Steps to a successful RFID deployment

After a successful pilot program, your RFID system is ready for production, the final deployment step.

Step 5: Pilot – After the physics testing, site assessment and workflow design, the team has a scientific foundation for choosing the bill of materials (readers, tags, middleware, plc's, etc.) and designing the RFID network architecture. Now the fun part can begin, deploying the portals, programming the hand-helds, loading the printers, and integrating the middleware. The key to the pilot phase is testing each individual piece, and then testing them again once they are connected together. Oftentimes middleware will overwrite the configuration on a reader or there will be miscommunication between software, readers, PLCs and other equipment, so this is a critical step. When the pilot proves successful and the lights light up when they are supposed to and the tags are only read when you want them to, it's time to go live.

Step 6: Production – After the complete system is piloted it should be certified for performance by testing the power levels and mapping out the interrogation zones so that one reader does not read into an adjacent interrogation zone causing cross talk or ghost reads. We've seen potential issues with bottles on a pharmaceutical packaging line or tractors in an assembly plant. It doesn't matter what you are reading the final system needs to be configured and certified.

Once that is complete the physical infrastructure can be certified and considered fully commissioned. At that point of getting 100%read rates you can turn your attention to the data. The key part to any production system is knowing what data will be used and how. Too many RFID implementations neglect this when they deploy a system and then end up having to pay an outrageous amount each month for someone who doesn't know their RFID network to analyze their data. So think about it back in the planning stage and you'll end up where we are now – at the end with your metrics being measurable against your original goals and looking like a hero to your boss.

Key RFID questions?

Where do you want your RFID network to be three or four years from now? As you think about the future you need to ask yourself a few critical questions. What can I do to make the data useful for my business, how can I integrate business intelligence into my system, how will I monitor the RFID network, what will ensure that the system stays properly calibrated, and what is the fastest, most effective way to deploy a 100% accurate infrastructure?

--By Patrick J. Sweeney

Patrick J. Sweeney II is President & CEO of ODIN Technologies the RFID industry's leading infrastructure deployment and physics company. Recognized as an industry visionary he is also author of RFID for Dummies and a force in standards bodies such as EPCglobal, AIM Global, and CompTIA.