Over the last several years, tracking and tracing the movement of goods across supply chains has been dominated by radio frequency identification (RFID) tags that help stakeholders identify product locations in real-time. These conventional RFIDs are usually involved with minimal fixed infrastructure – like portals, tunnels around conveyor belts, or on handheld solutions used by employees to scan areas of interest within warehouses. 

RF Controls, an asset-tracking solutions provider, has developed a real-time location system of passive RFID tags that can work without a battery, thereby exponentially improving the usability of the tags. “Our battery-free tags have the ability to scan an area with high speed, over long distances and with high accuracy. The particular protocol we use is called the RAIN RFID,” said Adrian Turchet, senior vice president of strategy at RF Controls. 

Unlike traditional RFIDs, RF Controls provides a complete overhead solution, illuminating a room with radio frequency waves that allow people to identify a tag with one-foot location accuracy from anywhere inside the building. Turchet explained that a “big component” of RF Controls’ real-time locating system (RTLS) is built around the concept of last known location. 

“Last known location is important in cases where the tag goes inside of a metal box or any area where radio waves are unable to enter. In such a situation, we could get the read from the tag about two feet before it goes into the metal shelving,” said Turchet. In essence, the last known location helps in ascertaining the real-time location of a tag, even when the signals cannot reach due to barriers. 

One of the biggest deployments of RF Controls’ tags is in a cross-docking facility, where the ceiling is high with wide open spaces within its enclosure. “The simple equation to understand the square feet we can cover with an antenna is – ceiling height squared times four. So if you’ve got a 30-foot high ceiling and you’ve got one antenna, you can cover 3,600-square feet of space,” said Turchet.