Votum partners with the leading providers of RFID. This includes passive and active, low, high and ultrahigh
passive RFID as well as active RFID and real-time location systems (RTLS). Selecting Votum to deliver your RFID solutions allows you to easily understand each unique alternative solution and how they meet your company’s objectives. Votum helps you professionally address any challenges and optimally implement the best possible solution.

Best Uses for RFID

RFID is now widely used for tracking people, assets and consumables. People tracking solutions vary from passive ID-tag based solutions that might use LF or HF-based proximity cards to UHF asset tracking solutions used to tie people to assets via ID-tags and portals to full active solutions using real time location systems that can track the precise location of every person and asset at all times.

Where bar codes are not sufficient – Barcodes are insufficient where line of sight on the barcode cannot be adequately achieved, preventing a successful read of the tag. Barcodes are also insufficient when the tagged device is to be painted during a maintenance cycle. When this occurs, the barcode can no longer be read. Both of these problems can be solved by using RFID.

Where GPS is too expensive – GPS can be used to track people, assets or consumables when they need to be tracked outside the range of even an active RFID reader. These units typically combine a GPS unit with a cell phone, satellite phone or both. On devices combining both, the cell phone will be used if it is within range of a tower. If communications cannot be established with a cell tower then the satellite phone will be used to relay position.

Targeted Goals for Utilization

Create competitive advantage – can these technologies provide us with capabilities that will extend the services we provide our clients beyond what our competitors provide?

Reduce operating costs – can we use the information we collect using these technologies to provide richer metrics and enhance our operational capabilities?

Increase revenues – are there new revenue streams we can gain access to by coupling these technologies to our current product or services offerings?

Meet regulatory requirements – are there regulatory requirements that can be more easily met by using these technologies?

Understanding the Options

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Bar CodesPassive RFIDActive RFIDWANHardened Mobile Devices
Direct Parts MarkingLFHFUHFWi-FiISOUWBCellSatPassive RFID with CellActive RFID with Cell
Middleware – ALE Standard
Software for Mobile Devices

RFID versus Bar Code

Barcodes are typically the first choice for auto-ID technologies because they are the cheapest to deploy. As mentioned above, they have limitations that can force the use of various types of RFID or GPS.

RFID – Active vs. Passive

The vast majority of RFID tags or transponders (the terms are often used interchangeably) use a silicon microchip to store a unique serial number and sometimes additional information. There are two broad categories of RFID systems—passive and active systems. Passive RFID tags do not have a transmitter; they simply reflect back energy (radio waves) coming from the reader antenna. Active tags have their own transmitter and a power source, usually—but not always—a battery (active tags could draw energy from the sun or other sources). They broadcast a signal to transmit the information stored on the microchip. There are also semi-passive and battery-assisted RFID tags, which are suitable for specific applications.

Active RFID Systems and RTLS

Active tags are used on large assets, such as cargo containers, rail cars, large reusable tanks and major drilling rig componentsthat need to be tracked over long distances (in a distribution yard, for example, or on a rig site). They usually operate at 455 MHz, 2.45 GHz, or 5.8 GHz, and they typically have a read range of 60 feet to 300 feet (20 meters to 100 meters).

Broadly speaking, there are two types of active tags: transponders and beacons. Active transponders are woken up when they receive a signal from a reader. These are used in toll payment collection, checkpoint control and other systems. When a car with an active transponder approaches a tollbooth, a reader at the booth sends out a signal that wakes up the transponder on the car windshield. The transponder then broadcasts its unique ID to the reader. Transponders conserve battery life by having the tag broadcast its signal only when it is within range of a reader.

Beacons are used in most real-time locating systems (RTLS), where the precise location of an asset needs to be tracked. In an RTLS, a beacon emits a signal with its unique identifier at pre-set intervals (it could be every three seconds or once a day, depending on how important it is to know the location of an asset at a particular moment in time). The beacon’s signal is picked up by at least three reader antennas positioned around the perimeter of the area where assets are being tracked. RTLS are usually used outside in a distribution yard. Automakers use these systems in large manufacturing facilities to track parts bins. Active tags have a read range of up to 300 feet (100 meters) and can be read reliably because they broadcast a signal to the reader (some systems can be affected by rain). Their cost varies, depending on the amount of memory, the battery life required, whether the tag includes an on-board temperature sensor or other sensors, and the ruggedness required. A thicker, more durable plastic housing will increase the cost.