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Complete Guide to Passive RFID Tracking

This guide will focus on the diverse topic of passive RFID tracking. Topics covered include selecting RFID Tags, choosing RFID readers and printers, RFID software, as well as common application workflows.

Passive RFID Tracking Systems

Passive RFID tracking systems consist of a combination of various hardware and software choices.

  • RFID Tags - These are the tags that are being attached to the assets you wish to track.

  • RFID Printers - For printing onto RFID Tags

  • RFID Readers - For reading the RFID Tags

  • RFID Software - The software system that drives all of the hardware

RFID Tags

Passive RFID Tags are attached to assets that need to be tracked. Passive RFID Tags don't have batteries. Instead they need to be powered by an external RFID Reader.

Review of RFID Tags, RFID Labels, RFID Inlays

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Every RFID tag has at least 3 components:

  • RFID Antenna - The antenna absorbs RF which is used to power the tag.

  • RFID Chip - The chip is the brains of the RFID Tag and is used to facilitate data processing

  • RFID Substrate - This is the material that the antenna and chip and placed onto.

RFID Tags can be packaged in 3 different ways

RFID Inlay

RFID Inlay only has the RFID antenna, chip and substrate. There is no paper label or plastic encasement.

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RFID Inlay Example

RFID Label

Wrapping a label around the inlay creates an RFID Label. RFID Labels can be combined with an RFID Printer to simultaneously print human readable information as well as encode the RFID tag.

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RFID Label Example

RFID Tag

Wrapping a protective encasement around the RFID Inlay transforms it into an RFID tag. RFID Tags can be designed to be highly ruggedized, capable of withstanding many harsh environments.

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An RFID Tag For Every Environment

There are hundreds of variations for RFID Tags, each with slightly different performance characteristics. Choosing the right RFID Tag can mean the difference between success and failure of your RFID Tracking project. Here are a few RFID Tag characteristics you should look for:

  • Size - A good rule of thumb is the smaller the tag, the smaller the read range. 

  • Metal vs Non-Metal - Some tags work well on metal surfaces. Some tags will stop working if applied to metal surfaces.

Learn more about the tag selection process

RFID Printers

Remember that RFID Labels are paper labels that encapsulate the RFID Inlay. RFID Printers are designed to print human readable information on these labels as well as the capability of programming the RFID tag. RFID Printers aren't always required for an RFID Tracking project. Pre-commissioned RFID Tags can be ordered, ready to use. RFID Printers do provide a level of flexibility to your environment.

RFID printers come in three primary formats

  • Mobile RFID Printers - These are printers that are designed to be carried around, allowing printing on the go.

  • Desktop - Designed to be used in office type settings. These printers allow for a small to mid number of RFID tags to be printed.

  • Industrial - Industrial RFID Printers are designed for high volume printing of RFID tags. This type of printer would only be appropriate if printing more than 10,000 RFID tags per day.

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Choosing the right combination of RFID Labels and RFID Printer is very important for your RFID Tracking project. Some RFID tags will only work with some RFID Printers. Get it right the first time by consulting with an expert.

We can help guide you in choosing the right RFID printer and labels combo. Call 888-475-RFID for help.

RFID Readers

A Passive RFID Tag won't help with RFID Tracking unless it is powered by an RFID Reader. Various kinds of RFID Readers exist each tailored for specific applications.

Mobile Readers

Mobile Readers are handheld readers with RFID built into them. They are typically configured as an RFID gun where you pull the trigger to start reading RFID tags nearby. 

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Integrated Mobile Reader

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Sled Mobile Reader

Fixed Readers

Fixed Readers are designed to be mounted on a wall or ceiling. Fixed Readers have ports where RFID Antennas can be attached. Integrated Fixed Readers have the reader and RFID antennas bundled up into a single package. RFID Tracking is enabled whenever an RFID Tag comes within range of the Fixed Reader.

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4-port Impinj Fixed Reader

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Integrated Fixed Reader

Introduction To RFID Tracking has more info

RFID Software

RFID software is the component that will drive all of the various hardware pieces. InfinID Technology typically recommends AssetWorx as the RFID sofware choice for RFID Tracking.

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RFID Software Solution

Tracking and managing your company's physical assets is essential, but it's also labor intensive, which means time away from your core business and lost revenue. The good news is there's a way to manage your assets quickly and efficiently with an affordable investment. AssetWorx RFID tracking software is the most powerful software on the market today. AssetWorx works with Passive RFID, Active RFID, as well as a combination of both technologies.

Common AssetWorx Applications

Checkout Station

A checkout station is designed to help check assets in and out. RFID Tracking can speed up the checkout process which often leads to better employee compliance.

  • Tool Cribs

  • Storage Closets

  • IT Equipment

  • Asset Lockers

Checkout stations are typically configured in two configurations:

Mobile Scanner

A mobile scanner is a highly attractive option for performing checkout operations. 

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Mobile scanner performing a checkout

Fixed Reader Station

The Fixed Reader Station configuration is also a very popular choice for performing checkout operations.

Checkout Configurations

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Checking out assets at Fixed Reader Station

Read our RFID Checkout best practices guide

Periodic Inventories

Periodic inventories are exclusively performed with mobile RFID readers. The user walks from room to room performing inventories.

  • Inventory screen initially shows what assets are expected in the room.

  • User walks around room squeezing scanner mobile scanner trigger.

  • Mobile scanner rapidly reads RFID Tags in room.

  • Read assets will change color indicating read. User walks around room until all assets are read.

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Example of periodic inventory screen

Location Tracking

Location tracking with passive RFID involves setting up Fixed RFID readers at strategic points to be able to monitor asset movements.

 

Setting up location tracking for Passive RFID can be challenging. It is vitally important to choose the right hardware and software to ensure success of the RFID tracking project.

Identify the areas you want location tracking:

  • RFID range can be up to 30 feet in an ideal environment, but in reality it is closer to 8-15 feet.

  • Will your assets be within read range at the Fixed Reader location?

  • When choosing which areas you wish to track, keep in mind that Fixed RFID readers can be more than $2,000 per reader.

Room Tracking

Room tracking is one of the easiest applications for location RFID tracking. 

  • Place Fixed RFID readers at room entrances for room level accuracy.

  • Doorways are typically quite narrow so ensure maximum reliability for RFID Tag read ranges.

Open Space Environment

Location tracking in an open space environment is especially challenging. Because there are usually many paths that an asset can take, it is harder to place your Fixed RFID Readers in locations that will ensure reliability.

Strategy #1 - The Grid Layout
  • Place Fixed RFID Readers in a grid to provide general location awareness for assets.

  • Combine this approach with a mobile RFID reader Geiger Counter screen to pinpoint asset locations.

Strategy #2 - Key Area Layout
  • Identify key areas, such as work cells or shelves, that assets are placed and position Fixed RFID readers at these points.

  • Combine this approach with a mobile RFID reader Geiger Counter screen to pinpoint asset locations.

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pinpointing asset location with geiger counter feature

There are many other workflows that can benefit from using RFID Tracking. Some of these application can use a commercial off the shelf software application like AssetWorx and some would require a custom software solution. 

InfinID offers custom software solutions

Have questions about Passive RFID Tracking?