Creative applications illustrate wonders of RFID
Editor / Provider: William Pao, a&s International | Updated: 11/25/2014 | Article type: Tech Corner
In many ways, RFID is like a paintbrush or building blocks, allowing the user to be as creative as they can to solve a particular problem or dilemma. Its technology is quite simple, consisting of only a reader and a tag. But applications can be diverse, wide-ranging, and even wild. Regardless how the solutions are implemented, the goal is the same: to help the user save cost, reduce administrative waste, and manage and track items effectively. This article examines some of the unique and special applications of RFID in different verticals.
Logitag Solutions Make Sure Hospitals Are Always Stocked
How do hospitals keep track of medical supplies used by patients? How do they know when it's time to reorder supplies? Logitag solutions address those needs with RFID solutions, which have helped operators save on labor and management cost.
Logitag's solutions have been deployed in various medical facilities, including Wyoming Medical Center and New York Hospital Queens. One of the solutions employs a two-bin Kanban system where both bins are tagged with RFID tags and filled with medical supplies. When one of the bins runs out, the nurse can push a button on the RFID tag, and an order is automatically generated and sent to the supplier. Status of the order can be written into the tag and displayed on a monitor on the tag. The supplies can be delivered directly to the bin, which is kept at a department of the hospital, thus eliminating the need for central storage. “What happens typically by using this technology is a reduction of 40% of inventory room,” said Shlomo Matityaho, CEO of Logitag. “We see a reduction of labor and elimination of people who count and order.”
Another solution employs cabinets filled with medical supplies, each of which is tagged with an RFID tag. Each time a supply is taken out, a record is generated on who took the supply and which patient received the supply, so that the patient can be billed accordingly. A third application is for protection of infants at hospitals. A baby and its mother are given a pair of RFID tags, and both tags must be present in order for them to exit the infants ward.
Grapes of Satisfaction at Argentine Vineyard With HID Solution
Currently, there is a trend of moving RFID towards NFC, where tags can be read by one's mobile device. If implemented right, such a combination can work wonders for users. That's exactly what happened at Argentina-based Bodega Norton Winery, which uses a solution from HID Global to manage workers, pay them properly, and create an overall more pleasant working environment.
Before the implementation, the vineyard paid its grape harvesters by way of plastic chips of different shapes and colors to indicate the number of bins each worker filled. The workers would pocket the chips and then collect their pay at the end of the workweek. Several issues arose as a result of this. First, chips are easily lost or stolen during the week. Second, some workers would use the chips to settle their personal debts. A more efficient way to manage workers and pay them according to their workload was therefore needed. With HID's solution, the cumbersome chips were eliminated. Each harvester is assigned an armband tag. At the end of the day, the workers would put the grapes they picked into bins, each equipped with a tag. Now, the supervisor would take his NFC-enabled mobile phone, point it at a worker, and then point it at the bin that he is associated with. The system would automatically create a record for the amount of work that the harvester did and credit the payments to him.
Benefits of the solution are manifold. “Beginning with the grape harvest, HID can help Norton improve quality, optimize data accuracy, and streamline critical systems at every stage of the wine production and distribution process,” said Richard Aufreiter, Director Product Management at HID Global.
GIGA-TMS's Citizen Tracking Solution First of Its Kind
Imagine a shuttle bus picking up senior or disabled citizens from their homes and taking them to a daycare center. Each time people get on, they need to sign a paper log to help the driver keep track. This was burdensome and ineffective, as many of the passengers have a hard time writing legibly.
The solution to this real-life problem in a major western city led to the world's first RFID application for tracking passengers on a public shuttle system, according to Brian Ma, Sales Representative at GIGA-TMS, which created the UHF RFID application.
Since most citizens of this city already have RFID-enabled citizens cards, GIGA-TMS' solution took advantage of that. Once people get on the vehicle, their cards would be detected by the reader inside the vehicle, and a record would be produced on who took the ride. This created convenience for all stakeholders, including the driver, the passengers, and the shuttle service provider.
There were challenges, though. As UHF RFID is highly susceptible to liquids, the human body — made up of 70% liquid — often absorbs the energy transmitted by the reader. As a result, from time to time cards carried by the passengers couldn't be read. To solve this problem, GIGA-TMS placed the reader strategically on the side of the vehicle door through which the passengers enter and exit. Read accuracy increased to 87%. The rest 13% were people who either forgot their cards or lost their cards, Ma said.
Another UHF RFID solution by GIGA-TMS helped solve logistics issues facing cargo operators. With drivers loading and unloading cargoes at different delivery points, it's easy for them to miss cargoes, and mistakes like that would be costly. With GIGA-TMS' solution, trollies of cargoes are tagged and can be read by readers inside the container truck. Each time things are loaded and unloaded, the system would do a count and decide whether the driver is good to go. “Thirty seconds, and it's done,” Ma said.
Grabbing a Bite Can't Be Any Easier With LEGIC Solutions
When you grab something to eat at a football stadium during a game, the last thing you want is a long line of people waiting in front of you to pay for their food. LEGIC Identsystems, an RFID company, has applied the technology to cashless meal vending, making purchasing food simpler and less time-consuming. The solution was deployed at the NV Arena in Austria. To get food, all people need to do is to get an Arena Card, point it at the checkout reader, and the amount is immediately debited by the checkout system. Charging up the card is also simple. Mobile employees with handheld terminals equipped with LEGIC's RFID module can charge up existing cards.
According to LEGIC, the solution has made purchasing food a smoother and more seamless experience. “There is no more hunting for cash, no more large notes to break, and no more double checking by employees,” the company said.
With the solution, operators can also quickly react to queues forming and staff those hotspots. For game spectators, the time saved on buying food can then be spent on actually watching the game. LEGIC has also deployed a similar solution at a factory in Bulgaria churning out components for refrigerators and freezers. Under the cashless payment system, LEGIC collaborated with a partner that provided cash register readers equipped with LEGIC's reader chip.
With the solution, waiting time at the cash registers has been significantly reduced. “There is no more need to search for cash in wallets or for cashiers to find the right change. This eliminates queues and gives employees a longer break,” LEGIC said.
Retail With Finesse With Tyco Solutions
T he iconic Saks on Fifth department store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan is a favorite shopping destination for New Yorkers and out-oftowners alike. While the store is frequented by myriad shoppers daily, few know that RFID has been deployed to enhance the customer experience.
The shoe section in the department store had a problem with tracking and replenishing items on display. When done manually, the process is complex, time-consuming, and detrimental to the shopping experience. As a result, Tyco Retail Solution came up with a solution using RFID to make tracking and replenishing of shoes more seamless and effective. With the solution, the store tags all shoes on display with RFID labels. The sysem then generates a replenishment report for the backend stockroom, which will immediately know particular styles or models of shoes missing on the selling floor. With the solution, Saks on Fifth has been able to dramatically enhance the inventorying and replenishment process.
“Display compliance rates have reached nearly 100%, compared with previously 65%,” said Atul Ghaisas, Business Development Manager of Store Performance Solutions for APAC at Tyco Retail Solution. “Associates are no longer tied up with inventory tasks and are able to spend more time serving customers.” Tyco solutions are especially useful in the midst of a focus on the so-called “omni-channel retailing,” where users make purchases via different channels including physical stores, the Internet, home shopping networks, and mail catalogs. Ensuring that the right products are in the right place at the right time is therefore of utmost importance.
“Our RFID-based inventory intelligence solutions allow retailers to integrate their inventory information from their chain stores as well as their distribution channels, enabling significant direct and indirect business benefits in the areas of cost reduction, inventory management, and sales uplift as they reduce the need for markdowns,” Ghaisas said.
Parking Made Easy with Nedap Solution
Parking lots can especially benefit from RFID, which can detect vehicles meters away before they enter. Once the vehicle is cleared, the barrier will open automatically to allow the car in. This reduces the wait time and can make parking a more pleasant experience for workers, visitors, and residents.
RFID solutions by Nedap Identification Systems are found in parking facilities across the globe. One of them is the University of Alabama, which hosts over 33,000 students and employees. Before the solution was deployed, short-range readers and cards were used, causing a major throughput problem for people trying to get in. This has often caused users to arrive at class or work late, drawing criticism from students, faculty, and staff alike.
To rectify the situation, the university sought the help of Mississippi-based Access Control Group, which installed Nedap's UHF readers. Mounted at the parking facility entrance lanes, the readers enable 4 meters of read range and allow for approaching vehicle credentials to be read and processed without the driver having to stop and present a credential.
Typically UHF RFID is deployed in this type of applications due to its longer reading range. “Vehicular access control based on normal proximity access control cards or, even worse, barcode or magnetic stripe cards often results in people leaning uncomfortably out of their windows towards the reader to show their access credential. Opening a barrier like that is no treat: it takes too long, is ergonomically irresponsible, and often causes damage to the vehicle or vehicle access control installation,” Nedap said.
According to Nedap, RFID applications for parking not only save time but also contribute to a greener environment. “Automatic remote detection prevents cars from standing still with the motor running. It prevents congestion and ensures swift and fuel-efficient transportation of vehicles and goods,” the company said.