RFID lessons: Improved technology leads to easier implementations

By Control Engineering Staff April 2, 2007

Dallas, TX —RFID technologies have improved significantly in four years, as has Intel Corp.’s knowledge about implementation. That was a main message from two Intel engineers speaking at the 5th Annual RFID World conference and exhibition here, March 26-28, 2007. Debbie Mertzon, program manager for new business engagement (M&A/RFID), and Scott A. Thomas of Intel’s customer fulfillment, planning and logistics group, discussed the benefits of second generation technology and shared advice on facing down today’s projects.

Today’s advanced readers recognize any tag, and tag yield, once “shocking,” is now pleasantly around 99%. Tag mortality today is nearly non-existent as well, with adhesive giving out before the tag dies, said Thomas. Engineers’ jobs are also being made easier through vastly improved middleware, enterprise integration, device integration, monitoring, and maintenance. Thomas said he once flew 1,200 miles to find out an antenna was bad. This year, RFID will become remotely monitorable.

Chips are smaller and read rates, much improved. Intel’s new chip is 8 mm square and integrates the transceiver, said Mertzon. Read rates are now better than 99%, providing the ability to read up to 500 tags on a pallet in a little over one second. “We used to do what we called‘the RFID shuffle,’” Thomas said, motioning side to side with his hands. It’s “moving the pallet back and forth, and back and forth, to get the last tags to read.”

RFID systems today enable one login for multiple applications, replacing the 10 or more logins that fab workers had to perform previously. RFID also automatically logs out if the person moves a meter or two away from the station, increasing security. An incidental benefit is verification of employee evacuation, in the case of an emergency.

Based on Intel’s experience, Mertzon and Thomas offered these tips for RFID implementation:

  • Use internal experts to define your business value. Intel started small with proof of concept, said Mertzon, expanding into a huge map of identified value-add areas. “We had to scale down where we’d start, then deploy out from that foundation.”

  • Get your hands dirty, experiment and validate, and build internal expertise because internal projects are easiest. Create a robust test environment, focus on data integration, and jump in. At least buy a couple readers, some tags, and try it out, they said.

  • Take time to examine and improve processes and enhance information integration, as with you would with application of any technology. While standards and regulations help, financial gains are the primary driver.

  • Antennas can help readers, allowing use of smaller and less expensive tags, but don’t exceed FCC rules for power. “Keep our industry honest,” Thomas said.

Intel white papers and product information about its RFID internal efforts and related offerings are available.

Mark T. Hoske , editor in chief, MHoske@cfemedia.com, Control Engineering Daily News Desk

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