“Any other pertinent data that the facility wants can be entered in user-designable fields…that information is associated with that particular tag ID number, but it’s not necessarily stored in the tag,” he explains. It’s on a secure computer. “We can secure it using passwords and log-in IDs and so on, so that it’s not being exposed, it’s not being transmitted in air,” he says.
RFID tags can have other sensors and microprocessors to report motion, or temperature, or to sense light, for example. “Quite a few different kinds of sensors can be put in there,” says Abji.
Companies also use the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) cellular network tracking and satellite tracking, which enables tracking goods in transit virtually anywhere. “You can go international with those devices, as long as you have a SIM card that is valid in those regions,” says Pisciotta. He says his company has also deployed GSM trackers with panic buttons; some of the applications are for executives who are traveling and might not want to be tracked but can push a panic button and send a message back to the company’s monitor system, which will then turn on tracking.
The satellite network can theoretically be tracked anywhere the satellites reach, which is helpful in areas without cellular coverage. Pisciotta says that tags will sometimes have all three types of trackers in them—GSM, cellular, and RFID. There are also Global Positioning System (GPS) solutions. Some systems are real-time locater systems (RTLS), which add a continual tracking component to the tags. This is more costly and sometimes requires access to a network.
Pisciotta’s company pairs GPS with active RFID. The main components are the GPS and the long-range radios. As you’re moving, the GPS is always determining its location via the radios, but there’s an active RFID reader as well for tracking assets indoors. When the GPS signal is lost, the system switches over and uses the active RFID technology. It’s not as accurate as GPS, but will report generally on the asset’s vicinity, Pisciotta says.
Harris says real-time tracking makes sense in certain applications, such as in a hospital. Hospitals buy very expensive equipment that is continuously moved from patient room to patient room. “Many a time, they don’t know where all their stuff is, so then they’re putting in requisitions to buy more,” notes Harris. If they knew where all their equipment was and could locate it quickly, there would be actual return-on-investment to the bottom line, he says. Such real-time tracking systems are not as likely to pay for themselves in an office environment.