Many people reading this may have heard the term RFID before, but may not be familiar with what it is. RFID technology is a relatively recent phenomenon, with the first patented system being developed in the early 1980s. It’s taken until the early 2000s, however, for it to begin to achieve mainstream use, including in the shipping world.
RFID stands for Radio-Frequency Identification, and it works just the way it sounds. Long story short, it uses radio waves to exchange data between a reader and an electronic tag. RFID has various advantages over traditional barcode scanning including the lack of a need for direct line of sight, increased durability (i.e. barcodes being damaged), and the ability to be read/write objects. In other words, an RFID reader can scan an object and change the information of the tag.
As an example, imagine that the shipping information on a package is incorrect. In order to fix this, a new label would have to be created with a new barcode. With RFID, the information is all stored on the tag and it can be changed using the scanner. This alone significantly simplifies the shipping process. The same is true of damaged bar codes. Since RFID doesn’t require direct line of sight, the issues of scuffed or damaged barcodes being unable to be read is non-existent. This leads to increased efficiency in shipping, less errors, and ultimately, cost savings that can be passed on to the consumer.
Carriers like UPS and Federal Express have already widely implemented the use of RFID to track shipments. As time goes on, this trend will continue as the technology increasingly becomes cheaper to implement, and the advantages become more commonly known. Private enterprises aren’t the only ones implementing RFID to lower costs and decrease errors associated with managing large amounts of inventory. The Department of Defense has been using RFID for years to keep track of valuable equipment and inventory and continues to replace antiquated inventory systems with it.
Time is money in shipping and freight and every second counts. Lost packages, shipping errors, and slower delivery times can create a nightmare for carriers and consumers alike. RFID has been a long time in coming, and if current trends are any indication, RFID is here to stay and will continue to replace the tried and true barcode system that many companies still employ. That means everyone will enjoy cost savings and an easier inventory and shipping process.
– Sean Leitzinger, Programmer Analyst