Tagged World - Fantasy Or Reality? Trace 'U' Can


By

Ms. R. Seranmadevi
Lecturer
Department of MBA
CMS College Of Engineering
Namakkal

Dr. M. G.Saravanaraj
Professor / Head
Department of MBA
Muthayammal Engineering College
Rasipuram
 


Abstract

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a term that describes a system which is used to tracks objects, where the identity (unique serial number) and data of the object is transmitted wirelessly using radio waves. Data is stored on an electronic data-carrying device (tag), which is generally attached to the object being tracked. The power supply to the tag and the data exchange between the tag and the reader are achieved without having any physical contacts with the reader devices, rather using alternating magnetic or electromagnetic fields for the same. RFID implementation will depend on the cost of change to the new technology as well as the benefits accruing from exploiting some of the possibilities that the technology brings. Several issues should be considered for successful RFID implementation. Level of tagging has a greater influence on total RFID related costs.

Introduction

RFID is the first important technology of the twenty-first century. That's an awesome responsibility.

RFID, Radio Frequency Identification is a technology, which includes wireless data capture and transaction processing. Proximity (short range) and Vicinity (long range) are two major application areas where RFID technology is used. Track and trace applications are long range or vicinity applications. This technology provides additional functionality and benefits for product authentication. Access control applications are Short range or proximity type of applications.

RFID System Background

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a term that describes a system which is used to tracks objects, where the identity (unique serial number) and data of the object is transmitted wirelessly using radio waves. Data is stored on an electronic data-carrying device (tag), which is generally attached to the object being tracked.

The power supply to the tag and the data exchange between the tag and the reader are achieved without having any physical contacts with the reader devices, rather using alternating magnetic or electromagnetic fields for the same.

Components of an RFID System

The various components that comprise an RFID system are RFID hardware comprising of RFID tags and RFID reader; a data processing interface software called RFID middleware; and software applications.

* RFID Tag -  The Transponder

An RFID tag is composed of an antenna, memory, an encapsulating material and optionally a small processing unit. These tags can be categorized on the basis of many characteristics. One of the characteristics is the way in which tags are packaged. They may be housed in PVC buttons, glass vials, paper labels, or plastic cards.

The tags can be either active or passive. While the active tags have an on-chip power source, passive tags use the power induced by the magnetic field of the RFID reader.

There is a third type of tag, called semi- active tag, which powers its own communications and may even be capable of communicating directly with other tags without a reader. The passive tags are cheaper but have lower range (< 10 meters), as compared to the active tags.


                                              
Figure 1: RFID System Components

Tags come with varying amounts of storage capacities. The storage capacity of tags ranges from the 1-bit - used for theft prevention, to a few kilobytes, used in short range access control management systems. The tag memory can be either read-only, write-once or rewritable.

The read-only tag memory is set to a particular value at the manufacturing time. On the other hand, the value can be set once in a write-once tag memory.

After setting the value, these tags act like read-only tags. Write-once types of tags are generally used to track the objects which have to travel across multiple organizations and the tag information needs to remain the same.

The tags with rewritable memory are used in the applications where the tag data needs to be altered during the course of its usage. These types of tags can be reused with different objects. However, these types of tags are the costlier ones as compared to the other two.

* RFID Reader - The Interrogator

RFID readers, also called interrogators, are used to recognize the presence of RFID tags in the range and communicate with it. This communication is done by transmitting and receiving RF energy. An antenna of a nearby tag picks up this energy, and then converts it into electrical energy via induction. This electrical energy powers the semiconductor chip attached to the tag antenna that stores the tag's identity and other data. In order to communicate with the tags, an RFID reader needs to have one or more antennae. Some readers have only one antenna, while other readers are able to support many antennae which can be placed at different locations. The limitation on the number of antennae, a reader can control, is the signal loss on the cable connecting the transmitter and receiver in the reader to the antennae. Some readers use different antennae to transmit and receive, whereas others transmit and receive the RF waves using the same antenna. Readers communicate with the network and other devices through a variety of interfaces.

The RFID readers are usually capable of reading multiple tags simultaneously in the range. The readers have different read ranges depending upon the operating frequency and power level. The read range varies from a few centimeters to few meters. Some readers also have memory buyers to hold the data read from various tags seen. This facility of buyers allows retrieving the tag identification data even when the connection with the network is lost. Some readers do not have such in-built buyers. They just read the data and put it on its interface for the requesting party to receive.

* RFID Software Applications

Applications are the software components of the system. These applications require the data to be collected from the RFID hardware and middleware. The applications then apply various business rules on this data to extract information. The business rules vary in complexity depending upon the application's requirement.

The applications interface with the readers using the proprietary APIs provided by the reader manufacturer. There has not been any standardization on the reader API front, making it necessary for the application developer to know about the various reader APIs available and to change the application code in order to make the application use the services of other type of reader.

Each of the connected readers keeps reading all tags in the read range. This can result in thousands of RFID read observations per second including the RFID tags being read multiple numbers of times. In addition to the sheer volume of data, the raw observations need further processing to be meaningful for the enterprise applications.

                                           Figure2 Components of RFID Middleware


* RFID Middleware

An application when interfaced directly with the RFID reader has to process humongous amount of data. Such applications also have to take care of different connection-interface used by the reader. Handling these different interfaces becomes a huge task as interfaces require different APIs to program.

In order to make applications independent of various types of readers and their connection interfaces, there is a need of an intermediate layer between the RFID reader and the application. This requirement is fulfilled by a software unit (layer) called the RFID middleware. The middleware provides the following facilities.

* A device characteristic independent interface to the application.
* Processing of the raw data and reporting only the aggregated and meaningful data as configured by the application.
* Providing an application-level interface for managing readers and querying RFID observations.

The RFID middleware incorporates several components as described here.

* Reader Interface

The applications can interface with readers connected to the system by making use of the various APIs provided by the reader. This however needs huge amount of efforts of application porting. The reader interface component of the middleware provides the means to eliminate this effort by exposing a single abstract interface to the applications.

* Event Management

A typical RFID-enabled environment has several readers employed for identifying the tags to track objects. Each of these readers transmits RF signals several times a second in order to read the RFID tags around them. This can result in thousands of RFID tags being read per second.

Exposing raw observations from the readers to applications will require enormous processing at the applications end. In addition to the sheer volume of data, the raw observations need further processing to aggregate data and present only the meaningful data to the enterprise applications.

As the RFID technology is still not immune to data losses, it is possible that in some cycle a tag is identified whereas in other cycles, it may not be identified. With raw processing at the applications, the application will have to continuously adjust to the fluctuating observations coming from the readers.

The raw observations from RFID readers therefore lack the meaningfulness for the applications. More processing needs to be done to map these raw observations to coarser events that are meaningful to applications. A middleware helps by consolidating, aggregating, and filtering the raw observations coming from readers and sensors and provides application-level context. The process of smoothing out the raw RFID observations coming from readers to make them more meaningful for enterprise applications is called event filtering.

* Application Interface

The applications require a service-oriented interface that provides application-level semantics to the collection of RFID data. Following the principles of service-oriented architecture, this interface has to be loosely coupled and asynchronous.

* Printers for RFID labels

An RFID label printer can encode RFID tags, print barcodes, and/or create human readable text all in one process. An RFID label is an RFID tag and printable label such as bar code label applied to a case of product combined into one. There are distinct advantages to RFID tags:  a human can determine the contents of a labeled box without an RFIS reader. And the label can work with applications that use the older barcode technology.

An RFID label is a sticker with an RFID tag inlay sandwiched into it. It is composed of several layers. It has all the concerns and requirements of all RFID tags: class types, frequency range, RF readability, etc. they also have all the quality considerations of optical labels, such as printability, adhesion, robustness and longevity. These concerns come together both in label selection and label placement.

* Label Placement

Placement of the tag on a package involves the considerations of RFID tags and readability by human and machines. Whereas RFID tags may be imbedded inside an item, visually readable labels must be within line-of-sight of the reader. In many instances, placing an RFID tag where it will present itself parallel to an antenna will also present the label toward a barcode reader.

* Encoding

The process of encoding a tag inlay inside an RFID label is the same as encoding other RFID tags. Most interrogators used for reading tags may also be configured to program. In order to make sure that every tag is unique, an interrogator can only program one tag at a time. To make sure that only one tag is addressed during a write cycle, it is important only one tag is in the interrogation zone.

Printers can be set up to apply labels as part of an assembly or packaging line, or used in a manual "slap and ship" process. In an automated process, the printer will interface with the inventory management software to acquire the data to encode on each inlay and report back what serial numbers have been assigned. In a manual process, the operator might use a barcode reader to acquire data from an existing barcode label. This information is communicated to the printer and then programmed into the RFID label. The printer serializes the tag and prints the encoded information in barcode and/or human readable form on to the label. Finally, the operator places the label on the item.

* RFID – Standards

In the RFID industry, the absence of a global organization to govern RFID regulations has been problematic and has prompted a number of countries to establish their own regulations. In response to this situation and in an attempt to ensure broadly recognized standardizations, a handful of institutions have established RFID regulations to make RFID systems secure and safe. Additionally standard can benefit companies by prompting technological advancement, reducing costs, easing implementation, and improving quality and confidence in RFID technology.

* International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

The ISO attempts to establish standards for RFID by the consensus of manufacturers, users, consumer groups, research laboratories, governments, engineering professionals, and academic organizations. It is a global organization, and all member countries agree to follow its standards, No local ordinances should contradict ISO standard.

In agricultural electronics the ISO standards detail the identification of animals with RFID. It primarily specifies the structure of RFID coding used with animal identification systems. It covers the transmission protocols between transponder and receiver.

Benefits of RFID system

Use of RFID has the following advantages over the human readable or barcode solutions:

* Increased load processing efficiency by 60%
* Improved equipment utilization by 30%
* Reduced harvest head count by 30%
* Reduced human error
* Reduced manual entry
* No concern of visual identification wearing off or being obscured
* Improved information management

The increased efficiency of data collection has benefits in the rest of the processing operation. Furthermore, use of RFID system allows asset tracking of the company itself.

* RFID Applications

There is an infinite number of RFID applications like File Tracking system, Postal article tracking system, Smart Cards, Supply Chain Management, etc.,

* Electronic File Tracking system

In most offices, paper/plastic files and folders are used to keep records and to communicate among various departments. For example, consider an office scenario having various departments spanning over same or different locations. In order to communicate information from one department to another, or within the same department, files are used to organize the information. The files are then carried between the departments by a person, a courier or mail service. When carried by a person, a log book is used to record the arrival or dispatch of files through various departments. The entry in the log book is made by the concerned person receiving the file. This process of manual entry into the log book is an error prone and cumbersome procedure. It may happen at times; that the person fails to carry the log book or an entry is missed from being recorded due to the temporary unavailability of the concerned person. The tracking of files in such cases becomes difficult, as file entries in the log book have been unintentionally missed.

Efforts to automate this process using barcodes have not been very effective. The primary reason for this is the involvement of a manual process of making an entry of the file using the barcode scanner. The only advantage of such a system is that the data for tracking is available and consolidated at a central database which can be queried electronically.

* File Tracking using RFID

RFID systems', having the ability of automatic identification, has the potential to improve upon the current file tracking by reducing the manual errors of the current system. It also consolidates the RFID data acquired at various tracking points at a central database to facilitate the querying of tracking information about a file. We have developed an RFID based electronic file tracking system and used it in our experimentation. This system uses Smart RF as the middleware and the tracking logic is specified using our application framework. The event logic specified through the framework is stored as regular expressions in a database. This is then used by the application to figure out the occurrence of events.

RFID tags are first enclosed in a plastic package before they are placed on the file surface, uniquely identifying each file. The plastic packaging serves two purposes. Firstly, it provides protection against physical wear and tear, secondly, it provides some air-gap between the tag and the file surface facilitating better inductive coupling. Reader antennae are placed at each of the tracking locations to track the file movement. In our implementations, the reader and antennae are placed at the entrance and exit doors of the department. The configuration of the hardware and software varies depending upon the number of entrances for a particular location. In places with a single entrance, a reader is used with four antennae. The single entrance acts as both entry and exit point for the department. In places where the entrance and exits are different, even two antennae are sufficient depending upon the width of the entrance and exit channel.

The antenna placement and orientations are such that, two antennae always read a tag earlier than the other two during entry or exit of the file. Smart RF is configured such that the two antennae which read the tags earlier form one channel and the other two antennae formed the other channel.

* Postal Article Tracking

The Department of Post is an organization under the Ministry of Communication and Technology, India. One of the postal services called the Speed Post, links more than 1200 towns in India. The numbers of articles using this postal service are more than 10 million monthly. An article to be sent is first collected at the local post office. The local post offices act as the customer-end interface for small regions in the town. The articles collected at these local post offices are then carried over to a mail sorting office of the town. In the mail sorting office, all articles for a specific destination are put into a single bag. A packing list is maintained for each bag. A paper tag specifying the destination is attached to this bag.

Hereon these paper tags are used to identify the bags. The bags from the mail sorting office are then carried over to the mail transit office where they are dispatched to their respective destinations. The reverse process is carried out at the destination mail transit office.

We have developed an RFID based system to track the movement of these bags. Every bag which is created at the mail sorting office is RFID tagged with the following information bag-ID, source town, destination town, date and time of creation of the bag. Information about the articles (article-ID) contained in the bag is stored at a central location at the time of packing list creation. We decided to introduce the RFID tracking points at the mail sorting offices and mail transit points. These are the places, where all bags are aggregated / segregated according to the destination. The RFID readers are placed at these tracking points. At the mail sorting offices, the reader antennae are placed at the entry and exit. This helps to track the incoming and outgoing bags. Mobile RFID readers are used at the mail transit offices for the reasons of flexibility. These mobile readers read the bags coming in or going out of the mail transit office.

The applications at each of these locations are connected to the central database to which all the tag reads are updated periodically. The end user is provided with a web based interface to query the article. The query uses the article-bag mapping and the RFID log at central database and displays the route history of the article.

The RFID based systems are excellent options for deployment in enterprise applications for automatic tracking and identification purposes. However, the development of these systems is not a simple process and requires enormous processing of data from the RFID hardware devices in addition to the implementation of business logic. There are lots of hardware related parameters to be configured and there are hardware related intricacies involved in interfacing with the RFID hardware. A software layer is, therefore, needed between the enterprise applications and the RFID hardware. This layer, known as the RFID middleware, makes the interfacing of applications with the RFID devices easier.

Even with this layer there is good amount of processing related to the sequencing of events to implement business logic. The application framework developed as part of this work accomplishes these requirements. The framework provides the data to applications in form of a sequence of bytes. The advantage of providing data in byte sequence permits the framework to be generic. It can be used with any kind of application and with any data exchange protocol (EPCIS, etc). The applications developed by us with our application framework gave an insight into the physical aspects in deploying the RFID based systems. The most disturbing factors are the inability of the readers to detect tags reliably everywhere and any time. The effect of human presence and the presence of metallic objects in the vicinity are other aspects.

Most of the time the tags were not detected when they were stacked one over the other. This restricts the number of bags and files which can be passed through RFID gates in one go. The human beings also absorb RF energy limiting the illumination of tags held close to the body. This puts additional restrictions on the way the files/bags can be moved across the RFID gates. We carried out experiments on staggering the tags on the physical placement to avoid stacking of these tags even when the files are stacked one on top of other. This resulted in higher reliability and better success rates.

The usage of regular expression to identify the occurrence of events helps in easier specifications and implementation of various complex business rules. It also resulted in error recovery in case some tags were not read. The application framework can be used to develop any different types of applications with varying requirements in several different business environments. These applications can range from simple access management to complex warehouse management. The ease of use of this application framework helps easy development and deployment of applications.

* RFID in Supply Chain

Many of ISO's decisions outline standards for the use of RFID in the supply chain, including vendor, intermediary, and end-user specifications. ISO standards regulate RFID in supply chain; it defines supply chain application for transportations units, primarily freight containers. It governs returnable transport items in the supply chain. It further defines how products are packaged and tagged. The ISO standard cover the different types of logistics containers and packaging used with RFID.

* Smart cards

In Europe and Asia, one of the most popular RFID applications is Smart cards with the help of RFID tags. To the user, these tags look and feel like any other credit card. But the RFID IC and antenna, which are encased in the plastic, are read much faster than the magnetic strip on a traditional credit card, and a user does not need to remove the card from his or her purse or wallet for it to be scanned.

A popular application for smart cards is public transportation. Some systems work like a debit card, where the card is charged and only the amount left on the card and an account number is stored on the card. Others store a history of the recent trips charged to the account. All systems required an interface between the interrogators at points of entry and departure from the transit system and a central computer network that keeps track of the fares.

The primary benefit to smart card users is the speed at which they can negotiate the transit system. Rather than feeding a magnetic stripe card through a reader and pulling it out again when a gate opens, a user can leave a card in their purse, for instance, and simply pass the purse over the antenna. The data transfer is so fast that the user does not need to pause for the gate – they just walk or drive right through. The smart card can be up to five times faster than a conventional magnetic strip card.

An RFID system also has benefits to the transit authority. RFID interrogators have no moving parts, unlike the magnetic stripe readers they replace. This means fewer maintenance expenses. Additionally, unlike paper cards that have a lifespan of only a few weeks, Smart cards are designed to last about ten years.

Currently, the market for Smart Cards in public transit is for daily commuters, who are willing to pay a small fee to purchase a Smart Card and use it for years. Until the costs of disposable, one –use cards type's decrease, most transit company's will continue using magnetic stripe cards with Smart Card technology.

In ISO standardization it specifies the rules for contract-less integrated circuit cards, including physical characteristics, etc.

* Asset Tracking

Static or in-motion assets tracking or locating, like a healthcare facility, wheelchairs or IV pumps in, laptops in a corporation and servers in a data center, was not so easy task.

User can instantly determine the general location of tagged assets anywhere within the facility with the help of active RFID technology. Control point detection zones at strategic locations throughout the facility allow the user to define logical zones and monitor high traffic areas. Tagged assets moving through these control points provide instant location data.

Asset tracking applications will see an almost vertical growth curve in the coming years and the growth rate in this area will be much higher than the growth rate of general RFID market.

RFID can be a viable method of tracking expensive assets. As the value of an individual asset increases, return on the investment for an RFID system also increases.

A passive tag was attached under each piece of furniture. The tag is read-write, and stores two kilobytes of data. For this application, information stores in the tag's memory includes

* Asset information (ID, Description, Manufacturer, etc)
* Warranty information (in-service date and warranty expiration date)
* User characteristics
* Maintenance history (modification or repairs)

A PDA equipped with a portable RFID interrogator and antenna is used to read the tags and temporarily store information. Software on the PDA allows it to interface with the attached interrogator. The antenna must pass within a few inches of the passive tag to read it, so a human must go into the room to scan the furniture. This should help with privacy concerns sometimes associated with RFID installations in public places.

* Receiving Conveyor system

A common application inside a warehouse is a conveyor to move and sort packages. Using RFID to identify packages is an obvious solution. Here, a RF cage contains four antennae all controlled by the same interrogator. The antennae on top, sides, and bottom of the cage, tags on any side of box can be read. Tags that present themselves on the front or back of the box are read as the box is entering or leaving the cage.

In this application, the sorting arm is used to push some packages onto a separate conveyor, or let the boxes continue on down the same line. In order to make this determination, the tag information from the interrogator must be passed to middleware that requires a customer data base. Information from the data base is then used by the PLC to determine which path the box should follow. The entire process to have a box into the zone, read the tag, query the data base, make a decision, and move the box to the proper conveyor must be done without any pause in the line.

* Inventory Management

I magine a store in which you just walk in and pick up the required items from shelves and just walk out. No waiting in long queues for billing or no wastage of time and effort. Tracking of items, pricing, total billing would be done automatically and total bill amount would be deducted from customer's credit card account. This could be a reality with RFID enabled stores.

RFID systems collect accurate and real-time data and communicate it via radio waves. A typical RFID system has three components, tags, reader and RF unit. The RF reader sends out RF waves that are received by the RF tag within the reader's range. The tag in turn, sends information back to the reader, also in the form of RF waves. Then the RF reader transfers this information to RF unit.

RFID technology finds its applications in various commercial sectors for example, at various stages of a supply chain, inventory management in a warehouse, access control for buildings, tracking passenger baggage in the airline industry, animal tracking. RFID holds great potential for inventory management for today's supply chains. Inventory management is an important aspect of supply chain management.

* Inventory Control and RFID Technology

Effective inventory management depends upon consolidating, integrating, and analyzing data collected from many sources such as, distribution centers and warehouses. Conventional tracking systems require manual intervention, which is labor intensive, time consuming, and error-prone. On the other hand, the use of RFID technology has significant advantages over the conventional methods; these are discussed below:

* Inventory monitoring and asset visibility – Smart Shelves:

In a replenishment-based system, whenever the total inventory at a warehouse or distribution center drops below a certain level, the RFID enabled system could place an automatic order. RFID-tagged products will allow stores to track the location and count of inventories in real time. This will better monitor demand for certain products and place orders to prevent an out-of-stock situation. The high levels of inventory monitoring obtained using RFID can particularly benefit FMCG industries.

* PoS Data

On the retailing side, RFID technology at the point-of-sale (PoS) can be used to monitor demand trends or to build a probabilistic pattern of demand. This application could be useful for apparel industry or products exhibiting high levels of dynamism in trends.

Exaggeration of demand in upward direction in a supply chain network is termed as Bullwhip effect. Due to tracking limitations of conventional systems it may not be possible to get accurate information on actual sales of items; that will amplify the magnitude of the bullwhip effect. If RFID systems are used for information collection, accurate and real time information on product sale can be captured and used for decision making. This will definitely help to reduce overall bullwhip effect. Reducing bullwhip effect would benefit industries where instances of supply-demand imbalances have high costs attached to it


                                                
Figure 3 RFID for Inventory control

* Lead-time Reduction

Conventional systems limit tracking of items while being transported. RFID Systems gives a total visibility of product movement in the supply chain. This may help to make early decisions about inventory control in case there is any interruption in the supply. It partially or completely eliminates time and effort required for counting while loading/unloading the items. This results into reduction of total lead-time for arrival of an order. Pharmaceutical industry, perishable product industry could use RFID systems for reducing lead-times that will help to increase total useful shelf life of items.

* Improves sort/pick rate:

In a warehouse, sorting/picking activity is more time consuming and subjected to errors. For example, for issuing of items from a store, a person has to find out whether the item is available in store or not by physically moving to the location. Items issued should be kept in a particular position (bar-code upward) in a pallet for scanning/billing purposes. RFID systems ease the sorting and picking operations, as it captures real-time, accurate information about product availability in host computer database without physical movement. RFID tags are read via radio frequencies therefore it is not mandatory to place the items in a particular position to read it. This could be helpful for effective warehouse management.

* Reduced inventory shrinkage:

As items are continuously monitored, Inventory shrinkages including thefts, misplacement of items can be avoided using RFID technology.

* Perishable inventory control:

A perishable product has limited useful life and if it is not handled properly while transporting, it may get spoiled and its useful life reduces. If this reduced life information of items is not updated, then it may be possible that an outdated item gets delivered to a customer. In such a case, there may be an additional cost of replacement of item and also loss of goodwill of customer. Such spoilage could be reduced simultaneously with automating inventory management, by using RFID technology for product identification, while it moves through the supply chain. RFID system can track the items in real time without product movement, scanning or human involvement. Using active RFID tags it can be possible to update information on it dynamically.

* Issuing policies:

(FIFO/LIFO): RFID systems give exact count and location of items. This will help to follow a certain issuing policies for items as per the requirements. E.g.: First-in-first-out (FIFO) policy for items such as, vegetables, bread; or last-in-first-out (LIFO) for blood banks.

Using RFID technology for data collection and some appropriate inventory algorithms for replenishment decisions, many warehousing processes can be automated such as, receiving, picking, and ordering. Various enterprise applications, for example ERP packages, can be configured and linked to RFID technology for direct and on-line collection of data. It could be possible to combine RFID and Bar coding technology for tracking of items to take competitive advantages of both the technologies.

* RFID Implementation Criteria:

RFID implementation will depend on the cost of change to the new technology as well as the benefits accruing from exploiting some of the possibilities that the technology brings. Several issues should be considered for successful RFID implementation. Level of tagging has a greater influence on total RFID related costs.

Tags can be applied at item level, case level or pallet level. Denser the level of tagging more would be information gathered and higher would the associated costs. However, for all type of applications it is not the scenario where denser the level of tagging higher would be the benefits attained.
  It is important to select appropriate level of tagging for a particular type of application. Tags can be applied at pallet level for less valued items; for example, auto spares parts, FMCG items. Case level tagging would be appropriate for perishable items in which expiry date for all items in a case is same. Pallet and case level tagging would be useful for warehouse management. The tags could be applied to individual items for tracking of high valued items, for example, gold ornaments, baggage tracking.

* Current Scenario:

Current market situation for RFID business is in developing phase. Most of the companies are implementing RFID on a trial basis to a small sector of their business, i.e. warehouse, or distribution center.

Some of the market leaders those who have already implemented RFID technology are; in retail sector, DHL, McDonald's, Texas Instruments, Tesco; in automotive sector BMW, DaimlerChrysler AG, Goodyear; i n manufacturing industry Boeing, Hyundai, Toyota; in airline industry McCarran International Airport, US, Virgin Atlantic Airways.

* People Tracking:

People tracking system are used just as asset tracking system. Hospitals and jails are most general tracking required places.

Hospital uses RFID tags for tracking their special patients. In emergency patient and other essential equipment can easily track. It will be mainly very useful in mental care hospitals where doctors can track each and every activity of the patient. Hospitals also use these RFID tags for locating and tracking all the activities of the newly born babies.

The best use of the people tracking system will be in jails. It becomes an easy tracking system to track their inmates. Many jails of different US states like Michigan, California, and Arizona are already using RFID-tracking systems to keep a close eye on jail inmates.

* Document tracking:

This is most common problem. Availability of large amount of data and documents brings lots of problem in document management system. An RFID document-tracking system saves time and money by substantially reducing:

* Time spent searching for lost document
* The financial and legal impact associated with losing documents.

* Government Library:

Many government libraries use barcode and electromagnetic strips to track various assets. RFID technology uses for reading these barcodes unlike the self-barcode reader RFID powered barcode reader can read multiple items simultaneously. This reduces queues and increases the number of customers using self-check, which in turn will reduce the staff necessary at the circulation desks.

* Healthcare:

Patient safety is a big challenge of healthcare vertical. Reducing medication errors, meeting new standards, staff shortages, and reducing costs are the plus points of use of RFID solutions. RFID wristbands containing patient records and medication history address several of these concerns

* Manufacturing & Aerospace:

RFID technology provides an easy way to manage a huge and laborious manufacturing process. It offers all the benefits of small production parts to batch, processes and manufacturing. This type of process helps in better analysis, reduce and eliminate bottlenecks, reduced time in locating parts and products and production process based sensors can be installed to alert any anomalies. Aerospace industry and Department of Defense have a lot to gain from RFID integration into their production and process lines. Boeing and airbus, according to the direction of US Federal Aviation Administration, make it mandatory to put an appropriate tracking mechanism to track the aircraft parts.

Future of RFID in India

The miniaturization of industry-tailored RFID rags will enhance its image as being a non-intrusive digital technology of immense use to various facets of life.

The mass acceptance of any technology, as is well known, depends on its design. Alongside miniaturization, work is underway to create an "intentionally fragile" version of RFID tags. As far as RFID is concerned, fragility could actually fuel its demand across a range of sectors, including healthcare.

* Patient Tracking System

Imagine visiting a hospital only to be asked to swallow a radio tag for diagnostic purposes, and then sit near a radio source and receiver for your gastroenterologist to determine why you experience stomach pains! Another application envisaged for such radio is to embed one in an artificial joint or knee or hip so that its disintegration literally 'signals' for revision surgery.

In the realm of patient tracking, technologies believe that attached miniature tags to pills would help assure nurses that their patients have indeed, ingested the medicine.

As RFID tags develop still further, these miniature versions could also be incorporated with sensors, so as to be sensitive to the physical environment they are unleashed in.

When the fragile tag is embedded in the human body either surgically or by jabbing, these tags could function until blood pressure falls or temperature rises beyond a stipulated limit. The tags' destruction would thus even remotely indicate the metabolic state of its recipient.

The ultimate bio-reactive fragile tag would respond to both mechanical and chemical changes by permitting the growth of a certain mould, fungus, bacteria or virus on its specially designed casing or substrate.

Indian Condition

Most typical applications are like RFID in retail sector for inventory, supply chain management, in manufacturing for warehouse, inventory and work-in-progress management, automating libraries, tracking and managing documents or enterprise assets such as laptops.

RFID in Indian Retail Sector

"But India even made the most of the typical applications of RFID? The answer from Mr. Ravi Mathur, CEO of GSI India, "Worldwide, one of the key drivers of RFID has been the retail sector. In India, however, since organized retail has been fairly weak or significantly absent until very recently, RFID adoption has not picked up steam significantly beyond a few pilots"

Mathur also opines that "Retailers in India still do not understand the value of visibility and real-time information on their products across the supply-chain, and its impact on critical business processes which impact the top lines and bottom lines significantly".

RFID in Indian Pharmaceutical Sector:

Another industry vertical that has adopted RFID to good measure internationally is the pharmaceutical sector. This has happened due to wide incidence of counterfeit or spurious medicines worldwide, because of which stringent e-pedigree laws have been brought out in US, etc., again, although there is a pressing need for interventions that will help get a hold on the sale of counterfeit medicines in India, the Indian pharma sector has not picked up on RFID adoption to address this problem as yet.

Criteria for adoption of RFID in India:

Orizin Technologies' VP – Business Development & Sales, Mr. Sunil Kumar, also seconds the contention that unlike the Western countries, India has yet to reap the benefits of this technology.

According to him, "Companies and vendors need to paint a realistic picture and educate the market on the business value this technology offers vis-a-vis its cost of deployment. People are concerned about the total project cost compared to its nearest alternative – bar codes. Limited knowledge, and a few unsuccessful projects owing to ongoing EPC (Electronic Product Code) standard developments, also caused applications in the market with regard to this technology's potential."

Deshmukh believes that although "… RFID is a fascinating technology, when it comes to real life implementations; it requires a huge amount of backend automation and integration to set up and to achieve near 100 per cent efficiency."

Another possible variation in RFID technology is the creation of rewritable tags. Kumar Elucidates, "Most tags available in markets have two kinds of memories – static and variable. We need static memory to map the tag to physical product information like pricing. This can be done many times in the lifetime of the tag. Variable memory is required to store information that keeps changing. This is also required at times."

According to Mathur a possible application involving rewritable RFID tags with temperature sensors could track the movement of perishable edibles that need to be stored at a certain temperature across the supply chain. By constantly transferring information to the tag, the sensor would help pinpoint, if required, the exact location in the supply chain where product spoilage occurred due to the cold chain being compromised.

Conclusion:

From the looks of it, we are just a few steps away from being tagged, to become mere links in a Great Chain of Digital Being! Well perhaps that is an exaggerated statement, but even so, it is evident that information technologies such as RFID will contribute to plug more objects live and animate into our rapidly expanding digital world.

References:

1. Dharminder Kumar  & Sangeeth Gupta "Management Information Systems", 1st Edition, Excel Books, 2008,pp.109,155.

2. Electronics for you, June 2009 vol.41 No.6 issue – "Radio Implemented in Software", pg111.

3. George Reynolds & Ralph Stairs "Principles of Information Systems", Cenage Learning, 1st Edition, 2008, pp.371-403.

4. Glynn C.William (2009), ERP Implementation – Implementing ERP Sales & Distributions, PHI, New Delhi.

5. Information Technology, November 2007 Vol. 17 No.01 Issue – "The Future of RFID", pg86

6. James O' Brien & George M.Marakas  " Management Information Systems", TMH, 7th Edition, 2007 Enterprise Resource Planning-The Business Backbone – pp.253-259.

7. Kenneth C.Laudon & Jane P.Laudon "Management Information Systems", Prentice Hall of India Publications Limited, 8th Edition,pp. 363.

8. PC Quest, April 2009 issue –"RFID - Powering Next-gen factories", pg 21

9. Elaine M.Cooney "RFID + The Complete Review of Radio Frequency Identification" Ist edition published by Thomson Learning, 2007.

10. Waman S.Jawadekar "Management Information Systems", TMH, 3rd Edition, 2009, Enterprise Management Systems, pp. 473-503
 


Ms. R. Seranmadevi
Lecturer
Department of MBA
CMS College Of Engineering
Namakkal

Dr. M. G.Saravanaraj
Professor / Head
Department of MBA
Muthayammal Engineering College
Rasipuram
 

Source: E-mail April 20, 2010

          

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