While the technology itself is not new, RFiD is currently experiencing a revival because of Wal-Mart's announcement in June 2003 that, by Jan. 1, 2005, it expected its top 100 vendors to become RFiD compliant. In World War II, for example, RFiD was used to distinguish between friendly and enemy aircraft. Today, RFiD technology is used in everything from inventory control to product authentication; toll tags to speed passes at the gas pumps; tracking runners in marathons or assets in the supply chain.
Radio Frequency Identification, or RFiD, is a generic term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify items. While there are many different methods of product identification using RFiD, the most commonly used one is one in which a unique serial number identifying the product is stored on a microchip that is attached to an antenna. The chip and the antenna together are called an RFiD transponder or an RFiD tag. The antenna enables the chip to transmit this unique identification number to a reader, which converts the radio waves returned from the RFiD tag into a format that can then be passed on to computers.
Pappu said that RFiD tags will supplement bar codes where it provides a distinct cost advantage and significant competitive advantage, and complement bar codes in many other situations. For example, Pappu said, RFiD technology reduces the number of "touches" a product receives. Every time a product is touched by someone in the supply chain, it costs money, so reducing the number of touches could result in a savings of millions or even billions of dollars.
The result is a more efficient and effective way of managing inventory and the supply chain process.
"A well-designed RFiD system can keep an accurate count of your inventory and tell you exactly what's there," Pappu said. "It provides an organization a much better understanding and control of the inventory process."
As part of the strategic partnership with GlobeRanger, the company's software will provide the infrastructure that the RFiD2 Lab will leverage for education, testing, research, process mapping and solutions development. The software will also be used to control the lab's devices and data management.
The first project under development at the RFiD2 Lab involves inventory management for Cadet uniforms. Graduate students working in the RFiD2 Lab researched and tested tags, readers and middleware to come up with the best solution for managing the uniforms.
"Approximately 650 new cadets will receive three sets of uniforms when they arrive this fall," Pappu said, "and we will be able to manage each step of the process. As cadets receive, exchange or return uniforms, we will have an understanding of how to manage the ordering process and be able to keep track of uniforms that need to be replaced."
The RFiD2 Lab also plans to use the software to show companies what RFiD technology can do for them. Because the software can "emulate" how RFiD will work in various companies and environments, it's easier to demonstrate the benefits of an RFiD system, Pappu said.
"This software makes it very easy for people to see how RFiD can be implemented in their environments," Pappu said. "We can provide a solution in their own language, and they relate much better to the solution. Then, it's much easier to estimate costs, provide an ROI (return on investment) and design a system for them.
"It's a very powerful medium for researching and designing solutions, and we're grateful to GlobeRanger for recognizing the value of a strategic partnership with Texas A&M."