“RFID solutions today collect data – in future, RFID solutions are a tool to implement and enforce correct processes and actions within the business.”
RFID has reached the tipping point of becoming a widely accepted and reliable technology to identify items, assets, and people. RFID is a “silver bullet” to increase sustainability and reduce the carbon footprint of various businesses. However, for RFID to reach its full potential, adopting RFID needs to be made easier for companies across the globe.
The way how we see RFID solutions has changed over the past years. In the past, RFID meant a combination of technologies, including RFID tags, readers, antennas, and host devices with custom local integrations. Nowadays, RFID solutions capture data by identifying items and use cloud computing to provide the results upstream for further use and analysis.
In the future, RFID tags, reader, and antenna setup will be combined with powerful IoT edge computing in the reader to process the data. We can see this change already now. Users will engage with the solution on the edge level using a touch screen or other human input device. Edge-processed data will be stored in the cloud. Edge computing enforces the rules set in ERP, and the user interface will be used to control the process and acquire data downstream. RFID solutions will provide actionable information which can be utilized at the shop floor level. We believe that in addition to standard RFID readers, purpose-built or use case driven readers will be more utilized in solutions.
Edge computing and integrations with other systems will allow RFID solutions to take a greater role in business operations and decision-making. We can forecast the future role of RFID through two hypotheses. The first hypothesis for the future sees RFID as a part of more comprehensive data management. According to this hypothesis, RFID will identify the items in conjunction with adjacent technologies providing information on the environment, condition, location, movement, status, and more. The second hypothesis for the future sees RFID more as a part of daily operations and decision-making. According to the second hypothesis, RFID solutions will provide meaningful input for tactical decision-making at the grassroots level. Powerful edge computing will enable new use cases for RFID where data is processed on-site, giving users valuable information.
In the future, RFID solutions will have more sensor fusions. Sensor fusion means that solutions will include other sensors besides RFID tags, like UHF RFID sensors to measure humidity, temperature, Bluetooth location and sensors, time of flight sensors, etc. As RFID identifies the item, the auxiliary sensors provide rich data which can be aggregated to the RFID reading.
Supplementary data enriches the RFID data. RFID provides a perfect way to identify the items, and adjacent technologies provide other relevant information. Enriched data will lead to solution architecture changes, new use cases, enhanced product and people safety, intelligent manufacturing, and increased sustainability. Let’s look at each of these in detail below.
1) Architectural changes
Today, RFID data is stored in systems like ERP, WMS, and POS via an interface, and the data is used retroactively. In the future, RFID solutions will provide data for real-time tactical and strategic decision-making. The utilization of RFID data will become faster and more relevant.
2) New use cases
In the future, RFID can be used in new use cases. RFID and sensor solutions can provide actionable input. For example, RFID can ensure that temperature-sensitive raw materials or components are available and have been stored in the correct conditions before final manufacturing or assembly.
3) Enhanced product and people safety
The process of reading RFID will become more automated and will not always be initiated by the user as reading is triggered by other means. Product and people’s safety can be enhanced in many ways with the help of RFID, and for example, the warehousing of sensitive material and assets like medicine or instruments can be tracked with RFID. Also, the tracking of logistics and the transportation of medical samples & vials is possible with RFID. Not only will businesses benefit from RFID, but in the future, consumers can also verify the proper storage of perishable goods using RFID. Industrial automation benefits heavily from using RFID tracking, as RFID will be used to determine the next step in the process.
4) Intelligent manufacturing
With the help of RFID, manufacturing becomes even more intelligent. Real-time information enables timely production as the production planners get information on what’s happening, when it’s happening, and why.
RFID enables operational flexibility and allows adjusting to changing production needs. RFID technology can be easily adapted to changing manufacturing demands. Businesses can discover bottlenecks and issues that impact on-time deliveries. With RFID, you can manage assets and inventory holistically, scale on demand, and have seamless productivity. RFID enables customized solutions, and you can easily customize data exchanges and workflows.
RFID solutions are easy to connect, implement and manage. RFID enables interconnectivity connecting business and process systems for industrial automation. You can aggregate data from multiple sources into a single database. Furthermore, RFID solutions are not only one technology solution, but they can be created to complete solutions where RFID hardware and software with industrial edge computing are combined with barcode and optical scanning and printing. RFID hardware can be the base for an integrated ecosystem.
5) Increased sustainability
RFID is one of the most powerful tools to increase sustainability and reduce carbon footprint. Real-time information on the inventory helps to reduce excess manufacturing and unnecessary logistics, and increase the utilization rate of production assets.
To capitalize on the benefits offered by RFID, we as an industry need to make it easier for users to implement RFID for their business. We can increase the predictability of RFID implementation with well-defined or even standardized processes for business applications and API’s. Closer partnerships and cooperation with the packaging industry could be one way to increase the implementation of RFID.