The Different Ways RFID Tags and Labels Can Be Printed

RFID technology — and the ability to print RFID tags and labels quickly and cheaply from virtually anywhere — is radically improving efficiency and profitability in the apparel industry. However, before benefiting from the most advanced forms of RFID technology, apparel companies need to better understand the various components of the RFID label printing process.

The process begins with electronic product codes, which are embedded within a printed RFID label and are essential for supply chain management and inventory tracking. EPCs are stored inside the RFID tag’s memory when the tag is printed by an RFID printer. Here’s what the EPC includes:

The first eight bits of the code contain a special header that identifies the EPC’s protocol.
The next 28 bits show the organization in charge of managing the tag’s data (this number is given by the global consortium that manages EPC standards).
The next 24 bits identify the class of the object being tagged, which identifies the type of product.
The final 36 bits are uniquely assigned to the particular object being labeled.
The last two sections described above (3 and 4) are created by the apparel company that is using the tag for its business operations. Through the use of EPC codes, retailers can track exactly how many of one type of item they have and, if necessary, they can track down an individually specific item at any time.

Once an EPC is assigned to a specific item, it needs to be stored in the memory chip of the RFID tag by an RFID printer. Then it is attached to the product being tracked.

RFID tags are better than traditional barcode tags because radio waves are used to capture the electronic product code information rather than an optical scanner. This way, tracking inventory can be done automatically without hunting down and scanning every item in a warehouse or store.

The RFID printer creates a finished label that includes a uniquely printed inlay, which the printer puts inside a traditional apparel label or tag. The inlay has a microchip with the EPC data stored inside it. It also has an antenna to communicate with the RFID readers.

While you may already be familiar with how RFID tags work, you may not be aware of how many options the latest RFID technologies now provide for printing and implementing them. With MSM Solutions’ PortalTrack, RFID tags and labels can be printed virtually anywhere your apparel company is doing business: at the source, at a service bureau, at the distribution center, and even at the retail store where the items are sold:

At the source: An RFID printer allows you to create custom labels on demand in the exact quantity you require at the apparel manufacturing facility. This helps prevent wasted tags and excess tag inventory, and will ultimately streamline the tagging process.
In the store: Fully customizable print solutions allow you to quickly create cost-effective labels and to fix inaccurate tags and replace missing tags.
At the distribution center: Printing at the distribution center allows you to simplify logistics by labeling items with specific information depending on the store at which they will end up being sold.
At the service bureau: If it’s more convenient for business operations, OPPIOT Solutions can print labels and tags in bulk at our service bureau to be quickly delivered to your business.

RFID UHF Windshield Tag for Automatic Vehicle Identification

It’s already well-known that passive long-range RFID makes automatic vehicle identification (AVI), driver identification and other long-range identification easier. However, less people are aware it also offers important security benefits over active technologies. For example, OPRFID’s passive RFID can now reliably identify your tag from several meters away, enabling your vehicle to enter a parking garage or pass through security gates, effectively without stopping. In high-risk areas, or at night, such capability could mean the difference between secure, rapid transit – and a potentially dangerous exposure.

Equally important, since passive identifiers (or tags) don’t require or possess batteries, they stay on-the-job in all environments and the worst weather conditions, effectively lasting forever. Therefore, with OPRFID’s passive UHF RFID technology designed to identify moving vehicles at a distance, it’s the sensible choice for either security-critical or user-friendly AVI applications.

Passive UHF (Ultra High Frequency) radio frequency identification technology is an ideal solution for automatic vehicle identification (AVI) and driver identification in secure transit and parking applications. OPRFID’s passive UHF readers readily recognize tags at distances up to five metres (and sometimes beyond) on the windshield of a moving car, ensuring drivers won’t be forced to stop for identification, let alone open their windows to type access codes or push a key to get a ticket. More importantly, passive UHF technology remains robustly reliable in heavy rain or subfreezing temperatures.

That’s because since passive UHF tags are unpowered – they don’t need batteries. Tags simply ‘harvest’ some of the energy broadcast from a reader to ‘bounce back’ their replies. This simple, elegant solution sidesteps the shortcomings of active (i.e., battery-powered) technologies: short tag lifetimes, vulnerability to cold and humidity and high cost. Our UHF readers will reliably detect the small tags you place on car windshields, easing and speeding your management of transiting vehicles. Additionally, our UHF tags can be either permanently or temporarily installed on a windshield. Depending on the type you deploy, an AVI tag might also double as a personal access control credential for entering a building.

OPRFID currently offers a wide selection of UHF-based OPRFID EPC readers and tag products, that will readily integrate into the most common controlling systems.

If you are integrator, please contact us directly; If you are looking for an entire solution, we can introduce you your local integrator to help you out.

Benefits of Asset Tracking

The benefits of asset tracking are numerous, and nearly all contribute to a healthier bottom line for the organizations that properly implement effective asset management processes. We highlight some of the most beneficial advantages of employing asset tracking here:
* Improve efficiency and trim costs
* Adjust company records as equipment is reassigned between departments, and use the updated information when calculating taxes and costs for each department
* Quickly and easily locate assets at any time, and in real time
* Conduct asset tracking using fewer resources, with the aid of an asset tracking system
* Lower administrative costs, since administrators do not need to track or locate assets manually
* Track and reduce asset loss and utilize assets more effectively
* Grow your company and scale your asset tracking as necessary
* Improve customer service through improved asset tracking and management practices
* Ensure accountability and accuracy with asset loss and management
* Immediately know where your assets have been allocated
* Proper asset tracking is required for regulatory compliance in certain industries
* Increase the efficiency and organization of your company’s physical space by identifying which items are accessed together and creating a better structure of your physical system
* Get real-time reports on the position of each asset and increase the accuracy of your asset management

How Does Passive RFID Technology Enable the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things (IoT) has taken the technology world by storm, and it isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. IoT has the power to revolutionize supply chain visibility as we know it, ushering in a new era of data intelligence and accessibility.

Simply put, IoT is a network of devices that allows data about each device to be accessed, collected, and exchanged — enabling complete, real-time visibility and control of any item that is connected to the Internet.

My question has always been: what is the definition of a “thing”? Most of us spend time on the Internet in some way, shape, or form. Our computers, smartphones, smart TVs, gaming systems, and appliances are attached and accessible to and from the Internet. These devices all have three things in common.

They all have a power source, whether they are plugged into the wall (AC power) or relying on a battery.
They all have a communication method, whether it’s a wired Ethernet connection, a WiFi connection, or a cellular connection.
All devices are assigned an individual IP address that uniquely identifies each device on the Internet, making them visible and accessible.
With this understanding, I believe that today the “Internet of Things” is actually the “Internet of Devices.”

Yes, these devices are “things,” but so are tools, files, office furniture, pipelines, rail cars, and other valuable business assets that have no power source or communication means. So how can we make these other types of “things” visible to the Internet to make IoT truly possible? A well designed and properly deployed passive RFID system can make almost any type of “thing” (asset) visible to the Internet.

A passive RFID system consists of RFID tags/labels, RFID readers and antennas, RFID middleware, and in most cases, RFID printers. There are literally thousands of RFID tag types on the market today. RFID tags have evolved over the past decade. Sensitivity has increased along with read ranges. There are tags specifically designed for metal, liquid, paint, and just about any other material you can think of. They come in several different memory capacities and configurations, providing the ability to uniquely identify each tag. Suffice it to say there is an RFID tag available for practically every type of “thing” in our world today.

Passive RFID readers have a power source — usually AC Power, Power over Ethernet (PoE), or battery. They also have data communication capabilities such as Ethernet, WiFi, or cellular, and they can be assigned an IP address. So by earlier definition, passive RFID readers can join the “Internet of Devices.”

Passive RFID tags are sensors that operate by way of the radio frequency power radiated from antennas attached to RFID readers. RFID tags communicate with RFID readers using the radio frequency waves transmitted to them. And although you cannot practically assign an IP address to an RFID tag, the tags are encoded (programmed) with an ID that uniquely identifies it to a particular business or organization. With this understanding, you can begin to understand how placing passive RFID tags on inanimate objects, or “things,” allows these assets to become visible to the Internet, further enabling the vision of the “Internet of Things.”

A vital component to a passive RFID system is the RFID middleware. This critical software component is used to configure and control the RFID readers. It receives and processes RFID tag data from the readers and communicates RFID tag events to business systems such as ERP, MRP, and/or WMS. To summarize, the RFID middleware makes RFID tags visible to the business systems, and the business systems make the RFID tags visible to the Internet.

You can now see how passive RFID technology truly enables the Internet of Things. Check out Part II of “How Does Passive RFID Technology Enable the Internet of Things?” where we will further explore how to use the technology to develop transactions and business events about the “things” that are important to your business.

How Does Passive RFID Technology Enable the Internet of Things ?

We’ll start with a quick review of how an RFID system operates. An RFID tag on an asset (thing) is read by an RFID reader. The reader communicates the tag data to the RFID middleware. In turn, the RFID middleware communicates the RFID tag data to the business system where it is stored in a database. The business system data can then be made accessible to the Internet. With this being the case, anyone in the world with access to the Internet could potentially see data about the things the RFID tags were placed upon.

RFID readers are used to power the RFID tags and read or capture their data. RFID readers are also used to program or encode RFID tags with a unique ID. There are basically two types of readers, commonly referred to as fixed readers and handheld readers.

There are two types of fixed reader technology: Wide Area Monitoring and Portals. Wide Area Monitoring readers provide the ability to read many RFID tags over a large floor space. These types of readers typically have internal antennas. Portal readers are used to capture RFID tags as they move through a choke point such as a doorway, a dock door, or in and out of a work area. These readers typically have external antennas.

Handheld or mobile readers are available for all types of devices — from the industrial-strength readers from manufacturers like Zebra and Honeywell, to readers designed for use on consumer devices like smartphones. There are even compact Bluetooth readers that can connect to just about anything.

Now that things are visible to the Internet using RFID, we can use the technology to report what those assets are doing. This means that we can use RFID to report the movement of things through a business process. The RFID middleware has powerful filtering algorithms that allow us to configure the RFID system to only report RFID tag data when important business events occur.

An example of this would be a shipping application — where as a shipment is staged to be loaded on a truck, the RFID system captures each thing as it is staged at the shipping dock. Once the shipment is staged, it can then be verified complete against a bill of lading. As the things are loaded on the truck, the RFID system will report those things as “On Truck” by seeing them move through a dock door portal.

Another example would be tracking high-value assets like tools. An RFID system can see the location of an important tool and report on its movement from location to location.

How is this possible?
Each antenna in an RFID system generates its own radio frequency field. These fields are given a unique name in the RFID middleware. A typical RFID reader supports four antennas or four unique fields. We can array the four unique fields around the target location and configure the RFID middleware to only report tags that move from field to field. A thing sitting static in one of the fields may not be reported, or may be reported only one time — but when the tag moves from that field to the next field the RFID system will report that movement. The report might be named “Entered Tool Crib” or “Exited Tool Crib.”

Now you can definitively see that the target tool is in the crib or that it left for another location. So now not only are your things visible to the Internet, but what those things are doing is also visible on the Internet.

These real-world applications show how a passive RFID system truly does make the Internet of Things a reality. The ability to provide data on what those things are doing furthers the value proposition of RFID technology. Customers can see what their things are doing, which improves customer satisfaction. Manufacturers can see their things throughout production, which improves efficiency.

Overall, important assets can be tracked and better utilized. It is safe to say that applying RFID technology to the Internet of Things can and will enable businesses to achieve levels of performance operationally and financially not seen before.

How to Use RFID for Healthcare Asset Inspections

Asset visibility is essential in any industry — but when it comes to healthcare and human lives, it’s a critical part of operations that requires the utmost accuracy. It’s not enough to have competent, trained clinicians and staff. To run an efficient healthcare center, you need to know every possible detail about your assets:
* How many do you have, and is that enough?
* Where are they?
* What condition are they in?

What kind of asset visibility do you have? Your healthcare center is only as efficient, up-to-date, and — most importantly — as safe as your equipment. Have you inspected your inventory lately to make sure you’re not compromising your patients’ health and safety with tools that aren’t calibrated or functioning properly?

For example, let’s take a look at hospitals. Hospitals maintain large numbers of assets that range from testing equipment to patient care aids. Many of these assets require periodic inspection to ensure that they are calibrated and functioning correctly. Other assets include items that wear out after a length of time and need to be replaced. Hospitals face a significant challenge in managing these assets and keeping them in proper condition.

The ability to know when an item is due for inspection or calibration is very important. Much of this type of information has been done with a paper and pen in the past. The consequence is that many aging wear items are not taken out of use soon enough. Manual asset management often results in human error and inefficiencies — and there’s no room for that in a healthcare environment.

So what kind of solutions are available to make sure healthcare employees know when items are due for inspections?

Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, combined with a scalable RFID scanning application software, will allow you to keep proper care of your healthcare equipment by alerting you when items need to be inspected.

Industry-standard UHF RFID technology allows for a large selection of RFID tag choices. RFID tags can be selected based on material construction of the asset, as well as other selection criteria such as desired read distance and environmental factors.

The system is implemented with RFID-enabled mobile computers running an application developed specifically for the process. This allows the screen design to account for different requirements for different needs.

RFID tags are placed on every asset that needs to be tracked, and the software system maintains the department and physical location of each asset. The asset inquiry function enables the operator to scan an asset and immediately identify its inspection status to let the operator know if the asset has been recently inspected, or is due for an inspection. The asset inquiry will notify the operator by means of a change in screen color according to the current status of the item’s inspection, and it will update a last-touched date on the asset record.

The inspection function is used when it is time to do a physical inspection and/or calibration. The current condition of the asset is graded as excellent, good, fair, poor, or retired, and the last physical audit/calibration date is updated on the record. The department and location can also be updated during the inspection process.

The system maintains a backend database that is updated in real time with the department, location, last-touch date, last inspection date, and grade.

RFID use is gaining momentum in healthcare environments for its ability to provide accurate, real-time visibility of assets and patients. As your healthcare operations expand and become more complex, this scalable technology can help you maintain a quality inventory of all your assets — ultimately saving you time and money, and ensuring an accurate record of equipment so that you can offer patients a safe and efficient experience.

Why You Should Test Your RFID Tags?

If your business is ready to jump into the world of RFID, you probably have a lot of questions — one of the most prevalent being “Is there an RFID tag that will work on my products?”

For RFID experts, the answer to this question — even without any context or detail about your products — will be, “Yes, probably.”

Ambiguous? Yes. That being said, the RFID tag industry has expanded so that there are literally thousands of tag types on the market today. There are now tags designed specifically for metal, liquid, paint, and almost any other material you can imagine. Tag sensitivity and read range have increased, and the selection of memory capacities and configurations provides a wide range of choices to help your solution provider select the best possible RFID tag for your needs.

Basically, the continued growth in RFID adoption for asset management, inventory control, work-in-process tracking, manufacturing, process control, and supply chain operations has led to a seemingly unlimited number of RFID inlay, label, and tag options. But in spite of the variety of options available today, tagging items remains one of the most significant challenges to implement a successful RFID system.

Even though there is probably a tag that will meet all your business requirements, each possible option will need to be tested in the end-user environment. No proper RFID implementation is complete unless the tags have been tested in the way that they will be used.

While manufacturers’ published specifications and lab testing are good starting places to narrow down tag options and get an idea of a tag’s read performance on specific items, there is no guarantee that a tag that performs perfectly in the lab will behave the same way in your facility or in the actual application environment. Hence, there is no substitute for field testing in the actual environment(s) where a tag will live and travel.

For example, tracking IT assets like laptops is a popular business application for RFID. Even though it may seem like there would be a standard location on laptops where tag placement would be optimal, it really depends on a variety of factors.

First, what make and model of laptop are we talking about? Each laptop model is a little different, as is the case with pretty much any other asset, because IT assets come in many configurations. Even similar models from the same manufacturer will have different physical characteristics. The location of power switches, air vents, connectors, ports, controls, and indicators varies by manufacturer and model. The materials that these assets are made with also vary; one server model may be made of plastic, which is very RF-friendly — but another model may be constructed with metal, which is not as RF-friendly.

To make sure that you are using the correct tag and placing it in the best location on the specific asset, you should consult your solution provider. They should also test the tags in the end-user environment to ensure that they are implementing the best possible RFID solution for your needs.

If you are ready to begin a solution implementation, fill out the five questions on our RFID tag selection cheat sheet. This will help you define and understand your requirements.

Whether you need a tag that can be read in a hot manufacturing environment or a freezing outdoor one under six feet of snow, describing how your tag R.E.A.D.S. — Read Range, Environment, Application, Data, and Size — will provide the initial information necessary to begin choosing and testing the ideal tag for your application.

What’s the Frequency?

RFID tags can be grouped into three categories based on the range of frequencies they use to communicate data: low frequency (LF), high frequency (HF) and ultra-high frequency (UHF). Generally speaking, the lower the frequency of the RFID system, the shorter the read range and slower the data read rate.

Low Frequency (LF) RFID: These RFID systems operate in the 30 KHz to 300 KHz range, and have a read range of up to 10 cm. While they have a shorter read range and slower data read rate than other technologies, they perform better in the presence of metal or liquids (which can interfere with other types of RFID tag transmissions). Common standards for LF RFID include ISO 14223 and ISO/IEC 18000-2. LF tags are used in access control, livestock tracking, and other applications where a short read range is acceptable.

High Frequency (HF) RFID: HF systems operate in the 3 MHz to 30 MHz range and provide reading distances of 10 cm to 1 m. Common applications include electronic ticketing and payment and data transfer. Near Field Communication (NFC) technology is based on HF RFID and has been used for payment cards and hotel key card applications. Other types of smart card and proximity card payment and security systems also use HF technology. Standards include ISO 15693, ECMA-340, ISO/IEC 18092 (for NFC), ISO/IEC 14443A and ISO/IEC 14443 (for MIFARE and other smart card solutions).

Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) RFID: These systems have a frequency range between 300 MHz and 3 GHz, offer read ranges up to 12 m, and have faster data transfer rates. They are more sensitive to interference from metals, liquids, and electromagnetic signals, but new design innovations have helped mitigate some of these problems.

UHF tags are much cheaper to manufacture, and as such are commonly used in retail inventory tracking, pharmaceutical anti-counterfeiting, and other applications where large volumes of tags are required. The EPCglobal Gen2/ISO 18000-6C standard is a well-known global standard for item-level tracking applications.

RFID UHF Tag (Transponder)

An RFID tag is the most important link in any RFID system. It has the ability to store information relating to the specific item to which they are attached, rewrite again without any requirement for contact or line of sight. Data within a tag may provide identification for an item, proof of ownership, original storage location, loan status and history.

RFID Tag consists of an integrated circuit and an antenna combined to form a transponder. RFID tags collect the energy to operate from a Radio Frequency (RF) field emitted by a reader device; therefore they do not need a battery. When energized by a radio signal from a fixed position reader or handheld scanner, the tag returns the stored information in order that the item to which it is attached can be easily located.

The chip also has a “multi-read” function, which means that several tags can be read at once.

RFID tags have been specifically designed to be affixed into library media, including books, CDs, DVDs and tapes.

Integrated Circuit (IC): NXP U-Code G2iM

Standard: ISO 18000-6C

Memory: 256 bit EPC, 512 bit User Memory

Operating frequency: 860-960 MHz (UHF)

It is thin, flexible and thus can be laminated between papers. With special method to attach to books, patron is totally unaware that the tag is there.

No line of sight needed
Allows to check-out and check-in several items simultaneously
Information directly attached to product
Performing both identification and anti-theft in one single operation
Different shape and sizes available
Able to tag almost anything
Accelerate scanning and identifying

IT Asset Tracking

IT asset tracking has always represented a challenging task for companies faced with the high costs of equipment and maintenance. CIOs and IT Managers are under increased pressure for visibility of the growing pool of valuable mobile tools critical to their business processes. Strong IT asset tracking systems prevent losses, increase tool utilization, and protect company confidentiality. AB&R has been working with RFID and IT Asset tracking  solutions providing proven solutions for many years and we were ready when a major American defense contractor came to us for a solution to track their inspection equipment using RFID.

The enterprise RFID asset tracking solution provides a sophisticated authentication and authorization mechanism based on employee roles, locations and asset types. The secure asset tracking solution appliances are deployed at single or multiple geographic locations to present a unique view of the company’s global IT asset pools through the network.  New IT asset types with specific attributes are created through a flexible asset configurator to provide a highly customizable way to track and report on asset usage.

The IT asset tracking application network solution is unique in its ability to bring real-time tracking to corporate assets using RFID, Wi-Fi or traditional barcode technologies. Our IT asset tracking solution can be rapidly deployed in a single location to demonstrate, control and measure your return on assets.