Frank Riso of Symbol Technologies offered an overview of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) systems and their applications in handling product data. The technology works by using RF signals to capture data from a tag, which is then relayed by the tag reader to a computer database; new data can then be transmitted in the other direction to update product information contained in the tag. RFID does not represent a challenge to the bar code, he stressed, given that the two technologies have different applications: the bar code is low-cost and suited for basic product data, while RFID is more expensive and designed to handle variable data. However, although the mass use of RFID tags is still a way off, a number of types have already been successfully marketed, including the "Speedpass" which allows motorists to pay for their petrol purchases at the pump. Some of the operational issues can be summarised as follows:.
• Read range: this varies from a few inches to a few yards depending on the size of the antenna - hand-held devices have lower range than fixed portals. .
• Standards: some standards have been established, like ISO 13 MHz and UCC/EAN GTAG for UHF. The important question for companies is to choose the right type of RFID. .
• Cost: tags now range between US$0.35 and US$1.00 and it is hard to predict how soon they will become as cheap as bar codes. But the issue is also to generate extra value above these current costs. .
• Multi-item reading: RFID does not guarantee accurate reading of individual items on pallets because of interference but batch quantities are often logged anyway. .
The success of RFID in the future, concluded Frank Riso, depends on its integration with existing ADC systems and hardware tools. The fact is that "there will be no RFID islands".
Chip in Crate:.
Dutch brewer Heineken saw RFID tags as a way of monitoring more effectively the rate of non-returns on crates from their distribution operations.