Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is not a new technology. Its roots can be traced all the way back to World War II when British planes used transmitters to identify them as friendly planes to the Allied Forces. Patents for RFID tags were filed in the 1970s and used to track nuclear materials and cows. Yes, cows. These low-frequency tags helped farmers keep track of roaming animals and which medications the cows had received.
The use of RFID technology increased in the 1990s and 2000s as companies realized the advantages of using the tech to track goods through the supply line. Now RFID is being used on construction sites to track materials and make sites safer.
RFID tags are small two-way transmitters that work by emitting a signal via radio waves. These can be low or high-frequency waves, and the tags can be active or passive, meaning they always emit a signal, or they only work when scanned. As costs for RFID tags have fallen, their use has risen in many industries.
The Benefits of RFID Tags
- Reduce loss and theft of equipment
RFID tags are an easy way to track your inventory across multiple worksites. They can be used on small tools and large equipment. The tags track which site the tools are at and when they are returned. This cuts down on theft and loss of equipment.
- Streamline your inventory
Another benefit is streamlining your inventory system. With a digital record, it’s easy to know how long a tool has been in use and when it last received any maintenance. The tags take the guesswork out of inventory. RFID technology has also moved to cloud-based systems, which makes the data collected by the tags easily accessible, even by mobile apps.
- Increase Safety
RFID tags also allow you to track personnel on job sites and manage authorized personnel versus unauthorized people, which can also limit theft. When workers wear RFID tags, it helps locate them in emergencies. RFID tags can also be placed around hazardous areas to alert workers when they approach the area.
Types and cost of RFID tags
RFID tags come in low and high-frequency ranges and can be passive or active tags.
Low-frequency tags operate at 30 to 300 kHz with a read range of about 10 centimeters. These are used for animals, car key fobs, and other access panels. They cost from $1 to $5.
High-frequency tags function at 13.56 MHz and have a bit longer read range than low frequency at roughly 30 centimeters. These cost $2 to $10 and are commonly used to tag library items that are borrowed and returned frequently and some types of personal ID.
Ultra-high-frequency tags are most commonly used in the construction industry. These tags operate at a much greater range, with some tags able to be read within 100 meters of the scanner. UHF tags can be active or passive. Active tags emit a continuous signal and are ideal for tracking equipment, tools, and vehicles. They cost $25 to $50 per tag. Passive tags emit a similar range but the signal can only be detected when an RFID scanner activates a signal to detect it. They’re cheaper than active tags at $0.10 to $20 per tag. These tags are excellent for tracking inventory.
Cloud-Based RFID Solutions
The cost of RFID tags and scanners may not be the only investment in this type of technology. Some companies work as SaaS-based RFID providers, with a monthly or yearly cost. In exchange, these companies provide up-to-date inventories of all tagged items, pinpoint inefficiencies, and help maintain safety. Some examples of cloud-based companies that work with RFID tags in the construction industry are:
Other companies that are not Sales as a Service (Saas)-based, but sell RFID tags, scanners, and other equipment are:
RFID technology has been a great asset since its introduction and it continues to streamline the construction industry and make it a safer place to work.