October 25, 2010

I have just completed my ninth (9th) “white paper” and training guide for the web site PDHonline.  This site caters to individuals interested in technology and makes a concerted effort to inform and enlighten.  You do not have to be a professional engineer, mathematician, chemist, etc etc to enjoy the course material.  I would invite anyone who is interested in “how things work” to visit the site and take a look. 

I am attaching documentation that will give some indication as to what the course is about.  Hope you enjoy the following write-up.



Robert P. Jackson, PE


This course is structured to introduce the concepts of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID ) to individuals wishing to gain a detailed understanding of the operation, components, potential for cost savings and the potential for improvement in efficiency.  RFID technology has been called the most exciting “NEW” technology in the twenty-first century.  The uses today are remarkably varied.  We present six (6) case studies that provide examples of how diverse the applications can be and how those uses can greatly automate processes that once were manual in nature.  The benefits and drawbacks are discussed in depth as well as areas of interest when considering implementation.  We devote considerable time towards planning, implementation and manageability of the system and discuss in depth the following:

  • Ten(10) questions to ask when considering implementation of RFID technology
  • Standards, both domestic and international
  • Manageability of systems
  • RFID adoption guidelines
  • Complete list of vendors
  • Extended glossary of terms.

Each component required for operation is discussed in detail as well as the software necessary to “drive the system.”  The subject of privacy is an ongoing concern so this is presented as a “block” for discussion.


This four ( 4 ) hours course attempts to follow a logical progression, moving through three primary areas of focus.  These are as follows:

  1. Interesting applications and case studies of actual usage
  2. History of RFID from early inception to the 21st century
  3. Benefits from use including ROI and improved efficiencies
  4. Drawbacks to incorporation
  1. Components available and necessary to accomplish specific goals
  2. Standards, both international and standards specific to the United States
  3. Privacy and Security and who’s looking out for you
  1. Manageability of the overall systems
  2. Questions to ask before buying ( I devote a great deal of “ink” to this one due to the critical nature of being methodical prior to deciding upon incorporating RFID
  3. Conclusions
  4. List of vendors and suppliers
  5. Glossary ( I feel this is one of the most complete Glossaries available today. )

I have included many figures and tables in support of the text and feel these add a great deal of clarity to the overall course.    The case studies given and other applications point out the present day uses of RFID and those uses that could possibly be considered over the next decade.


Upon completion of this course the student should have a thorough understanding of RFID concepts and will:

  • Be able to understand the numerous applications for the technology
  • Have an appreciation for the history of RFID and how the technology was used in the early years
  • Know the technological differences between RFID and barcode systems
  • Know the standards, international and domestic, that govern the usage for the various commercial systems
  • Know when to specify the use of UHF, VHF and microwave frequencies
  • Know the difference between “active” and “passive “systems and when each type is appropriate for various applications
  • Understand the privacy aspects when specifying and using the technology
  • Understand the cost / benefit concepts and when using barcodes is more desirable.  This is called total-cost-of-ownership (TCO)
  • Understand the design and fabrication of “tag” (transponder ) components and when an encapsulated tag is needed
  • Understand the immediate tangible benefits throughout a supply chain for distribution of a manufactured product
  • Understand the need for tag readers and how they operate
  • Understand the design and purpose of a tag antenna
  • Know the difference between a “read only” and “read/write” RFID system
  • Know which type of system needs a battery for operation
  • Know why direct line of site is not necessary for an RFID system
  • Have an understand for the range and how that range is dependent upon the frequency of the tag / reader combination
  • Have an understanding of the EPC ( Electronic Product Code ) and how that code is used relative to the overall process
  • Know that a “proper” EPC must have the following: 1.) Header, 2.) Manager Number, 3.) Object Class and 4.) Serial Number.
  • Know why RFID “chips” are extremely difficult to “hack” and why that contributes to a secure system
  • Know which company ( Wal-Mart ) is moving to RFID technology for most inbound containerized cargo and why that provides a tremendous benefit to their supply chain
  • Know why the challenge-response coding is so important and why that provides great security for hazardous materials, pharmaceuticals, weapons used by the DoD, classified documents, etc
  • Understand that “reader collision” can occur and produce errors in the system
  • Understand the terminology  “hiding and blocking” and “encrypting and rewriting”
  • Understand why many airlines are using RFID to track and control baggage
  • Have an understanding for the meaning of the acronyms: “EPC”, “EPCIS”, “ONS”, “WMS”, “ERP”, “UCC”, “UCCnet”, “UID”, “EAS”


This course is specifically for individuals desiring in-depth knowledge preparatory to making an investment in RFID technology.   It is a technical course but easily understood by “non-engineering” types.  As such, we dive into detailed explanations regarding topics such as UHF, VHF, microwave frequencies, “tags” (transponders), interrogation methodologies and equipment, “back-end” software, RFID antennas and other subjects necessary for a complete understanding of existing RFID technology.   With this in mind, people with the following disciplines would enjoy and benefit from taking this course:

  • Industrial engineers
  • Process engineers
  • System engineers
  • IT professionals
  • Engineering managers
  • CEOs dedicated to incorporating “best practices” into their supply chain methodologies for the improvement of asset management
  • COOs responsible for the day-to-day operation of a on-going commercial entity
  • CFOs responsible for  “paying the bills” and on the brink of approving an expenditure for RFID equipment and training
  • Warehouse supervisors
  • Time study specialists interested in improving response time for deliverables
  • Managers overseeing shipping and receiving operations in their respective facilities
  • Hospital administrators
  • Store managers responsible for inventories; i.e. Home Depot, Lowes, Wal-Mart, Sears, Best Buy, etc.
  • Managers required to catalogue and locate written documents critical to the operation of their organization; i.e. legal firms, hospital records, libraries, laboratory documents, etc
  • Personnel responsible for insuring against theft and shoplifting
  • Aerospace and airline personnel responsible for test equipment, ground equipment, assembly tools and fixtures,  repair depots, etc
  • Personnel associated with and vendors for the Department of Defense
  • City planners interested in improving traffic flow and streamlining toll-gate collections
  • Individuals responsible for controlling entry / exit portals for designated personnel only
  • Data acquisition specialists
  • Material expeditors


The purpose of this four (4) hour course is to provide necessary information so an individual will gain an appreciable understanding of the technology.  This certainly includes operational parameters, hardware and the necessary software to drive the system of components.  The course is structured to go beyond the basics and make it possible for a potential user to gain knowledge that will facilitate informed conversations with suppliers, interrogators and software specialists.  To support the text, we provide a comprehensive glossary of terms integral to an understanding of the technology.  After successful completion, an individual will have a much broader ability to recognize possible applications and determine if RFID is right for those applications.  Quite frankly, I feel the Glossary at the end of the course is worth the cost of the course itself.

There is a quiz at the end of the course which will provide a review and serve as a quick summary of the major points found in the text.


Radio Frequency Identification ( RFID ) is an automated means of using radio waves to identify and track the presence and movement of objects.  RFID has been called “the first important technology of the 21st century” and has become one of the most “talked-about” technologies in business and government today.  The application of RFID has definite benefits relative to tracking objects in supply chain movement.  It allows for the positive identification and control of tangible objects such as:

  • Incoming and outgoing pallets cycling through a warehouse environment
  • Tracking hazardous materials
  • To aid documentation of cycle times
  • Containerized cargo entering  ports of call
  • WIP ( work in process ) inventories
  • “Tags” applied to passports encrypted with information detailing date of birth, address, country of origin, etc.
  • Inventories for retail and commercial establishments
  • Airline baggage identification
  • Access control

There have been several “dooms-day” profits crying that RFID “chips” will be applied to individuals and these chips will be the “mark of the beast” mentioned in the Bible. Anyone desirous of pursuing commercial ends will need this “mark of the beast” to do business.  Until that happens, this course will address the more useful applications of that marvelous technology and strive to help the student understand the verity of application possibilities and the hardware necessary to bring about those applications.


RFID is one of those technologies that “sneaks up” on you.  It has actually been in use for quite a few years and has taken several forms, such as:

  • Theft prevention
  • Access control  via card readers
  • Automated toll road processing

These uses are very visible and “out front” relative to uses within a warehouse, library, or commercial storage area for equipment.  RFID was discovered long before companion technologies made it possible for commercial use.  The actual history is quite fascinating and definitely shows an evolutionary process and not a revolutionary process.  We devote a section to the history of RFID and show how each decade has brought additional development that truly make it a technology of the 21st century.   With this being said, we have only scratched the surface of its potential.  This is due, in part, to the privacy aspects of the technology.  Independent bodies are addressing these concerns in an ongoing fashion.  The money saved through improved operating efficiencies can be very very significant.  If you feel the need to “do it better”, then RFID is definitely worth the look.  Those companies presently using bar code techniques will recognize definite similarities, a yet many differences, between the two technologies.  The process of incorporation will be much the same with “up-front” planning a real must for success.



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