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Practical Advice for Implementing RFID Applications

Practical Advice for Implementing RFID Applications

Your radio-frequency identification (RFID) automation project has been approved and is under way. The technology is available, the application scenarios have been formulated, and the economic benefit has been assessed. So how does your vision become reality, and what are the next steps you need to take as you implement your application?

With the trend toward RFID in manufacturing to leverage low-cost tags and achieve higher read distances, technology is making it possible for global producers to understand the source supply chain more completely. But what's required for successful applications is a systematic procedure and model that will work irrespective of specific application and industry sector. Assuming that the first steps, including the process analysis, target concept formulation, and economic feasibility study, have been completed, now it is a matter of turning the analytical results into reality.

The implementation of a target concept under real conditions can involve a few surprises, even though standard solution elements have been developed and tested by the manufacturers of RFID systems. To deal with these issues, possible combinations of RFID transponders and reader devices are measured, tested, and tried in practical applications under laboratory conditions. In special cases -- for example, under critical physical circumstances -- an "out-of-the-box" RFID solution does not always exist. That is why the findings obtained during the course of the project must be incorporated into the subsequent steps.

The risk of introducing RFID technology can be controlled by limiting its application to selected products, certain marking levels, and predetermined processes. A feasibility test or field test can also be regarded as a simulation in the broadest sense. To prevent negative surprises at a very early stage, a field or feasibility test, based on the target concept, should be the next step in the implementation of an RFID project. The test serves to check and adjust the technical feasibility of a previously created RFID concept in the customer's real environment.

A feasibility test can be performed before a profitability calculation. Otherwise, the creation of a return on investment (ROI) may not make sense for a solution that is technically unrealizable at a later stage. A feasibility test only checks whether the RFID technology can be generally applied in the planned environment, but the field test also checks the permanent environmental effect on the planned technology.

A test concept accurately specifies the scope, period, objectives, and expected results. When creating this concept together with the customer, observe the definition of assessable test objectives. Since IT systems should not be interfered with at this stage, the software is provided based on which test can be evaluated.

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