RFID Asset Management – are you Passive or Active?

In the field of asset and consumable inventory management, there are two main types of RFID tags—passive and active. Just like the various roles shared by the employees of your company, passive and active tags play very different parts in ensuring the smooth operation of your business.

Passive tags sleep until woken with a sensor device. You know that nice $800 leather jacket you liked? Get it within a few feet of those white towers at the store exit and you’ll wake them up, letting everyone in the store know you were leaving with the jacket.

Active tags have a little power source like a battery that enables the tag to always stay awake—just like NoDoz during exam week. There are usually sensors in the ceilings of the building; the tag talks to the sensor and says something like, “I’m going on break now.” In effect, the software platform always knows where the tag is and how long it’s there. Active tags have an ongoing conversation with the software—like my daughter with me, while passive tags sleep until something or someone wakes them up—like my son.

In this case, let’s use the library as our business model and talk about how a thought through deployment of RFID could have made a positive impact on all aspects of the business being – warehousing, inventory control, technology application, and human resource frustration.

You’ve been to the library right? You know the drill: You take a book on culinary history from the history section. You may walk through the children’s section and see a book that your son or daughter really likes, so you pick up that book and decide to return the other book to…”Now what section was this culinary book in?”

Sure enough, the theory of the path of least resistance kicks in and you set the history book down in the children’s section. No harm done, right? Nope.

Someone comes looking for a book on culinary history. Library staff and software system says there’s one over in the history section. You go over there and can’t find it and walk back to the desk. Nice library person gets up and goes over there with you. Staff person says, “Well it’s here somewhere”—and grins. Says, “This happens all the time.”

The library quite often has RFID tags in the books and magazines, right? They sure do. The problem is that someone had blinders on when they installed these systems because they are using passive tags.

With a few in-ceiling sensors, active tags, and smart software, this problem is solved. All the libraries did was allow the customer to check out their own books. They really did not enable the library and improve upon the customer experience.

The message is that you always want to look past the technology and ensure you will truly receive the benefit you’re after.

Oh, by the way…the library ordered a replacement culinary book in from a partner library. It arrived at the library a week later just in time to be put on the shelf with the other book they finally found.

They now have two when they only needed one – not always a good thing when carrying inventory.

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