The IoT Challenge

As the Internet of Things takes shape, RFID companies need to offer complete solutions that can quickly and easily adapt to customers' needs and expectations.
By John Shoemaker

Visibility for the IoT is made possible by empirical and statistical data analysis, using a variety of dashboard metrics, charts, graphs, maps and more, based upon proven formulas and real-time data capture. Answers to constantly changing questions are required: Where are my things? Where have they been? Where are they going? What is their condition? What decisions do I need to make about them? Such operational visibility allows for increased situational awareness to effect timely and intelligent decisions.

Vendors of active RFID tags and readers will have to complement their offerings with software that brings both automation and visualization to reality. One example of this is in the construction business, in which hundreds of thousands of high-value components need to be shipped and stored on or close to a construction site. Those items can be tagged at a fabricator, tracked throughout the supply chain and transported to the site, where they can be automatically identified and reported to the customer's enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that submits entries for goods receipt, inventory control, accounts payable and other functions.

Then there is the use of sensor tags to determine the correct time for the curing of concrete. Data culled from the RFID tag, embedded in the concrete, measures the temperature and reports it automatically. In turn, the graphs and statistics will show, on user tablets, when the curing is completed and the next pour of concrete can take place safely, and at the right time to meet construction schedules.

Other proven solutions include tracking and monitoring shipping containers as they are moved off ships and are then stacked and stored at a port terminal. Temperature sensors provide real-time monitoring of reefers, as well as graphical status and alerts for perishable goods stored within certain containers. All of this will be coordinated with logistical requirements for transport and distribution.

In the oil and gas industry, personnel can be monitored. During crises, signage can automatically direct workers to safe zones or evacuation areas. The operations center on an oil rig or onshore can show in real time, on a map of the facilities, where personnel are located and problems are occurring, in order to facilitate an immediate and effective response. To make this goal achievable, personnel RFID badges, sensors (such as those for detecting flame, gas and temperature), and video and access control for the facility must be integrated with IT systems that display the real-time status of operations on computer screens. The future will include tagging other items, such as assets, tools, specialized equipment and supplies tied to workers and operations.

In each of these application success stories, future demands will increase to tie in other things for identification, tracking, tracing and status. In addition to knowing where an asset or container is located, so many other questions will need to be addressed as well: Where did it come from? What is inside? When and where is it supposed to go? On which truck is it being loaded? Who is the driver? What is the best route for transport? Is the cargo insured? What is its estimated time of arrival at its final destination? What maintenance needs to be conducted? What about spare parts?

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