On the Anniversary of Cardullo’s RFID Patent, a Survey of Uses for Asset Management
Enterprises have been working to harness the power of radio frequency identification, or RFID, for more efficient asset management ever since Mario Cardullo received the first patent for a passive radio transponder with memory.
According to RFID Journal, the original business plan for Cardullo’s “Encoder” envisioned various uses that are common today, including the automotive tags that track cars on most toll roads. But the use of RFID goes well beyond the tag applied to your windshield. Look around: Passive transponders are everywhere. Today, Walmart requires its top suppliers to apply RFID labels to all shipments, and for good reason. A study from the University of Arkansas several years ago found that stores using RFID for inventory management reduced out-of-stocks by more than 20 percent.
As we approach the 40th anniversary of Cardullo’s Encoder – he was granted the patent on Jan. 23, 1973 – we dived into RFID Journal to survey some ways enterprises around the world are using passive tagging to improve asset management and, in an even larger sense, supply chain management.
Tracking lab supplies and equipment
In Michigan, the VA Ann Arbor Health Care System is using tags to track equipment in its catheterization and electrophysiology labs. Hospital staff has real-time data about goods stored on its shelves and in use around the facility, and that data is shared among 11 hospitals via an integrated platform. Here’s how it works: Goods and equipment are stored in RFID-enabled cabinets. Tag readers installed on each shelf of the cabinet identify tagged stents or catheters, for example. Anything valued over $50 is tagged. Software manages the data and displays it in real time, giving staff transparency on where supplies are stored and when they expire. How close an eye can they now keep on assets? The RFID readers automatically provide an electronic record of what is in stock every half hour. Not only is the hospital now better at asset management between its two labs, but staff is also now free from manual monthly inventory duty, and critical equipment doesn’t go missing.
Tagging and tracking oilfield services equipment
In remote Western Australia, a global oil company is affixing RFID tags to hundreds of thousands of tools, materials and components at the construction site of a massive new refinery. The company managing the project needs complete visibility of assets to know if any necessary component is missing or misplaced and could delay the work. In jobs this big, items often come up missing and must be replaced to avoid delaying work and wasting the time of highly paid staff. Some of those missing assets are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, so the ability to track everything can save millions.
Tracking swine with RFID
Pigs are assets, too. In The Netherlands, a provider of livestock farm tools and technology has finished testing high-frequency RFID tags that fit in the ears of piglets, allowing farmers to track swine from birth to slaughter. The tags are less expensive and more effective than low-frequency tags now commonly used. They can be read from several meters away, using fixed and handheld readers. The project is not just about counting pigs. European Union and Dutch regulations will soon require that customers be given information on the supply chain of meat they buy. Each time a tag is read, data is added to that pig’s “electronic passport,” creating provenance of the animal’s health and vaccination history.
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