It’s not uncommon for manufacturers & distributors who implement RFID technology into their supply chain to see an 80% improvement in shipping/picking accuracy. And while many business owners think RFID can’t be used in harsh environments, rugged RFID tags and readers make it possible to use RFID in any occupation.
This article will explain the difference between rugged and standard RFID technology, what scenarios rugged RFID equipment is best suited for, and discuss the different types of rugged RFID equipment.
Rugged RFID vs. Standard RFID: What’s the Difference?
The primary difference between rugged and non-rugged RFID equipment is their ability to perform in and withstand different environmental conditions.
Rugged RFID equipment such as RFID readers, antennas and RFID tags are designed to function in challenging scenarios where standard RFID gear may become unreliable or non-operative.
Limitations of Non-Rugged RFID Equipment
For RFID systems to work, radio-frequency signals must be able to easily transfer between the RFID reader, RFID antenna and RFID tag. For non-rugged RFID gear, this isn’t always the case.
Non-rugged RFID tags and readers are susceptible to interference from liquids, metals, high temperatures, vibrations and other environmental factors. This can make the accuracy of a tracking system slightly more unpredictable or, worse yet — completely unusable.
Additionally, the devices used to read and interpret RFID transmissions must be well-suited to the climate conditions they are used in.
Rugged RFID Capabilities
Rugged RFID equipment can overcome most standard devices’ limitations for withstanding harsh environments and signal obstacles.
For instance, if dropped, a standard handheld RFID reader may be easily damaged. In contrast, a rugged UHF RFID reader will be unscathed if dropped as it’s constructed with shock-resistant materials and further protected with a shock-resistant case.
Other features available with rugged RFID equipment include:
- Long battery life
- Can operate in hot and cold temperatures
- Highly responsive touch screens
- Dust and particle resistant
- Meets MIL-STD-810G standards for ruggedness
|Get an idea of RFID’s full capabilities in our blog:|
When to Use Rugged RFID
Rugged RFID tags, antennae and other equipment are best utilized in areas where standard RFID items cannot reliably track and trace assets or where they can become damaged easily. Below are examples of when a rugged RFID setup will provide better track and trace results than non-rugged options.
- Construction sites. Construction sites have many moving assets that can easily “walk away” if not properly tracked and protected. RFID tags on tools, equipment, supplies, and employee ID cards help safeguard assets and keep workers safe.
- On construction sites, rugged RFID tags, antennae and readers are best to ensure assets can be easily located while remaining operational in challenging weather and work conditions.
- Loading docks. Loading bays are busy, fast-moving hubs regularly exposed to outside weather. Workers in loading docks rely on high performance RFID technology; they need their equipment, such as an RFID scanner, to function correctly at all times.
- Standard RFID equipment may be unable to keep up with the demands of a busy loading area due to changing weather conditions, rough handling, low battery life, or impact damage.
- Parcel delivery. As parcels move through their supply chain, they often go outside and into unpredictable conditions. This can cause a breakdown in tracking if standard RFID equipment is used that cannot handle fluctuating climates.
- With rugged RFID readers and tags, parcel companies can ensure that the item’s location is always known, even during harsh weather.
- Manufacturing Floors. Manufacturing floors are often extremely hot and humid. This can lead to standard RFID tags and readers that cannot take the heat, reducing accuracy or losing tracking information.
- Rugged RFID is best for these environments as it is designed to keep functioning in extreme temperatures without any worry of damage.
- Hospital Pharmacies. Hospital pharmacies often have to store delicate drugs and medical supplies in refrigerators and freezers or containers of liquids.
- Standard RFID tags do not survive in these extreme cold temperatures, nor can they be read through a liquid, so rugged RFID solutions are essential.
- Warehouses. Warehouses often employ RFID for tracking inventory and for order fulfillment. However, warehouse shelving usually is constructed with metal components that interfere with RFID signals.
- Rugged RFID tags designed for use in areas where metal is present are required for optimal warehousing efficiency.
- Agriculture. Tracking livestock, crop harvests and equipment is easier for farmers who employ rugged RFID devices to withstand harsh weather conditions such as rain, snow, dust storms, and robust wear and tear.
- Additionally, access to an RFID portable reader that is equally as rugged is recommended.
Types of Rugged RFID Equipment
When selecting rugged RFID gear, there are many products businesses and organizations can choose from to meet their asset management needs.
Rugged Handheld RFID Reader
Rugged handheld readers are ideal when device mobility is essential. Retail sales floors, warehouses, medical clinics and delivery trucks are examples of where a rugged handheld RFID can be used.
Rugged handheld RFID scanners and readers are often called sleds and are available in different levels of ruggedness. Ruggedness levels include standard rugged and ultra-rugged and provide different functionality depending on the make and model of the device.
Rugged RFID tags
Standard RFID tags, such as the ones found in Walmart’s clothing price tags, are easily damaged when kept outside or exposed to harsh conditions.
For instance, if a standard RFID tag is attached to the exterior of a shipping container, it could easily become damaged by weather, handling processes, temperature changes or general wear and tear and quickly become useless. In this scenario, a rugged RFID tag made with more robust materials and sealed in a protective material would be a better solution.
Rugged RFID Antenna
A rugged RFID antenna is designed to withstand harsh environmental conditions and still be able to perform its intended function. These antennas are typically made of durable stainless steel, aluminum, or plastic materials. They are designed to withstand extreme temperatures, moisture, dust, and other elements that could damage the antenna.
Rugged UHF RFID antennas are ideal for use on forklifts, delivery vehicles, conveyor belts, entrance and exit gates, and loading docks.
Rugged Tablet With RFID
Rugged tablets equipped with RFID readers are ideal for tracking assets in the field. These devices allow users to handle asset-tracking tasks and maintain WiFi connections with warehousing software, CMS platforms, or other digital tools. This will enable data to be updated in real-time, regardless of location.
Rugged tablets have different levels of ruggedness, including shock-proofing, water resistance, dust protection and other features that make them suitable for harsh environments.
Get Rugged RFID Capability with Lowry Solutions
Asset management is becoming increasingly complex. Omnichannel sales strategies, remote workforces, and the circular business model are a few reasons businesses need a rugged approach to asset management, such as a comprehensive and rugged RFID system.
Lowry Solutions has provided businesses of all sizes with Turn-key RFID systems configured with class-leading software for years. Our expertise and experience in the field enable us to provide our customers with reliable, cost-effective RFID solutions to track any item they need to keep an eye on.
Contact us today to get started.