RFID: a revolution in identification systems

Wal-Mart has long advised its customers to closely monitor the price cuts for its products, and today this world's largest retailer is following price cuts ... for radio frequency identification (RFID) systems. At the end of last year, she announced the mandatory transition of her stores to the RFID system. Since then, the price of RFID tags has halved, which, according to the company's specialists, will lead to a revolution in the world of retail and a complete change in supply chains. The largest Wal-Mart suppliers were asked to switch to RFID tags in their packages by January of next year. Suppliers of this largest retailer strive to meet deadlines, creating a real boom in the RFID market. Some analysts estimate that Wal-Mart alone will soon need a billion RFID chips per year, and the demand for these tiny devices will only grow. Other large retailers and some government agencies now require their partners to attach RFID tags to all types of packaging. So, in November last year, the US Department of Defense approved a new identification system at the federal level, requiring its suppliers to install RFID labels on industrial parts and pallets by 2005.

For many years, the promotion of RFID technology and sensor systems and the creation of appropriate infrastructure has been engaged in the corporation Intel. Intel is developing RFID ID readers, RFID tag motion detectors and new usage patterns, such as home medical systems, and is also working to improve the efficiency of the supply chain. A good example of the activity that the corporation has shown in the development of a new technology is one of the latest developments of the employees of the Intel Research Center in Seattle - a handheld RFID tag reader and a special reading glove. The RFID handheld scanner, which allows users to easily and easily work with RFID tags, has aroused great interest around the world, and Intel researchers are now working closely with a number of electronic components companies in developing RFID daughter cards and low-cost reading kits.
There are not so many technologies that bring with them drastic changes, but RFID and electronic product codes, in the unanimous opinion of experts, undoubtedly belong to this category. Their use will affect all business processes, regardless of place in the value chain and will inevitably replace traditional barcode technology. With the help of RFID, suppliers and retailers, wholesalers, warehouses and terminals will be able to receive more complete and timely information on all stages of the process of moving material, information and transport flows.
RFID - talking barcode
Contactless identification technologies most fully comply with all
requirements of a computer control system where recognition and registration of objects and rights in real time is required. They are usually built on the optical principle (this is all well-known bar codes) or radio frequency. Radio frequency recognition is carried out using special tags attached to the object, carrying identification and other information. This method, which has already become the basis for the construction of modern contactless information systems and has the well-established name “RFID technology” (short for Radio Frequency Identification, which means “radio frequency identification”), will be discussed.
  An RFID chip is something like a talking barcode that transmits information to a reader or scanner. Traditional printed bar codes are usually read by a laser scanner, which requires direct visibility to detect and extract information. When using RFID technology, the scanner can read the encoded information even when the tag with it is hidden, for example, embedded in the body of the product or sewn into clothing. A tiny RFID tag can contain much more information than a regular barcode. Moreover, RFID tags, unlike barcodes, can transfer data from various packages in the customer’s cart, on a pallet, or even from boxes in a closed container of goods.
How RFID systems work
Systems consist of three main components: a reader or scanner (reader), a transponder (usually called a tag, tag or tag from the English tag) and a computer data processing system. Scanners are connected to tags by radio, read data from tags and send the received information to databases. The reader has a transceiver and an antenna that send a signal to the tag and receive a response; a microprocessor that checks and decodes data, and a memory that stores data for later transmission, if necessary. The main components of the tag are an integrated circuit that controls communication with the reader, and an antenna. An integrated circuit (chip) has a memory that contains an identification code or other data. The tag detects the signal from the reader and starts transmitting the data stored in its memory back to the reader; there is no need for contact or direct visibility between the reader and the tag, because the radio signal easily penetrates non-metallic materials. Thus, tags can even be hidden inside those objects that are subject to identification. Increasing the number of tags increases the flow of data between the computer and the reading devices.
Tags are active or passive. Active tags are powered by an attached or built-in battery, they require less reader power and, as a rule, have a greater reading range. The passive tag functions without a power source, receiving energy from a scanner signal using inductive coupling technology or electromagnetic capture technology, and consists of an antenna, a capacitor, and a small semiconductor chip. The latest developments allow you to combine these components on an acrylic substrate, reducing the cost of RFID devices and allowing manufacturers to attach tags to goods in the same way as regular labels. Passive tags are smaller and lighter active, they are cheaper, have virtually unlimited service life, do not need batteries and therefore do not require maintenance. Active and passive tags can be performed read-only, with read-write or write once, the data in which the user enters. The scope of the system is determined by its frequency. By this parameter, RFID systems are divided into the following:
- high-frequency (850 ... 950 MHz and 2.4 ... 5 GHz), which are used where long distance and high reading speed is required, for example, when controlling the movement of railway cars, cars, waste collection systems. Such readers are installed, for example, on the gates or barriers of the warehouse, while the transponder is fixed on the windshield or side window of the car bringing in or taking the load. The long range of action makes it possible to safely install readers beyond the reach of people;
- intermediate frequency (10 ... 15 MHz), which are used where you need to transmit more data;
- low-frequency (100 ... 500 kHz), which are used where a small distance between the object and the reader is permissible. The usual reading distance is 0.5 m; for the smallest tags, the reading range is usually even shorter - about 0.1 m. A large reader antenna can to some extent compensate for this range of a small tag, but the radiation of high-voltage lines and motors. , computers, lamps, etc., interferes with its operation. Most access control systems, contactless warehouse and production control cards use low frequency.
Speaking about the main advantages of the new technology, it should be noted that RFID tags, in addition to the fact that they do not require contact or direct visibility of the object and scanner:
- read quickly and accurately (approaching 100% transmission of information);
- can be used even in aggressive environments, are recognized through a layer of dirt, paint, steam, water, plastic, wood;
- in passive execution, they have virtually unlimited service life;
- carry a large amount of information and can be executed "intellectual";
- almost impossible to fake;
- not only read, but also allow you to record the necessary information on yourself.
Areas of use
If the retail revolution that RFID technology has produced and may be news, in and of itself, it is by no means new, since it exists and has been used since the 1940s. Already during World War II, the United States Air Force used radio transmitters to identify aircraft. Currently, such transmitters are used on all aircraft - from helicopters to balloons.
Another example, already from a relatively recent history. Concerned about the spread of mad cow disease in the 1980s, government agencies began to demand the use of accurate identification of livestock. As a result, tens of millions of cows today carry RFID tags in their ears. RFID chips are also embedded in security system identification tokens, they are installed on the windshield of cars to automatically pay tolls, put on pets to identify them. In the US, RFID labels based on radio frequency identification are now at the very beginning of full commercialization. In the field of packaging, this means the widespread use of radio-emitting chips on pallets and containers. Ultimately, it is expected that such labels will more broadly be attached to the primary packaging. Labels will allow companies to track the path of the packaged goods in order to improve data collection, control over the movement of goods, improve the security system. In general, these systems are used in those rather diverse cases where operational and precise control, tracking and recording of numerous movements of various objects are required.
Here are some other areas of interesting typical RFID applications:
- electronic control over the access and movement of personnel on the territory of enterprises and warehouses;
- management of production, commodity and customs warehouses (especially large ones), shops, issuance and movement of goods and material values;
- automatic data collection and, if necessary, charging on railways, toll roads, cargo stations and terminals;
- control, planning and control of traffic, schedule intensity and selection of optimal routes for vehicles;
- management of public transport and optimization of passenger traffic;
- electronic payment systems for all types of transport, including the organization of toll roads, automatic collection of tolls and transit, paid parking;
- protection of expensive products in warehouses and in stores (including those providing rental services for video tapes, equipment, etc.);
- protection and alarm systems on vehicles;
- security and protection against theft in the casino (identification of chips and playing cards).
Soon a personal scanner will be built into your mobile phone.
Although RFID technology has been around for a long time, the beginning of its mass use in supplier networks will inevitably lead to significant changes. As the spread of RFID technology in this area due to the objective factors of the economy of mass production, the cost of tags and scanners will constantly decrease. Moreover, commercial enterprises that invest in goods management infrastructures will be able to use it in combination with other applications without additional costs. The revolution in retailer supplier network management will result in new end-user solutions. For example, take a look at Nokia’s recent announcement. This company is a manufacturer of mobile phones is a set that allows you to turn a regular phone into an RFID scanner. Within a few years, mobile phones and handheld PCs that can scan RFID tags on products will give consumers the ability to automatically access information contained on computer networks without having to type in a URL or Internet address. Each owner of the reader will only need to scan the RFID tag of any physical object to immediately get access to textual and audiovisual information about it, for example, product descriptions, detailed operating and repair instructions, a list of excursions, video samples and music, etc. d.
Although RFID systems are already making life easier for many people, not everyone is in a hurry to accept them. For example, in the US and Europe, consumer advocates are concerned about the use of RFID tags on retail products, fearing that with their help, companies will be able to track all the addictions of consumers: from their favorite sausage variety to the size, style and color of clothes. Most industry analysts believe that the benefits of using RFID technology to improve service quality will outweigh any concerns about confidentiality. They are convinced that there are more “pluses” here than “minuses”. In addition, the Auto-ID center (a research consortium of RFID located at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) proposed to give retailers the ability to disable RFID tags at the outlet of stores. Although a single RFID standard does not yet exist, some manufacturers have already begun to issue tags with this feature.
RFID receivers can already read tags within a radius of 11 meters
Not so long ago, the South African company Trolleyscan announced the creation of a highly sensitive hidden unified UHF chip that can operate within a radius of 11 m, even if it is mounted on a metal surface. A Johannesburg-based RFID company focused on developing a new reader to increase the range of Ecochip tags. Most readers use the reflected signal from a passive RFID tag when scanning. The developers of Trolleyscan claim that when using the Ecochip label, the requirements for RF power are significantly lower, but the reflected signal from the transponder becomes too weak. It cannot be considered already from a distance of 10 m using standard receivers in the presence of an activating signal at the same frequency. The new Trolleyscan receiver is capable of scanning the transponder from a distance of 2 cm to 11 m without additional adjustments.