To prove the bold claim in our headline, we’d have to prove a negative (which is impossible), but the very real probability exists that RFID has saved lives.
RFID is well known as a true labor-saving device. Manual inventories used to take days. RFID inventories take minutes. A single click of a handheld RFID reader identifies the contents of an entire room of furniture, equipment, books, parts, etc. Time-wasting manual check-out logs are replaced by doorway-mounted RFID readers that automatically track the movements of assets, from people to documents.
But saving time is only half of the RFID equation. The other half is accuracy.
An inaccurate inventory is a danger. Consider what an inaccurate manual inventory costs your business:
Working capital is tied up: Businesses overbuy when their inventory is imprecise.
Sales and customers are lost: Faulty inventories lead to stock-outs and disappointed customers.
Write-offs are common: When inventory expires or goes missing, or when small incremental errors add up over time, the write-offs put a big dent in the balance sheet.
Labor is wasted: Finding and fixing inventory errors requires many hours of additional labor.
Unreliable inventory data can put your business in a precarious financial position. However, the accuracy of RFID shields you from asset management disasters.
And sometimes it can even mean the difference between death:
Using RFID, a hospital is able to maintain an adequate supply of a life-saving drug, and locate essential equipment and personnel the moment they are needed.
A fire chief deploys real-time RFID to track the movements of each firefighter in a burning building, pulling them out of danger zones or sending in a rescue squad.
In a chemical plant leak, RFID is used for headcounts at mustering points to ensure workers have been safely evacuated.
It’s possible that the hospital wouldn’t have run out of medicine, or the medical equipment would have been close at hand, or the firefighters or chemical plant workers would have exited safely. But guesswork and luck are no way to manage an operation, whether it’s the life of patients, workers, or your business.
Don’t fall victim to an inaccurate inventory. RFID will take your asset management from “maybe” to “for sure.” And that’s something we can prove.
RFID technology excels at safety and security applications. First responders around the country use RFID-based personnel and equipment tracking systems. Secure facilities as varied as life-sciences research buildings and movie editing rooms use RFID-controlled locks to manage access. For public safety and military armories, firearms security is a top priority, with RFID badges controlling access to storage rooms and weapons lockers.
Now firearms manufacturers are bringing another RFID application to market. After years of research and testing, several U.S. and European gunmakers have incorporated RFID chips into handguns to reduce unauthorized usage.
One survey found that fewer than 2% of guns used in crimes were purchased from retail sources; some were given to criminals by “straw buyers,” but most were obtained illegally. The new RFID-enabled handguns require the user to unlock the gun with a matching RFID device – a wristband or a fob – before firing the gun. Some manufacturers go so far as to include a fingerprint match as well as an RFID match before the gun will unlock. Users can leave the weapon unlocked as long as they keep the RFID matching device within the chip’s short range.
This innovation presents an opportunity for law enforcement and military facilities to maintain even better control of their weapons inventory. Many of these facilities already have RFID inventory systems in place to issue guns to personnel. These systems do an excellent job of quickly and accurately recording the check-out and check-in of weaponry.
However, hundreds of handguns are stolen each year from police vehicles and from military armories, and a number of them wind up in the wrong hands. With the new RFID chip-matching system, those stolen guns are unusable without the RFID unlocking device.
Of course, the safety system is not fool-proof. It breaks down if a criminal possesses both the gun and the RFID unlocking device. To prevent this, RFID unlocking devices must be stored separately in weapons storage facilities, with controlled access to prevent them from being pilfered along with the matching weapons. Police officers are unlikely to leave RFID wearables or key fobs in their vehicles, but public safety departments must institute policies to ensure this.
RFID is a powerful tool in private sector operations, from manufacturing and supply chain to retail and professional practice management. With this gun-locking innovation, it provides an additional layer of security to police and military operations, and an additional layer of safety to the public.
Weather disasters are becoming more frequent and more severe. Front-line workers are challenged to manage the multitude of elements needed for rescue and recovery.
In disaster situations, routine procedures are disrupted. Decision data is often scanty and uncertain, leading to errors and waste of materials and time. RFID technology can make a difference, providing the answers to what and where questions:
Equipment – Medical equipment like gurneys and oxygen tanks; transport vehicles like ambulances and firetrucks; heavy equipment like bulldozers; communication devices like radios and tablets – in an emergency, decision makers need to know the whereabouts of all their equipment assets. RFID doorway readers keep tabs on them all.
Supplies and Medications – EMT’s and ER personnel must maintain a supply of bandages, dressings, scissors, clamps, and multiple types of medications. Using a hand-held RFID reader, a quick scan of an ambulance or a treatment room confirms that RFID-tagged supplies are topped up.
Tools and Weapons – The aftermath of a weather disaster calls for tools for search and rescue, and firearms to assist law enforcementin opportunistic-crime prevention. From chainsaws and shovels to pistols and tazers, RFID helps first responders maintain their inventory in readiness for emergencies, safely and securely.
Personnel – RFID’s locational function lets disaster managers know where each of their team members is in the field, even when visibility is minimal. For victims, first responders can issue RFID tags or bracelets with identification, health, and injury information. Those tags can be scanned by ER workers to speed triage and avoid medical errors; in some cases, patients’ electronic medical records can be automatically updated.
At its core, RFID technology integrates object information (“what”) and location information (“where”). Each one of these RFID applications speeds up the collection and distribution of what and where information. And fast access to information is essential to good decision making in high-pressure situations like floods, wildfires, or tornadoes.
RFID will interface with other public-safety communication systems, improving vital interoperability and information flow. But its speedy and accurate delivery of information isn’t just for disaster situations. RFID is a mature, proven data technology with benefits for everyday business operations in the private sector. But if RFID can assist public safety and healthcare providers in weather disasters, you can count on it to help your organization in disaster recovery as well. Weather happens. Be ready for it!
RFID is an outstanding asset management tool. It tracks inventories, it tracks supplies, it tracks components during manufacturing, it tracks finished products all the way to the consumer’s hands. And it does all this tracking speedily, with complete accuracy.
But RFID isn’t just about the movement and storage of physical objects. It can help keep workers safe in dangerous situations.
Some workers’ jobs are inherently unsafe just by the nature of the work – first responders, for example. Other work settings may be safe ordinarily, but can experience life-threatening accidents or natural disasters. RFID offers a way to improve safety on the job or in the aftermath of a catastrophe.
ROUTING AND POSITIONING
The pandemic taught managers the importance of maintaining workers’ social distance as well as contact tracing. A tool kit of RFID wearables and badges monitors staff’s movements, making contract tracing simple. Fertilizer manufacturer Nutrien, for instance, uses RFID wearables to maintain social distance during crew changeovers, as workers pass in and out of gates.
Additionally, RFID wearables let managers collect data on workers’ on-the-job movement patterns. Analyzing this data reveals more productive task positions and operational routes. Wasted trips are reduced, and unsafe routes are eliminated.
In emergency situations, it’s vital to know where all your employees are. RFID delivers this information in real time. In a multiple-alarm fire, fire chiefs track their firefighters’ whereabouts via RFID wearables, and direct assistance where it’s needed. In the oil and gas industry, RFID badges let managers account for all their employees in the event of a volatile chemical accident.
Employee health and safety pays off in so many ways. You retain skilled, productive personnel. Your liability is reduced. Your insurance rates don’t suffer.
A safe workplace is good for your brand. And it’s good for you, personally. Alternative Energy Development Group’s Chris Fraga said, “The most important asset of our business is our team and their families, the very essence of life.” Don’t leave this vital asset out of your RFID asset management system. An investment in RFID technology is an investment in a safe workplace, and in your organization’s future.
Speed is the name of the game when it comes to inventory and asset management, and RFID delivers the data faster than any other technology.
RFID is everywhere. Those plastic tags you’ve seen in retail stores; the small square metallic stickers on packaged goods; even your pet’s ID chip – those are all RFID tags. They store information about the item they’re attached to, and they deliver that information to an RFID reader’s screen.
Don’t bar codes manage information the same way? Not exactly. The key difference is in the way an RFID tag communicates with the reader. Bar code readers must “see” each bar code to collect the data. There has to be a clear sight line between the bar code and the reader. RFID readers, in contrast, don’t “see” the tag. They “hear” it, via radio waves sent by the tag. RF = radio frequency, ID = identification.
RFID readers can “hear” the signals from all the RFID tags in an area, all at the same time. Bar code readers, because they rely on “seeing,” can record only one bar code at a time. This video shows a bar code reader and an RFID reader in a head-to-head race.
Spoiler alert: The bar code reader is not going to be invited to the Kentucky Derby.
RFID technology has an application for every business sector.
Every business has a need for speed, because time is money. The less time it takes to collect information about assets, the more time you have to spend on your organization’s primary mission. RFID streamlines your workflow, improves inventory accountability, and monitors assets. Turbocharge your business with RFID.
Police work is primarily focused outside the police station, in the community, and that’s as it should be. There’s a satisfaction, even a glamor, to being out on the streets keeping the community safe and secure. This outward focus sometimes means that the station itself – the place of dull paperwork and desk jobs – suffers from a lack of public attention and administrative funding. Support facilities like evidence storage and property rooms may lag behind other state-of-the-art policing technology, and that can mean the efforts of front-line police work may be rendered fruitless when a case goes to trial with missing or inadmissible evidence.
Public safety expert Kathy Marks, writing in Law and Order Magazine, interviewed current and former police officers regarding the need for better evidence storage and property room technology. A good inventory system was their Number One recommendation, a system that could identify and track every item connected to a case. Missing evidence or a broken chain of custody will derail an otherwise strong criminal case.
Just as important, the interviewees reported, was a system that could schedule the return, destruction, or retention of each item. Even when a police department has a carefully maintained intake inventory system, a backlog of outdated, unneeded evidence and property take up valuable – and scarce – storage space. Overcrowded storage inevitably leads to the damage or loss of some items, increasing the challenge of making a case.
The outward-facing side of police work has for some time employed technology to make the job safer and more efficient, with everything from smart duty lockers to mobile laptop and tablet charging stations. Now the administrative side is getting its own tech applications, particularly for managing the inventories of the evidence and property rooms. Commonly used in warehousing and logistics, bar coding and RFID technologies are proving especially useful in public safety settings. Easy-to-generate bar codes identify individual items, and RFID tags provide locational tracking information as well as identification. Coupled with space-saving high-density mobile shelving for property, and secure transfer and storage lockers for evidence, these automated inventory systems maintain a clear chain of custody and keep the storage footprint manageable.
Written policies and procedures are also an important part of a well-run evidence and property rooms. Marks’ interview subjects emphasized that managing property and evidence isn’t for everyone. People with a warehouse inventory background or military quartermaster experience tend to excel in the management of police evidence and property rooms.
Good management of property and evidence storage plays a vital role in law and order. With the right combination of personnel and technology, this undervalued sector of public safety can be a big contributor to the criminal justice system.