes are made to it. This system will therefore help reduce fraud and losses, as well as missing inventory.

5. Reduces losses and theft
With RFID, goods are tracked with pin-point accuracy to ensure there are no inventory errors, which can lead to loses. RFID can also be used in retail stores to keep track of high priced items, to prevent theft.

When organizations use RFID for high end security jobs like payment methods, theft still remains inevitable.

Benefits Of RFID in supply chain

Benefits Of RFID in supply chain
RFID is an automated system that identifies services and products through radio waves. This technology basically allows data transmission by portable devices commonly known as tags. It is the most effective identification technology as it offers a number of advantages over the bar code reader. Here are some of the reasons why it has gained immense popularity in supply chain.

1. Effective inventory tracker
The technology is always at par with the inventory, which means that all products and services are easily located along the supply chain. With RFID, there are no discrepancies whatsoever since it uses radio waves to identify products and services. This makes it simple to keep track of a product’s history, design and location. Also, it prevents out-of-stock incidences by keeping track of all the products and services purchased.

2. Better security
Another reason why RFID technology is popular than bar coder reader is that they are not easy to copy. Since RFID tags use automated ID technology, data cannot be replicated thus is efficient in preventing theft.

3. Minimizes vulnerability
RFID tags can resist harsh environment, such as exposure to strong acids. Moreover, the tags can also read non-metallic products. While barcode readers are vulnerable to theft, RFID tags are not easily tampered with.

4. Data readability
In a supply chain one thing that make RFID tags unique than barcodes is data readability. Since barcodes usually involve a connection between tharcode and the scanner, any dirt may make the data unreadable. That is why most companies today prefer using RFID technology since it uses radio waves for automated payments, tracking assets, as well as theft prevention.
While this technology has numerous benefits in supply chain, operating costs are expensive. In addition to that, the system is not efficient in areas that have weak signals.

NFC tag basics

NFC tag basics
NFC tags are passive devices that can be used to communicate with active NFC devices (an active NFC reader/writer). The NFC tags can be used within applications such as posters, and other areas where small amounts of data can be stored and transferred to active NFC devices. Within the poster the live area can be used as a touch point for the active NFC device.

The stored data on the NFC tag may contain any form of data, but common applications are for storing URLs from where the NFC device may find further information. In view of this only small amounts of data may be required. NFC tags may also be used.

In order that the communication between the active NFC reader/writer and the passive NFC tag was defined. The NFC forum introduced their first standardised technology architecture and standards for NFC compliant devices in June 2006. This included the NFC Data Exchange Format, NDEF, and three Record Type Definitions, RTD. These are for smart poster, text, and Internet resource reading applications.

Differences between NFC and other wireless technologies

Differences between NFC and other wireless technologies
NFC is a technology that is distinct from other wireless technologies, not only in the technology used, but also the applications envisaged.

Bluetooth: Although both Bleutooth and NFC can be used to transfer data, Bluetooth has been designed to transfer data over much greater distances. NFC is designed to be close proximity only.

Wi-Fi / IEEE 802.11: Wi-Fi is designed for local area networks, and is not a short range peer to peer technology.

RFID: Although RFID is very similar to NFC in many respects, RFID is a much broader technology. NFC is a specific case which is defined by standards enabling it to be interoperable.

In view of its parameters, NFC lends itself to particular applications, making it ideal for use in areas where other forms of wireless communication would be unsuitable.

NFC applications

NFC applications
NFC technology has evolved from a combination of contactless identification and interconnection technologies including RFID and it allows connectivity to be achieved very easily over distances of a few centimetres. Simply by bringing two electronic devices close together they are able to communicate and this greatly simplifies the issues of identification and security, making it far easier to exchange information. In this way it is anticipated that Near Field Communications, NFC technology will allow the complex set-up procedures required for some longer range technologies to be avoided.

Near field communication NFC lends itself ideally to a whole variety of applications. These include:
Mobile phones, PDAs, etc
Personal computers
Check-out cash registers or “point-of-sale” equipment
Turnstiles
Vending machines
Parking meters
ATMs
Applications around the office and house, e.g. garage doors, etc
A further application that was proposed was that NFC connections could be used to configure the connection between two wireless devices. All that was required to configure them to operate together wirelessly would be to bring them together to effect the NFC “connection”. This would initiate the a set-up procedure, communication could take place over the NFC interface to configure the longer range wireless device such as Bluetooth, 802.11 or other relevant standard. Once set up the two devices could operate over the longer range allowed by the second communication system.

NFC near field communication is ideally placed to provide a link with the contactless smart card technology that is already used for ticketing and payment applications. It is broadly compatible with the existing standards that have been set in place. Accordingly it is quite possible that NFC enabled devices could be used for these applications as well.

There are many other applications for near field communications, NFC. These could include general downloading data from digital cameras or mobile phones, as well as any other data communication required between two devices.

RFID inductive coupling

RFID inductive coupling
RFID inductive coupling is used for what are termed “vicinity coupled” cards. RFID inductive coupling is defined in ISO 15693 standard, although not all RFID inductively coupled tags need conform to this standard.

In terms of operation, inductive coupling is the transfer of energy from one circuit to another via the mutual inductance between the two circuits. For RFID inductive coupling to be used, both the tag and the reader will have induction or “antenna” coils. When the tag is placed close enough to the reader the field from the reader coil will couple to the coil from the tag. A voltage will be induced in the tag that will be rectified and used to power the tag circuitry.

To enable data to be passed from the tag to the reader, the tag circuitry changes the load on its coil and this can be detected by the reader as a result of the mutual coupling.

RFID inductive coupling is a near field effect. Accordingly the distance between the coils must be kept within the range of the effect – normally this is taken to be about 0.15 wavelength of the frequency in use.

RFID inductive coupling is normally used on the lower RFID frequencies – often LF, i.e. below 135 kHz or at 13.56 MHz.

The choice of the best form of RFID coupling will depend upon the intended application. Capacitive RFID coupling is used for very short ranges, inductive RFID coupling for slightly longer ranges and RFID backscatter coupling or RFID backscattering is normally used where longer distances are needed.