RFID: A Technological Revolution

RFID: A Technological Revolution

By Paula Hock

RFID technology has changed the face of many industries– including various areas of transportation, but what is it exactly? And how does it (and will it in the future) affect your transportation needs and uses?

RFID: The Basics

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification, and it describes the use of electromagnetic fields to automatically track tags attached to various objects. RFID readers can detect both active and passive tags. The two tags differ in that the former collects energy (radio waves) from a nearby reader while the latter has its own power source and can be much further away from the reader and still be detected.

Variations in the technology have been developed to adapt to many distinct applications: frequency variations, capacitive versus inductive, changes to substrate material, etc. This article provides more detail on these intricacies.

The in-use and potential applications of this type of technology are endless. Retail has long used RFID tags for use in inventory tracking and has been eyeing new uses for several years, including automated checkouts and smart fitting rooms. Security in varying forms is enormously helped by RFID technology. For example, a Las Vegas casino avoided an attempted robbery of $1.5 million, as they had embedded RFID tags within their $100 and $25,000 chips. Even amusement parks have waded into the area, with Orlando area Disney parks having incorporated RFID tech into their tickets to reduce wait times and lower staffing costs.

Early Uses in Transportation

RFID use in transportation is certainly not new. One of the first implementations of RFID occurred in trucking with the “CRESCENT” program. It was begun as a way for trucks to bypass weigh stations. Savings to trucking companies were sure to be sizeable, as trucks would no longer have to slow down then accelerate back to high speeds, saving both fuel and time across their entire networks.

The program was a great success. It deployed meters ahead of the weigh stations and weigh-in-motion technology to obtain each truck’s pertinent information. If all standards were met, the system sent a message to the vehicle indicating the station could be skipped.

From there, RFID spread to other parts of trucking operations. These include gate operation, goods tracking, fuel purchase and consumption, and more. It’s not surprising that other parts of the transportation industry have found successful uses for the same technology.

RFID Continued Development

Across the aviation industry, RFID has become an integral part of day-to-day operations- most prominently in maintenance and upkeep. Aircraft maintenance at Boeing uses RFID tags along with contact memory buttons (CMBs) as part of their overall approach to automated identification technology (AIT). These technologies are incorporated in a variety of parts and streamline communication on previous maintenance activity and record keeping.

Beyond maintenance, many have proposed the use of RFID technology in baggage handling. With its incorporation, the airline industry could save ~$3 billion and drastically reduce the amount of mishandled baggage.

Many drivers in across the US have also begun to see RFID technology in use every day: tolling. RFID-based transponders are in use across numerous states, including Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and more. With advances in the transponder technology allowing tolls to read meters at highway speeds and longer distances, many areas have also reduced traffic congestion via open-road setups.

A variety of other industries have incorporated RFID technology as well, including rail, shipping, and supply chain.

Broad Success

RFID’s continued expansion into transportation is a success story for the technology and for the segment as a whole. This technological evolution proves that an old technology incorporated in new ways can change the way we operate entire industries.

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

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