Free and easy wireless, RFID
Hype around wireless and RFID technologies might suggest you can: But is wireless free? And is RFID so easy? Since wireless technology increasingly has proved itself reliable for industrial use, the best approach, if you're new to wireless, is to free your mind. What would you measure if you had a low-cost way to get data from a sensor to a logic device? Suppose you have an already designed, ex...
RFID starter kits (suppliers at www.cesuppliersearch.com )
Hype around wireless and RFID technologies might suggest you can:
Connect a wireless transmitter and receiver and get information without conduit or work orders—a do-it-yourself, nearly no-cost, unbudgeted effort.
Automatically apply RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, bolt down a reader; then quickly get required data from an easy-to-integrate technology.
But is wireless free? And is RFID so easy? Since wireless technology increasingly has proved itself reliable for industrial use, the best approach, if you're new to wireless, is to free your mind. What would you measure if you had a low-cost way to get data from a sensor to a logic device? Suppose you have an already designed, expensive machine where it would be difficult or near impossible to get wires from here to there. Like getting information from a jet engine to the cockpit. Or from the business end of multi-axis machine tool to the operator interface. Or from a few dozen points on a vessel, bridge, or pipeline to a monitoring system that provides an alert if certain points are under a little-too-much stress. Do you have a cable run that's giving you intermittent data failures, and you know pulling a new cable is just about infeasible? Installing a point-solution wireless node could be priceless.
RFID technology is straightforward, if not easy; your approach should focus on integration. Do you have a mandated RFID initiative? Then ensure your implementation isn't vacuuming money into someone else's pocket. Enable data flow more deeply through your enterprise. Relieve your people of time-wasting clipboards and error-prone manual data entry. In the process, you may realize that it's not the specific technology as much as how it's engineered into the organization that delivers results. Augment material tracking, visibility, data flow, accountability, and ability to 'promise to produce' at a given price. Imagine getting a heart-stopping call from a supplier, but then being able to quickly locate and quietly recall 100 items rather than 100,000 items. Looking at the bigger picture, adding info-rich RFID capabilities to existing labeling requirements could be less hassle than you think.
Think about where these technologies could do you some good, get some starter kits, and try them out, if you haven't already. Rather than high-cost logistical nightmares, wireless and RFID (with some engineering creativity and help from the right partners) could deliver dream-like benefits.
Online version of this piece at www.controleng.com/archive , August 2005, includes related reading. See also the RFID cover story.
Mark T. Hoske , Editor-in-Chief
Get help from automation system integrators with related expertise. Under “Engineering Specialties” use the pull-down term “networking/comm’’ at www.controleng.com/integrators .