What is Auto ID?

Auto ID is a general term used to describe machine readable identification, the most common methods being Barcoding and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification).

Barcodes are relatively inexpensive, can display company logo's, specific number sequences and text. Labels can also be produced in different materials, such as steel, aluminium and plastic, and in a variety of colours. For instance, asset labels can be made in tamper evident vinyl in order to tear easily when the label is removed.

Barcodes are most useful when recording an item's serial number and model type, but can be just as effective in identifying locations, measurements, weights, colours, etc., or when used as cue cards to ensure a standard response is given, e.g. Pass / Fail, Yes / No.

What is RFID?

Unlike barcodes, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) Tags can still be read even when hidden from view. This form of identification is therefore ideal for distinguishing between cables or pipes within dirty or dark environments, or identifying delicate, high value measuring equipment within protective cases.

The simplest RFID Tag can be thought of as a barcode that shouts back. These Tags have a unique ID pre-written to them and are known as "Read Only" because data stored on the tag can not be edited or added to. Typically, the unique ID is linked to a database providing further information about the object the tag is attached to. Unlike barcodes, the unique ID of a tag is very difficult to forge, making it ideal for situations where an ID must uniquely identify an item. This is why RFID is used to identify livestock.

Additional data can be written to more sophisticated Tags. Data can be read, modified and written back to the Tag and passwords set up to restrict access to certain areas of the Tag's memory.

How Do RFID Tags Read?

Generally, the RFID Tag is energised by radio waves transmitted by the reader. This is a process called inductive coupling and this energy allows the Tag to communicate with a reader. More sophisticated tags have internal batteries in order to increase their read range.

PC Linked Handheld RFID Reader

These devices link directly to the PC system via a cable and provide an easy illustration of how RFID can be incorporated in a similar way to existing barcode technology.

Fixed Mounted RFID Reader

Fixed Readers are generally larger devices and consequently provide a greater read range than handheld RFID scanners. The Fixed Reader is often more suitable for industrial environments, as it can be built into work benches, conveyor systems or walls and floors. Mounted in this way, the reader is protected from damage, water or dirt ingress.

Fixed Readers allow the operator to keep both hands free, as the reader can automatically scan the RFID Tag when it is brought into range. They are therefore ideal for security door access, vehicle tolls, etc.

Handheld Computer RFID Readers

A simple handheld computer system combined with the integral RFID reader enables data to be collected remotely and many thousands of items to be verified on the move. Information stored on the Handheld Computer is then uploaded to the main PC system.

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