Radiofrequency identification technology, or RFID, has been called the “duct tape” of technology. Much like the multipurpose silver-tape, which can do everything from sealing ducts to make clothing, RFID has nearly limitless applications to business, leisure, healthcare, and more.
Many businesses are already making use of RFID tracking tools in warehousing and shipping. Warehouse workers armed with scanners, for instance, can scan items as they are picked and packed, allowing real-time inventory updates. RFID tags are affixed to packages as well, for more accurate shipment tracking. Essentially, anything that enters or leaves the warehouse can be counted and tracked using the technology.
However, the versatility of RFID technology has leaders in many industries uncovering new ways to use it to make our lives easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable. Consider these five unique uses of the tools, and how they are changing the way we live, work, and play.
Unexpected Places Where RFID is Being Used
Traveling with luggage can be stressful. After all, handing off your suitcase to the airline can be nerve-wracking when you don’t know if it will arrive in Orlando or Pago Pago. You can sometimes avoid the stress (and the extra fees) by only bringing a carry on bag, but sometimes you don’t have a choice.
Several airlines are aiming to reduce the stress, and the number of lost bags, by implementing RFID tracking into luggage tags. Using the airline app, you can track the location of your belongings throughout your trip, and know for sure that your bag is on the same plane as you — and if not, where it’s located. RFID technology is also being implemented by car rental companies to speed the process of rental returns. Special readers placed at the entrance of return lots automatically check the vehicle in, allowing you to just park and go without waiting for an agent.
Theme parks are also getting in on the RFID action. Walt Disney World Resort, for instance, implemented Magic Bands nearly a decade ago. These RFID-powered devices serve as admission tickets and a form of payment in the parks. They also match ride photographs to individuals; instead of gathering around screens at the end of the ride to find your photo, your roller coaster adventure is sent right to your online account.
For several years, RFID technology has been used in running events to track and time participants. Race bibs are fitted with RFID chips that can track your progress around the course and automatically record your finish time.
However, running isn’t the only sport to benefit from the tech. Imagine never losing another golf ball in the rough. It’s possible thanks to RFID-enabled gold balls. Paired with a smartphone app, you can pinpoint the exact location of your ball, and get back to playing more quickly.
Handwashing is a major priority these days, but in healthcare, it’s always been a top concern. You might be surprised, though, by how many healthcare providers and workers don’t actually wash their hands before interacting with patients. However, RFID can provide a simple, elegant solution: One company was working on technology that involved an RFID wristband, which could be scanned at the sink every time someone washed their hands. It would be a simple way to track compliance and ensure patient safety.
RFID is already being used in healthcare in other ways as well. Newborns, for instance, wear wristbands implanted with RFID chips that automatically alert nurses and security when a baby is removed from the floor. Certain medical devices are also equipped with tracking technology to help collect data and keep up with maintenance.
Keeping children safe in school requires all hands on deck. RFID can provide another set of eyes, though, to keep kids safe and prevent emergencies. Children can be given an RFID tag in the form of a lanyard or tag that affixes to their backpack. Special readers at the doors of the bus and/or school can automatically read and record when the child passes by, providing valuable information in the event that the child goes missing. The technology can also streamline attendance, giving teachers back valuable time in their school day.
Retailers already use RFID to keep track of inventory, but the technology can improve customer service as well. Implementing RFID-powered kiosks in dressing rooms to scan items that are brought in not only serves as a security tool but can help customers find information. For example, scanning a tag might tell someone which sizes are available in-store, offer suggestions for alternatives, or even allow customers to order out-of-stock items from the dressing room.
These are just some of the exciting ways in which RFID is being used in everyday life. There’s no doubt the technology will continue to expand in unexpected, and convenient, ways.