What is RFID Technology?
Radio Frequency Identification is a method for tracking goods by means of tags, which emit a radio signal. In addition to the tags, RFID technology consists of readers. The tag contains of a small chip and antenna. The reader also has its own antenna. The technology is similar to a barcode and barcode reader in principle, but distinct insofar as a user would not have to align the reader to read the device’s information (as a barcode reader requires).
How does RFID technology work?
The tag usually stores around 2000 bytes of data. The chip in the tag is pre-programmed with a unique serial number and its unique tracking identifier. This unique tracking identifier can be entered into the universal database of the organization that issued the product, so as to find the last location of the item to which it is attached. The antenna in a tag gathers energy and directs it to the chip to power it on. Thus, the greater the antenna area of the tag, the more power the chip would have so as to enable a greater communication ranges between reader and tag. The range of communication is typically a few feet to a few yards. Most tags are battery-less but some larger types contain batteries. Tags can be read-only, read-write or both depending on the type.
The reader’s antenna collects data from the tags. This data is converted from electrical current into electromagnetic waves, which are transmitted into space. These transmissions are received by a tag’s antenna and reconverted into electrical current. The reader often receives information in less than 100 milliseconds. Any data transmitted from tag to reader would be available on the organization’s central database for assimilation.
Military use of RFID technology
The uses of RFID technology, traditionally lies in stock keeping for department stores and larger organizations with numerous assets. It is specifically useful to the military, in that RFID technology can be used in all types of conditions: rain, heat, snow, fog, flood, dirt etc. The US military uses RFID to manage and keep stock of their parachutes. Additionally, the US NAVY used RFID in Iraq, by implementing tags onto wristbands of naval personnel. This created enormous efficiency in treating naval personnel if they got injured or ill. Key medical terms were stored on the soldiers’ wristbands, eliminating the problem of lost clipboards or delays of locating paper files on these soldiers. Australia’s military recently revamped its storage systems to use RFID to solve their problem of lost stock, assets and shipments. Spain’s military has also used the technology to track and manage its logistics with regards to shipments of goods and supplies. India’s military recently began testing RFID on its naval force first; it aims to increase security of its assets.
Limitations of RFID
The use of GPS satellite or cellular tracking is a viable alternative, which is sometimes preferred due to its extreme long range and real time determining of locality of the tagged object- features which RFID currently lacks.