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RFID

Anyone here done RFID projects? Where do you find a reader and tags? Is it sitting next to the zip ties in Aisle 64? I can think of a few DIY projects involving it and if the reader is inexpensive and tags are a dollar each it could have quite a few applications.

Li-fan Chen
Sunday, July 11, 2004

I was just looking into this the other day.  As far as I can tell (just from googling) the readers are still expensive - where I saw prices they were around $500.  Anyone have better information?

mike
Sunday, July 11, 2004

I have read articles where the RFID vendors are scratching their head trying to figure out how to prevent privacy invasion from getting out of hand. Some of them said you can zap a RFID chip at checkout so that Big Brother can't use it after. What's to prevent an idiot with malicious intent from using a monster zapper, walking into a Sears Store or Warehouse, and zapping all the product tags in the store?

Li-fan Chen
Sunday, July 11, 2004

I found a canadian source (I am in Toronto) that seems kinda programmer friendly:

http://www.phidgets.com/index.php

Hmm.. any more places? I am also interested in bar codes readers :D (the tags are cheaper)

Li-fan Chen
Sunday, July 11, 2004

You can get some good deals on barcode scanners at eBay, and it looks like they're starting to have some RFID stuff, as well.  Search for "bar code scanners" and "rfid scanners".


Monday, July 12, 2004


>What's to prevent an idiot with malicious intent from using 
>monster zapper, walking into a Sears Store or Warehouse, >and zapping all the product tags in the store?

You normally need a fair bit of power and to be very close.
The ones I have used use induction to melt a link in the RFID antenna. Under the mat on the counter is a big mains powered coil to generate the field.
Induction falls off quickly with distance.

Martin Beckett
Monday, July 12, 2004


Yeah, I'm the development lead on an inventorying system that uses RFID"s.  They're really pretty nifty.  We use Intermec for most of our stuff.


And yes, "zapping them" requires you to be pretty close.  That's why when you buy a harddrive from your local geek store, they rub it on the pad.  It's usually less than a millimeter at that point.

KC
Monday, July 12, 2004

My employer has been selected to take part in Target's RFID pilot program.  By July 2005, all of our products shipped to one of their DCs have to be properly RFID labelled.

I had a salesman from NCR in to discuss the wonderful world of RFID last week.  Not a happy picture.

Labels cost around $0.50/each, and that price is expected to drop only to around $0.25/, as the technology goes mainstream (normal product labels are a couple cents each), so that's a big hit.

The printers are available from manufacturers like Zebra, Printronix, etc. (i.e., the guys who normally make thermal transfer printers).  They cost $4-8,000, and print at a maximum rate of 2-4 inches/minute (which is dog slow).  They do include their own readers to test the labels, though.

Other readers go from $500-$5000, depending on the options you want, and which protocols they support.  The technical issues haven't even been remotely settled, like how you limit the read to a specific area consistently, and how you read a label in the middle of a pallet of cases of some product with water or metal in it (which buggers the RF on the label).

The situation looks bad over the next year because Walmart and Target are forcing the implementation issue.  Walmart's pilot starts this January with their Texas DC, and there's expected to be a severe shortage of RFID labels (which are currently available only in 4x6" format).  There's a big fight over the RF protocol between Matrics and Alien (Class 0 versus Class 1), and Intermec just announced that it holds patents on almost everything RFID, and plans to sue the world in submission (they've already filed against Matrics), so expect that any hardware you buy this year will be obsolete the next.  And it won't be until October that Walmart tries to settle that issue with the Generation 2 protocol, which is an open standard, but which no manufacturer supports.

Call NCR or someone else hoping to be a big reseller in the area--they'll give you a good overview of the current situation.

I said to the salesman "It sounds like we can plan to simply throw away $50,000 on this before it all settles down."  He said "Yup."

Justin Johnson
Monday, July 12, 2004

To more directly answer the OP's question: the readers and tags are, to my knowledge, only available through industrial resellers like NCR.

Justin Johnson
Monday, July 12, 2004

I am just in the learning stages of how I want to use RFID tags. I am looking at it from the stand point of tagging 10,000+ files within an office environment, multiple floors many private offices. I was really interested in a company called Power Paper which was making a powered tag that was printable and would be priced under the usually very high $15 a tag cost of typical powered tags. I was blown off by their sales force because of my lowly requirements, only 10,000 tags up front and 6,000 new tags annually and only a dozen readers and just one printer.

I am going to restart my search in another 6-8 months. I think this area of RFID is too new for me to get anywhere with these companies, they only seem to want to talk to people that tag millions of items. We spend a ton of money on manually finding files and on recreating lost files (we are government regulated on keeping certain paper files) and I think RFID tags would greatly help in reducing if not eliminating this problem.

Jeff
Monday, July 12, 2004

RFID for paper files in an office? Hey what a great way to keep track of my collection of punch cards and paper tape!

Dude, haven't you heard of databases? Document managment systems, scanners, etc?

MilesArcher
Monday, July 12, 2004

I think RFID will probably help you identify bins, but actual docs and folders? If you go into a document warehouse won't the reader basically tell you 5000 tags right away if the resolution is down to a folder? If it's down to the bins maybe you'll have less tags to sort through. I am not a RFID expert, just wondering..

Is RFID a great way to keep track of supplies? Like would you use it on 7-11 Convenience Store resupplying trucks and supplies? Would you use it to track freshness in McDonald's? Would you attach a tag to bags of buns and boxes of burger patties? How can you tell freshness if you don't have a RFID reader? Is that why one of the posters earlier said something about printable papers with RFIDs embedded? Are these documents for you to print relevent informations, not relying solely on RFID readers/terminals to decipher shipment histories?

Li-fan Chen
Monday, July 12, 2004

For example, with Infratab's RFID/TTI device (http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/428/1/1/), you could determine if some guy left the ice cream out on a table for 2 days by accident and try to cover it up by shoving it back into the fridge. It's not just tracking that makes RFID chips helpful, it's connecting it to time/temporature/location sensors to give the thing it is tracking a history. These chips seems really interesting.

Li-fan Chen
Monday, July 12, 2004

They do seem really interesting--the possibilities for touchless inventory tracking are endless.  However, it all depends upon what you do with the data:  what sort of history you keep, what granularity of data you track, etc.

The figure being thrown around a lot is that, if Walmart had RFID tags on everything it sold, that identified individual products (meaning that two cans of Coke have two different GTINs), they would be collecting 7 terabytes of data every day.

To me, the strongest (realistic) possibility is real-timing of inventory: a 7-11 would have one reader covering the entire location (or multiple readers tied together), so that head office could instantly and automatically see the entire corporation's inventory (with obvious implications for inventory re-ordering and inventory visibility for vendors).  Then, Blue Maid ice cream could be instantly notified that a tub of Butter Ripple had left the 7-11 down the street and trigger a replenishment order.

Justin Johnson
Monday, July 12, 2004

Thanks to all of you for the great answers! :D

Li-fan Chen
Monday, July 12, 2004

"Dude, haven't you heard of databases? Document managment systems, scanners, etc? "

MilesArcher,

I have, but the state we work in hasn't. We have to keep a paper copy of our files by law in order to stay in business. This means even if we went through the cost of going paperless in operation, our files have to be pulled and kept up to date with paper copies. We are hoping Check 21 will start to change some of this.

Jeff

Jeff
Monday, July 12, 2004

Jeff,
Libraries do what you're trying to do, at least to some extent. Seattle has RFIDs on (most? all?) their items, when you check books (or other media) at the new central branch you place your items on the desk and it checks them all out at once.
When you check in items, it goes into a robotic sorting system.
Of course, that means they bought enough gizmos to make a vendor happy, but you'd think a scaled down system from the same vendor should be easy for the vendor to sell.

mb
Monday, July 12, 2004

Jeff,

Wouldn't barcoding and system-directed picking and putaway be sufficient?  As well as a lot cheaper and easier to implement?

Any decent inventory management system already has these features in it if you wanted an off-the-shelf software package.  This is a solved problem, and RFID honestly seems like a more complicated solution than necessary, given the state of the technology.

Justin Johnson
Monday, July 12, 2004

mb,

What I like about RFID, especially the active tags, compared to a libarary environment is I can setup a system so it can tell you where in the office the file is located. I have been told by some vendors that they can tell down to a foot or so of accuracy where the item is with sensors that are not overly expensive. Right now for us a robotic system would be too big an investment and would only cover a part of the problem, fetching the folder.

We have an active file base of 10,000 files. Each file is handled atleast once a month by a set of 8 people, that is roughly 40 folders a day per person. We keep the head count low by using technology in the best way possible because we all want the most money coming to our pockets every year.

Justin,

Yes the barcode system might be cheaper to implement and was implemented in the past when the company was in a different market. (Once I am able to get the prices from a vendor that is willing to deal with a smaller company I think active RFID tags will be cheaper because of the larger coverage area of sensors compared to the need for so many barcode scanners throughout high density areas like cube farms.) The problem with the barcode system was the human factor, the time it took to continually scan an item every time it was touched. If someone forgot to scan an item you were back to basics and it was time to start paging the office to see who has the folder. Because of the time and aggrivation the barcode system caused it was abandoned.

Enter into the current goals of the company and knowing where a file is even more important. In the past customer service was never given a thought, if a file could not be found they told the customer to call back later. Now customer service is important, keeping hold times down is important, most of our customers call us on cell phones. Also we want to reduce the costs of audits of the files. I see being able to query the system and detect missing files before the auditors arrive as a huge benefit to driving down costs and aggrivation.

The interesting thing is the folders that we use cost us more then the cost of active printable RFID tags, each folder costs $4, if the tag costs $2 or less I am not adding that much to the storage costs to get what I think is going to be a big return on efficency.

Jeff
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

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