Over a period of time, we are increasingly recognising the importance of Radio Frequency Identification Detection (RFID) in all spheres of activities, in general, and transportation & communication technology, in particular.
RFID plays an important role in our lives, using wireless communication system. Radio waves are used to identify and track objects for communication.
The use of RFID demonstrates huge potential in terms of its ability to enable solutions within applications in the transport sector. Through this technology, data is transmitted from a micro silicon chip at a very fast speed even without the need of a line of sight, as required by barcodes. It is an established data-carrying and automatic identification technology used throughout the industry.
An RFID system functions with readers and tags that communicate with each other through radio waves. Information is stored in the tags in electronic digital form. For example, RFID placed in road infrastructure can identify and communicate with the vehicles plying on the road. Frequency is concerned with the size of radio waves to communicate among components of a RFID system. RFID systems can work in low, high and ultra-high frequency bands. Radio waves differ in each of these frequencies with merits and demerits associated.
An RFID system operating at a lower frequency, has a shorter read range and slower data read rate, but increased capabilities for reading near or on metal and liquid surfaces. Those operating at higher frequency have faster data transfer rates and longer read ranges, but are more sensitive to radio wave interference caused by liquids and metals in the environment.
It works with transfer of data relating to an item stored on an RFID tag to the reader. Like a bar code, a tag is a data carrier. A bar code that carries data in a visible symbol is read by a bar code scanner using optical or infrared wavelengths. An RFID tag carries data programmed into a small computer chip through operation of a wide range of radio frequencies. The tag is primarily activated by radio waves that are emitted from an RFID reader through antenna.
The reader communicates through antenna wirelessly with the tag attached to the objects, also known as air-interface. For example, a car with tags placed on the windshield passing through the toll plaza, communicates with reader through its identification besides via transaction of toll payment at the toll plaza.
Passive tags do not have its own battery to generate electricity. Once a tag is activated by an electromagnetic wave at a specified frequency and wave length emitted from the antenna through reader, it sends data stored in its memory relating to the item back to the reader. This data can then be used within and between organisations and trading partners in a secure manner.
Some applications of RFID technology include security applications, warehousing and stocking goods, livestock management, controlling entry and exit of vehicles, books and libraries management, medical and experimental analysis, access control, vehicle identification, and control of entry and exit at hazardous sites
Various transportation companies are relying on tags on vehicles for their identification when they arrive at sites. This information is then fed into the IT systems, including yard management for efficient management of vehicles. RFID is also used to check the correct association of tractors and trailers.
Trailer tracking systems can provide essential information to trailer operators on status, location, door activity and history. These systems utilise the information for providing reliable and protected services to shippers of perishable commodities.
RFID has a better read rate than barcodes in baggage handling applications. Such is its effectiveness that RFID can be used in boarding cards for allowing detection of passengers to the boarding gate so as to ensure safety and security of passengers.
Prof P K Sarkar
Director, Transportation, Asian Institute of Transport Development, New Delhi