Our life is full of hype, both in our personal and business lives. (We won’t think about going into the hype that we see in our personal lives, but we will address some of the hype in our business lives.) AI, IoT, Industry 4.0, Blockchain, and yes even RFID. Blockchain is the current biggest offender, full of mystery and intrigue with references to cryptocurrency! But when you peel back all the layers, it is a database, and a slow one at that. If you need to keep your financial or medical records somewhere where they cannot be altered (immutable) then maybe it is for you. But all the hype around blockchain in the warehouse is farfetched!
Ten years ago, RFID was that hype. Major retailers were pushing hard to get RFID embedded into consumer products so that automated inventory and even automated checkout could be achieved. On the surface, it looked like a great concept, but the laws of physics would not be ignored. Metal and liquid products, stray reads, and the mountains of data produced were going to be an issue, and it took a few years of failed projects for most of the RFID hype in the retail world to die away.
Absolutely, there are valid use cases for RFID, and we at EMP have implemented several successful projects with our customers in industrial applications. Lately, there seems to be a resurgence of hype surrounding RFID in the warehouse and shop floor. The difference is… now the time might be right!
OK, the tags are basically the same. The readers are basically the same. The technological challenges of what to do with the data and the costs……ditto. No real technical breakthroughs have happened in passive RFID products. But a large change has happened in our society. What is your biggest challenge in the warehouse space? Hands down, labor! What is one of the better tools to automate your warehouse: RFID. It might be time to take a fresh look at RFID in your warehouse or shop floor. The factors that ruled it out a few years ago, cost and complexity, might not look so overwhelming considering the challenges of getting people to come to work.
It’s a different story with RTLS (Real-Time Locating Systems). And yes, the two technologies do bleed over into each other. Bluetooth low energy, ultra-wideband, passive array readers, cloud computing, along with a desire by the manufactures to broaden the market for these products… all come together to greatly expand the capabilities and affordability of these solutions. Don’t get me wrong: they are still expensive. You better have a really good ROI for what happens when you cannot find something. But the chasm between what you want and what you can afford is narrowing. The technology is better and more affordable; the customer’s desire to automate operations is even higher. Thus, the available market of people who can afford to use the technology is larger than before.
In summary, one thing never changes. We at the EMP Tech Group want to be the trusted industry adviser that you have on your team. These are still very murky waters, and we have the expertise to help you take that fresh look at RFID and even RTLS. Contact us today and we will help!