Logistics technology: RFID sensing and monitoring are the next wave, says VDC Research

By combining RFID’s track and trace capabilities with sensors, users are getting more data and value than ever

By ·

One of the emerging stories in the RFID market is the convergence of technologies around RFID. “Sensing and monitoring is beginning to take hold,” says Drew Nathanson, director of research operations for VDC Research Group, the Massachusetts based technology research firm.

In these applications, the RFID tag is doing more than just keeping track of the location of an asset in real time; it is also now capable of managing and monitoring the status of assets that are critical to operating a business, including the environmental operating and storage conditions as well as how effectively that asset is being utilized.

Right now, Nathanson says the most common application in the field combines a temperature sensor with an RFID tag. The early adopters have been industries like fresh produce and chemical that transport temperature-sensitive products. “But, there is a range of sensor technology beginning to emerge that will allow you to monitor moisture and humidity levels, shock, PH levels and volatile emissions or gases,” Nathanson says.

For example, in the commercial aerospace industry one maintenance provider uses sensors to track the temperature and humidity in storage areas where canisters and other sensitive parts are stored. Instead of sending in a technician to get a status update, the system receives a constant flow of data. If the temperature or humidity deviates beyond a safe operating range, the system sends a real-time alert so that it can be addressed.

As with the overall adoption of RFID, making this possible are lower tag prices and more robust software. “An active tag with an integrated temperature sensor used to be $50 and it’s now $20 in volume,” Nathanson says. “If you use a passive tag with a printed battery or a passive tag that wakes up the sensor when it’s read by a reader, you can get the price of a to $2 or less.”

In addition to monitoring conditions, the information being collected by these systems can be tied to business intelligence and analytics software to help identify bottlenecks in processes, to keep a repair process on track by managing an asset and to track whether scheduled maintenance or calibration was performed on a tool or part so that it’s ready to be used when it’s needed.

For example, the asset management system of one manufacturer using RFID is tied to the company’s ERP system. It keeps track of hot parts that are needed in the facility to complete jobs. When a hot part is read by an RFID reader at the receiving dock, the system automatically directs it to the workstation where it’s needed.

“As companies get familiar with the technology, there’s a crossing of value chains,” says Nathanson. “The system is implemented to track inventory. But there’s also a value chain for a component going into a finished product. That extends the investment in the RFID solution.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) / Inventory Management Technology: 6 Trends for the Modern Age
Here’s how the next generation of warehouse and inventory management systems are evolving to help logistics operations operate more efficiently and improve their bottom lines in our brave, new digital age.
Download Today!
From the March 2018 Logistics Management Magazine Issue
We know e-commerce is reshaping logistics, but what are the technologies savvy managers can leverage to meet evolving requirements and shifting operational constraints? We’ve rounded up insights from leading analysts to share tools that are available now as well as what’s on the horizon.
Reverse Logistics in the “Age of Entitlement”
Logistics Management’s Viewpoint on E-commerce: Leveraging available tools
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Securing IoT data across the connected supply chain
Learn why a holistic approach to IAM is the most effective way to govern access to your systems and information requested by your partners, vendors, customers, and connected devices.
Register Today!
Evolution of E-commerce: The possibilities of tomorrow
We know e-commerce is reshaping logistics, but what are the technologies savvy managers can leverage...
State of Global Logistics: Delivering above and beyond
Industry experts agree that costs across all sectors worldwide will continue to rise in 2018, and...

2018 Rate Outlook: Economic Expansion, Pushing Rates Skyward
Trade and transport analysts see rates rising across all modes in accordance with continued...
Building the NextGen Supply Chain: Keeping pace with the digital economy
Peerless Media’s 2017 Virtual Summit shows how creating a data-rich ecosystem can eliminate...