IoT Value Shines Through RFID Tracking

Create: 10/28/2015 - 13:00

Productive business relationships, particularly within retail, rely on seamless communication with vendors and product manufacturers. Complete information regarding products in the pipeline — including identifying contents, determining location and discerning delivery times is crucial. IoT technologies such as RFID can keep tabs on products from the raw materials stage all the way through delivery as a finished product and to the shelf location. And, it can do so more quickly and efficiently than previous tracking systems.

In the factory, RFID tagging helps manufacturers order the correct amount and type of raw materials. The technology advises the OEM and its suppliers when inventory levels are depleting, so a re-order can be initiated. That data is scanned into computers, which takes human error out of the equation. The flow of information and products is simultaneous. The function of RFID is thereby optimized by its integration with other related products.

However, suppliers use RFID for more than replenishment; they rely on it to optimize the factory process. RFID tags let partners to know exactly where specific products are located. Say an RFID-tagged order of denim is ordered by a sewing factory. The bolts of fabric are located by the factory, using the RFID tag, and, based on the enbedded information, taken out of the warehouse and shipped to the factory, where it will be transformed into holiday tablecloths. It can be tracked on its way to that facility, and then, after manufacture, the final product will be retagged for delivery to a specific retailer. 

The ability to track and trace product movements starts from the point of manufacturing, and RFID tags help trace inventory, its treatment and its condition throughout the supply chain. By putting an RFID chip in a pallet, for instance, and using an integrated IoT gateway device in the shipment vehicle, information is uploaded and stored in the cloud. All stakeholders can then use software to identify the pallet, share its position using GPS coordinates and bring in other data such as weather and traffic conditions and driver-specific data including driving pattern, average speed and vehicle maintenance.

If you're selling perishable items, like Halloween candy, monitoring the condition of transport is as important as its timeliness, and that capability requires many more IoT sensors. Using IoT technology, variables such as temperature, humidity, vibrations and altitude can be easily monitored and maintained appropriately. 

This provides an opportunity for transport companies to improve customer service to their customers. As they capture product use information from clients, they can provide corresponding services. The ability to continuously monitor temperature, is just one service for which certain manufacturers might pay extra. The powerful capabilities of building a network of connected products will help to distinguish companies competitively.

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Jennifer Bosavage

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