The Real World of Active RFID Tags

Here's how the technology is being used today to solve real problems, and what's in store for the future.
By John Shoemaker

By installing an RFID reader within a truck, a company can locate assets fitted with active UHF RFID tags in large storage areas or laydown yards, simply by driving though the site. Using active UHF RFID tags can enable fast locationing, especially when assets are constantly being moved around a dynamic storage yard. Finding the correct asset at the right time is vital to operational efficiency (read: it saves hard dollars).

Active UHF RFID tags are also being used to monitor concrete's curing temperatures and times. This technique is employed during large construction projects involving multiple sections or a floor of concrete, for which time is critical, not only for the proper curing of the concrete, but also for the overall project management and schedule. Not only does it help to know when the time is right to pour the next section, but it also enables a firm to monitor the concrete's color and appearance when forms are removed to ensure consistency. New York City's Freedom Tower is an example of a project for which each floor was monitored to ensure it was acceptable, and that the time was right to start the next pour and the next floor. This can shave weeks—or even months—off a construction schedule, saving millions of dollars.

Personnel Safety
Companies that conduct evacuation drills due to the nature of their operations require accurate, real-time information. Unfortunately, many are still using pen and paper, magnetic boards and other inaccurate recording methods to determine who is at which location onsite. While it is important to ensure personnel know what to do during a drill, the time lost in production operations is an expense that can and should be minimized dramatically.

In the event of an actual emergency, first-responders need to know who is safe and who is not. Moreover, it would save time and reduce the incidence of injuries if responders knew exactly where to go to find at-risk personnel.

The solution: automated muster stations. Personnel and all visitors can wear active tags, whether in the form of key fobs or wristbands, to report where they are, especially at muster stations. All individuals can thus be instantly identified, and those at risk can be pinpointed. Such a system can be employed to reduce the time needed to carry out periodic drills—typically lasting a half-hour or more—in 10 minutes or less. This is routinely done on oil rigs, where workers are tagged and can be directed via signage to appropriate muster stations or lifeboats. All the while, dashboards monitor what is happening and can be tracked by safety personnel at onshore or off-site locations. Accurate, real-time communication is critical to providing safety and efficiency.

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