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How Critical Is an RFID Site Survey to RFID Project Success?

What is an RFID site survey?

An RFID site survey completely analyzes every RFID data collection point in order to properly place RFID tags and antennas for optimum data capture. It identifies all of the costs, both internal and external, of an RFID system. It also substantially reduces or eliminates the risks associated with RFID implementation and serves as a central reference for all parties involved in implementing an RFID system.

Why is an RFID site survey necessary?
Passive RFID technology successfully automates the process of capturing data associated with virtually any asset. Successfully capturing data from RFID tags requires a complete understanding of:

  • the physical composition of the individual assets
  • the surrounding environment
  • how the assets are physically moved or transported.

Since passive RFID tags have no on-board power source, they need to acquire power in order to function. They acquire power from the radio frequency transmissions from the RFID reader and antennas.

This means that the RFID tags and antennas need to be physically placed in a manner which allows the RFID tag to acquire power from the antenna, and the antenna to receive RFID tag data. The way to ensure that tags and antennas are placed properly is to perform an onsite RFID site survey.

What does an RFID site survey entail?
An RFID site survey is critical to ensure the accuracy and integrity of any RFID system. The objective of the site survey is to gather all the necessary information about each and every location where RFID data will be collected. These locations are referred to as read zones. Proper placement in each read zone ensures accurate data capture.

In order to ensure that RFID tags and antennas are coupled in each read zone, the site survey needs to gather the following information:

  • The dimensions and composition of the assets that will have RFID tags placed on them
  • How individual assets are oriented and moved or transported through each read zone
  • The measurements (heights and widths) of each read zone
  • The dwell times of assets in each read zone and the number of assets present in each read zone at one time
  • The number of available power sources for each read zone — either AC power or PoE for the readers
  • The amount of available network connection options for the reader
  • A record of any threats — environmental or physical — that could jeopardize or interfere with the RFID system, such as heat, liquids, forklifts, or overhead cranes
  • In the case of doorways, record how the doors open and close
  • Take lots of pictures (with permission) — they are valuable references

Once all the information is gathered, an RFID site survey report can be generated.

What is an RFID site survey report?
The site survey report will be used to complete the RFID system design. It provides very specific information for:

  • Where and how to install or attach RFID tags on each individual asset type
  • Exactly where and how to mount RFID antennas in each read zone
  • Where and how to mount and install the RFID readers.

It also identifies the locations where power and/or network cables may need to be installed. A very detailed bill of materials can be generated from the report, leading to a clear understanding of the total cost of implementing the RFID technology system.

The RFID site survey report serves as the reference document for the entire RFID project and is used by all members of the RFID project team. Most, if not all, large RFID projects involve multiple parties or departments within an organization, and usually involve external organizations such as vendors or sub-contractors as well.

The site survey report serves as a critical reference and ensures that everyone participating in the RFID project is in sync. Performing an RFID site survey is the best way to maintain open communication and clear objectives for everyone involved in the project.

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