RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification and is a technology which allows for the wireless transmission of data. This is the same basic technology that car radios use. It allows for rapid collection and transmission of digital product data, collected without the need to even “see” the product.
The data programmed into an RFID tag microchip is harvested via electromagnetic fields by an RFID Reader or “Interrogator.” This data is then relayed back to the the Reader, where it is translated.
RFID tags are considered “smart labels.”
They consist of an Inlay made of a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) layer. Embedded in this PET inlay is a microchip the size of a grain of rice, and an antenna which is typically made from aluminum, copper, or silver.
Programming an RFID tag requires either an RFID reader or an RFID programming enabled printer. The quickest and easiest way to program a RFID tag is by using an RFID printer. Most RFID tags will have something printed on the face of the tag. Only an RFID printer can both program the tag and print on the face. While the RFID printer prints the desired information on the face of the tag (ie. barcode, QR code, logo, product info), it simultaneously programs, or “encodes” the tags microchip with a unique value. the entire printing process for one tag takes less than one second to complete.
Below is a comparison chart showing the difference between Barcode and RFID. In it you will see the unique advantages that RFID brings. RFID does not render Barcodes/QR Codes obsolete. The two can work together and most RFID tags contain a printed Barcode/QR Code.
Barcodes/QR Codes VS RFID Tags
RFID boasts an accuracy of over 99%. The main reason for such high accuracy is simply because it removes human error. One of the most important accuracy points is that it is impossible to accidentally inflate your inventory. This is because it is impossible for RFID readers to read something that is not there. One item may be “read” many times by a reader but since every RFID tag is serialized it will only be counted once. The technology has now begun to be used on thousands of various products in a myriad of industries.
Like any technology, RFID has its limitations. There are some environmental factors including excess liquids in an area, or metal shielding the RF signal that can impact read accuracy.
In the majority of cases there are ways to work around these challenges and utilize the technology successfully.
Hardware Needs and Costs
Due to technological advances over the past decade, the hardware needs of this technology have decreased, and in some cases, completely disappeared. For example, just a few years ago handheld RFID readers required onboard computers. Now the computers have been replaced with smartphone apps that are able to connect to readers via Bluetooth and then upload the data via the web.
The minimum hardware components required are:
- Handheld RFID Reader
- Android or IOS smartphone or tablet
- RFID enabled Printer
- Private Printing Network (PC, Print Software, cables)
See our Pricing page for details.
Using RFID requires not only hardware, but also a software system to gather and present the data gathered. Our stand-alone software can integrate into most systems including ecommerce platforms like bigcommerce and shopify. Software pricing starts at $69.99/month. See our pricing page for more info.
Cost of RFID Tags
The price for an RFID tag in 2001 was $1.15/each. Today tags range in price from 5-10 cents based on volumes. RFID tag prices continue to drop and, if the price trend holds, will be closer to 1 cent than 10 cents in the future.
It is optimal to place tags as far “up stream”, as close to the original source, as possible. Most companies employ a combinations of Source Tagging as well as On-Site tagging. Below is a diagram which illustrates the two approaches and how they can be used together.
Equipment arrives to the Vendor preconfigured. We configure the private network’s Extranet, a micro-computer which acts as the controller for the hardware. In addition we format the labels and design them to allow you to begin printing on day 1.
Getting Started With a Printer
- Remove the Printer from the box
- Select a solid surface where the printer can be placed,will not be obstructed, and where the printer may be able to be opened to allow for reloading of Ribbon and Media.
- Connect the power cable provided into the Printer and then into a AC/DC outlet. Keep the power off.
- Locate the Extranet which is a micro-PC. Connect the power adapter to the PC and pull it into an AC/DC adaptor.
- Connect the USB cord from the Extranet to the Printer.
- Connect the USB Modem to the Extranet
- Turn on the Printer, and Extranet.
- Load the Ribbon & Media
Zebra ZD500R: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kG5Ez4KRD0c
Zebra ZT410R : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84_J3Nr3PbI
- Calibrate Ribbon & Media
Zebra ZD500R Ribbon & Media Calibration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfgQYcKCzqE
Zebra ZT410 Manual Ribbon & Media Calibration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzG3vOom0Dk&t=6s
Zebra ZT410 Automatic Ribbon & Media Calibration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiJnfNwBw8I
- Calibrate RFID
Zebra ZD500R RFID Calibration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuK4NIG-z8U&t=5s
Zebra ZT410 RFID Calibration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lefaU23WlY
- Print Test label and verify that it reads
Once the steps in the Quickstart Guide are completed you will begin to utilize the Training manuals.