RFID: A Solution for Managing Mobile Devices
Businesses can no longer afford to buy new devices just because the existing supply is lost or misplaced. As a solution, radio-frequency identification (RFID) offers a viable way to manage mobile devices for virtually any business. RFID uses radio waves to identify, authenticate, track, and trace mobile devices. The technology can also gather and store information about individual devices and their environment.
Althought still a relatively recent introduction to most industries, RFID is ranked as the 10th most innovative technology of the past 25 years. The technology has even begun to mature in industries such as retail, manufacturing, transportation, and other sectors with successful implementations that prove a realistic understanding of its capabilities. In fact, the market for RFID tags is expected to exceed 2 Billion dollars in 2018, a substantial increase from just 120.0 million a decade earlier.
How RFID Works
RFID has two main components: a tag and a reader. There are two types of RFID tags: passive and active. Passive tags have no internal battery and therefore require power from the reader to initiate signal transmission. Passive tags are used across many industries for security and asset management, allowing inventory systems to automatically sense when an item is being taken or
Active tags (Figure 3) contain a long-life battery power source, allowing a radiofrequency signal to be actively transmitted at regular intervals. Depending on the type of tag, a network of WiFi access points or proprietary readers receive the signals, usually transmitted from a distance of tens of metres. The regular signal transmission provides up to date data, including the date, time and location where the equipment was last seen, as well as the battery status.
Proprietary readers detect the radio-frequency signals transmitted by active tags. They comprise both fixed point readers and handheld personal digital assistants (PDAs) fitted with a compatible reader and software. Fixed point readers detect tagged devices as they pass through a fixed point, such as a doorway. In contrast, PDAs are mobile and allow users to detect tagged
devices as they move through the facility. Once the PDA has collected the data, users can transfer it to the main database. This can be done either via the wireless network if it is in range or alternatively the PDA can use a USB connection to dock with a local PC workstation.
As well as tags and readers, RFID systems also include a database and software for processing the data. The software is typically integrated with other equipment management software for truly efficient and effective device management. Using RFID, devices can be uniquely identified and located in a quick and efficient manner. Authorized users can perform ad hoc equipment searches and run reports from any local PC using the main database and a web-based application.