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Anyone who sells consumer goods to Best Buy, Target, or Wal-Mart knows that tagging product pallets with RFID tags is mandatory. The tags help suppliers and retailers speed the tracking of inventory as it moves from manufacturer warehouses to transportation centers and eventually to retailer warehouses.
But RFID has benefits that reach far beyond inventory tracking. By combining RFID tags with asset management systems, enterprises are implementing sophisticated, real-time asset control processes. "Asset management is one of the biggest growth areas for RFID," says Erik Michielsen, RFID analyst at ABI Research.
Major automakers, including BMW and Toyota, and shipping companies, such as NYK Logistics, were among the first to deploy RFID for asset management. They used WhereNet's active RFID tags -- transponders that emit a signal -- on cars or shipping containers waiting in shipping lots. By monitoring these tags within asset management systems, these companies can ensure that the lot gates alert guards when a vehicle leaves the lot outside its scheduled time or that the right container is placed on the right truck. Transponders such as WhereNet's are typically the size of several decks of cards, which restricts their use to large objects, and cost between $40 and $80.
But passive RFID tags are cheap (often costing less than a dime) and small (about the size of a postage stamp, and not much thicker), allowing them to be affixed to small items such as laptops, chemical containers, ID badges, and aircraft parts. This enables affordable tracking of a wide range of objects, not just big ones.
For example, Virgin Atlantic Airways plans to use RFID tags on aircraft parts to track their location in repair shops and to store maintenance data so that crews can see what parts
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Many of the early adoptions of RFID for asset management have started with traditional inventory management deployments, expanding as IT proves RFID brings benefits to more parts of the organization than just the warehouse.
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