Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

Impact of Position and Orientation of RFID Tags on Real Time Asset Tracking in a Supply Chain

Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

Impact of Position and Orientation of RFID Tags on Real Time Asset Tracking in a Supply Chain

Article excerpt

Abstract

We studied the characteristics of four commercially available RFID tags such as their orientation on an asset and their position in a three dimensional real world environment to obtain comprehensive data to substantiate a baseline for the use of RFID technology in a diverse supply chain management setting. Using RFID tags manufactured by four different vendors and a GHz Transverse Electromagnetic (GTEM) cell, in which an approximately constant electromagnetic (EM) field was maintained, we characterized the tags based on horizontal and vertical orientation on a simulated asset. With these baseline characteristics determined, we moved two of the four tags through a real world environment in three dimensions using an industrial robotic system to determine the effect of asset position in relation to the reader on tag readability. Combining the data collected over these two studies, we provide a rich analysis of the feasibility of asset tracking in a real world supply chain, where there would likely be multiple tag types. We offer fine grained analyses of the tag types and make recommendations for diverse supply chain asset tracking.

Key words: Supply Chain Management, Tag Orientation on Asset, Asset Position, Multiple Tag Types

1 Introduction

Total supply chain visibility is the key application of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. This means that as an asset or product travels through the supply chain, its attributes and sourcing information are associated with it. Attributes can include handling information, checkpoints or waypoint documentation, and chain of custody data as the asset moves between locations, processes, and exchanges hands. Ideally, the data would actually precede the arrival of the asset and also flow backward. Information preceding arrival gives each handler a forward view of the supply chain. Data that flows backward through the supply chain shows the lifecycle of the asset all the way back to the original manufacturer or material suppler. When this ideal data flow occurs, we call this total supply chain visibility. It is this visibility that benefits the entire supply chain from a command and control perspective. Real time, autonomously gathered, RFID data enables this control through total asset visibility up and down the supply chain.

However, although RFID technology has been proclaimed by many to be the next generation barcode, the critical challenges involved with widespread implementation of this technology have tempered adoption. Financial, security, and technical concerns have hindered wide use and acceptance of RFID technology in the supply chain management arena, as well as business, military, and medical areas [8], [18], [19], [24], [29], [32]. For many industries, the financial overhead associated with the technology has dramatically reduced adoption [6]. According to current cost estimates, tags purchased in bulk (> 1 million units) can cost about 13 cents each [1], whereas the current working alternative, barcodes, are virtually free. With improvements in manufacturing and further economies of scale in the future, RFID will likely become a cost effective solution for supply chain asset tracking. On the security and privacy front, the use of RFID has also been met with apprehension from consumers [13], [15]. Fortunately, security has been the focus of much of the ongoing research within the RFID community and innovative solutions to alleviate some of the security challenges have been proposed [9], [15], [12], [27].

Beyond these obstacles that can be overcome with more time and active research, the fundamental aspect of RFID technology that can truly hinder adoption includes the substantive challenge of reading tags in a real world environment. Simply put, state of the art RFID systems do not offer adequate asset tracking capabilities, at least when compared to barcodes. Additional complications arise in scenarios when a reader would need to optimally read multiple commercially available tag types operating in the same environment to ensure total asset visibility. …

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