Grocery stores seem to have a lot more self-checkout registers lately.
My grocery cart is usually full and then I am expected to act like a cashier because I have to scan each item myself, then pay a machine. I have estimated that I spend an extra 12 hours a year working as a cashier for the grocery store at the self-checkout register. I wish I could walk up to the register and in a split second, my basket is instantaneously scanned without ever having to remove an item from the grocery cart.
The technology available to make my wish come true is called Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID).
What is RFID?
RFID tags contain a unique identifier similar to barcodes.
RFID tags are read by an RFID reader like barcode tags are read using a barcode scanner, however RFID readers use radio frequencies to communicate with an RFID tag instead of a line-of-sight scan as does a barcode scanner. RFID tags come in two formats: Active and Passive.
Active RFID tags use a battery making it possible for them to automatically broadcast the asset information using a radio signal on a regular time interval. The signal is picked up by the RFID reader which is located near the RFID tag.
Passive RFID is when the RFID tag is electrically charged when it is in range of the RFID reader, causing the chip in the RFID tag to power on, then send the tag’s unique hexadecimal value to the RFID reader. Passive RFID is commonly used when tracking assets entering or leaving a dedicated area such as a room or warehouse.
Can RFID technology help IT asset managers meet ITAM objectives?
To understand if RFID can help you with your ITAM requirements, it is important to learn its benefits and limitations. RFID features include asset monitoring, asset tracking, checkpoint tracking, and bulk lifecycle updates.
1. Asset monitoring
Asset monitoring is when the RFID tag sends the asset information to a dedicated RFID reader on scheduled intervals. This is useful in an environment containing assets with sensitive information.
Alerts can be set to send alerts when critical assets stop reporting to the asset management system; however, active RFID is required for asset monitoring which means the battery on the RFID tags need to be replaced when they die. Dead batteries can cause a false “asset missing” alert.
2. Asset tracking
RFID provides the ability to instantly track assets within a building or room which can save IT administrators a great deal of time. I remember an occasion when several IT employees were dispatched to a building with a scanner to look for IT assets so they could scan the barcode tags. When they finished, some IT assets could not be located which raised some concern.
One of the missing assets reported, a laptop, turned out to be locked in a drawer in someone’s office. If that laptop had an RFID tag, it could have been discovered by a mobile RFID scanner.
3. Checkpoint tracking
Checkpoint tracking is when an asset is scanned as it passes through a doorway or a checkpoint. This means that IT assets with an RFID tag could be logged as they enter or leave a building. Organizations with sensitive data on PCs or laptops can be notified if an asset passes through a checkpoint. The type of organizations that benefit from using checkpoint tracking are those that share IT assets, such as hospitals.
Checkpoint tracking can give administrators insight into their operational landscape by showing where IT assets are used and when IT assets are used. For example in hospitals, many nurses use tablets as they visit with patients throughout the day. With checkpoint tracking, the hospital would be able to track and measure the time each nurse spends with a patient or client during therapy, and how many rooms were visited by a nurse over a given period of time.
4. Bulk lifecycle updates
RFID provides the ability to make bulk status changes to assets.
For example, a room full of IT devices containing RFID tags could instantly be changed to “decommissioned” without making contact with each asset. The ability to make bulk asset lifecycle changes can save a lot of time for IT service centers, loading docks, and receiving docks.
RFID can save time and money for many organizations as they track and manage their IT assets. Industries that can benefit the most from RFID are those that tend to share IT assets such as educational institutions, medical institutions, police agencies, and manufacturing facilities.
Finally, be sure to choose a solution that will integrate with ITSM and ITAM.