RFID inventory management software increases inventory processing speed and streamlines business operations. With RFID inventory software you can bulk add inventory to the transaction without scanning each individual inventory item. NFC inventory management comes close to it, and can be done with the regular smartphones - no special inventory scanning hardware is required.
RFID Inventory Management: What is RFID And How Does It Work For The Inventory Tracking
In a broad sense, RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) is an inventory management and asset tracking technology that uses radio waves to detect and identify an inventory item or an asset. RFID inventory management hardware include RFID readers (scanners) and RFID tags with the embedded chip and antenna. When an RFID inventory tag appears in the RFID reader's working range (around 60 feet), it "wakes up" and sends a signal containing encoded inventory SKU or part number. The RFID reader receives and decodes inventory SKU and sends it to the backend cloud inventory management software for processing.
RFID inventory software provides tremendous increase in the inventory processing speed as compared to the traditional barcode inventory management. Instead of scanning one inventory item at a time, with the RFID technology you can read information from all inventory items in the working radius at the same time. For example, to check in inventory on a service truck you just need to turn on an RFID reader - and data on all inventory in the van will be read and transmitted to the backend inventory management software in a matter of seconds.
The inventory RFID tags do not even need to be on the item's surface and in a line of sight of an RFID reader. As long as the RFID tag is on the inventory, even inside the packaging or casing, it can be read.
This speed and convenience comes with a high price tag. RFID reader can cost anywhere between $500.00 and $2,000+. You also need to purchase special RFID tags to label inventory. RFID inventory tags are noticeably more expensive than the barcode labels. Add RFID inventory management software and service that you will need in order to put the entire RFID inventory system together - and it becomes cost prohibitive for the small businesses.
NFC Inventory Mangement: What is NFC And How It Works For Inventory Tracking
NFC (Near Field Communication) technology uses the same principles as RFID. The difference is that an NFC inventory tag should be much closer to the
therefore you cannot stand away and read a truckload of inventory items at the same time.
You do need to scan each inventory item separately. However, you do not need to focus a reader (scanner)
on a tag as you do when scanning barcodes or QR codes with the smartphone - just touching of the NFC inventory tag with a smartphone is enough.
As with the RFID inventory management, NFC tag can be on any side of the inventory item or even inside a packaging. Therefore, you still have a significant gain in the inventory processing speed as compared to the barcode or QR code inventory management. For example, you can walk along the warehouse shelf at a normal pace holding an NFC reader close to the shelf and all inventory or assets on the shelf will be processed as you go.
The advantage of NFC inventory software vs RFID inventory software is in the inventory scanner cost. With the NFC inventory management system you can use regular smartphones for NFC scanning. With RFID inventory management system, or need to use a dedicated RFID reader, or a special RFID smartphone sled that allows you to use a smartphone for RFID scanning. Each RFID sled or scanner costs $600.00+, so NFC inventory management requires signiicantly less inventory scanning hardware investment.
Using NFC And RFID Technologies For The Inventory Management / Asset Tracking
In order to use NFC or RFID technology for the assets and inventory management you need the following components:
NFC Or RFID ReadersThe situation with the NFC readers is similar to the barcode scanners - you can either purchase a stand alone NFC reader or use your smartphone as an NFC reader. Advantages of using a smartphone as NFC reader for the inventory management are the same as for using smartphone as barcode scanner. Unlike barcode scanners that are faster than smartphones, you do not have an inventory scanning speed advantage for the stand-alone NFC reader. Smartphones will read NFC tags with the same speed as stand-alone NFC readers.
For the RFID inventory management you will need to purchase dedicated RFID scanners that should be connected to a computer, RFID-enabled mobile computer or an RFID sled for a smartphone. An RFID sled for a smartphone could be your best option if you allow company employees to use their own smartphones for inventory management tasks. With this arrangement you can take advantage of the smartphone inventory mobile applications, and add the ability to read RFID inventory tags to a smarphone by using an RFID sled.
NFC Or RFID Inventory TagsYou need special NFC or RFID tags in order to use an NFC or RFID technology for the inventory management. Those tags consist of an antenna (which is used to detect NFC or RFID reader and send encoded information, ususlly inventory item part number, in response) and a chip that stores inventory information to be sent. Antenna / chip combination is very small, and can be embedded in almost anything depending on the situation. For the purpose of the assets and inventory management you can purchase NFC or RFID tags in a variety of materials. You can have plastic NFC and RFID inventory tags, disks, sticky NFC or RFID inventory labels (including durable, whether proof labels), plastic sticky NFC or RFID tags, etc.
Although you can print information on the NFC and RFID tags, no printed information is required for the purpose of NFC / RFID scanning of the assets and inventory. Inventory part number that is transmitted to the NFC or RFID reader is stored in the chip. You need to encode NFC and RFID tags so that they contain a unique inventory part number.
Encoding Of The NFC Or RFID Inventory TagsIn order to use NFC or RFID tags for the inventory management you need to encode a unique inventory ID / part number into each tag. There are several was to do it:
- Manual NFC / RFID tags encoding. Some NFC or RFID reader also have capabilities to write data to the NFC or RFID tags. For NFC tags you can use smartphones, for the RFID you need a dedicated RFID reader with the writing capabilities. Encoding NFC or RFID tags manually is very slow and cumbersome, and can only be used for the pilot NFC or RFID inventory management projects, for very small number of assets or inventory items.
- NFC / RFID printer. You can purchase a dedicated NFC or RFID printer that can encode NFC or RFID tags and also print the encoded number on the tag itself. This is the best option if you need a fresh supply of RFID or NFC tags on the regular basis, and need an automated way to produce tags in-house.
- Order pre-encoded NFC / RFID tags. You can order pre-encoded RFID or NFC tags from the supplier, with or without printing of the encoded number on the tag. As a rule, you can pre-encode sequential numbers, not inventory part number. When you receive encoded NFC or RFID tags from the supplier, you should be able to link the ID encoded in the tag to the specific inventory item or an asset.
Inventory Management Software Supporting NFC Or RFIDYou will need asset and inventory management software that supports NFC or RFID, such as QR Inventory software.
NFC And RFID Inventory Management: Takeaways
RFID inventory management is the most automated inventory managent system. If you are using a stationary RFID readers connected to the cloud no human involvment is required - inventory data are automatically sent to the backend inventory management software for processing and reporting. If you are using handheld RFID readers, processing of the inventory transactions is very fast. You can add all nearby inventory and assets to the transaction at once and submt to the cloud - there is no need to scan each individual inventory item or asset.
RFID inventory management hardware is also the most expensive. Unlike other inventory management scanning options (barcodes, QR codes, bluetooth, NFC), RFID is not supported by the smartphones - so you need to purchase dedicated RFID readers, RFID enabled mobile computers or RFID sleds for the smartphones.
NFC is a new promising development for asset tracking and inventory management applications. Unlike RFID, you do need to scan each inventory item or asset - NFC reading range is very small, around an inch. On the positive side, you can use regular smartphones for NFC inventory management, and NFC inventory scanning with the smartphones is fast. You do not need to focus a smartphone camera for NFC inventory scanning - just touch each inventory item or asset with a smartphone. Therefore, NFC inventory management provides a significant inventory scanning speed improvement as compared to QR code or barcode inventory management.