Modern Inventory Management: QR Codes + Cloud + Mobile Technology

Using RFID and NFC Technology For Tracking Assets and Inventory

RFID technology can significantly speed up inventory and assets processing. NFC comes close to it, and can be done without purchasing special RFID equipment. You can use NFC-enabled smartphones to keep track of assets and inventory.

 

nfc for inventory and asset management

What is RFID

In a broad sense, RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) stands for technology that uses radio waves to detect and identify an object. In application to asset and inventory management, RFID system consists of a reader (scanner) and a tag with embedded chip and antenna. When tag appears in the reader's working range (around 60 feet), it "wakes up" and sends a signal containing encoded information. The reader receives and decodes information, and sends it to the inventory and asset management software for processing.

RFID provides tremendous increase in processing speed as compared to traditional barcode scanning. Instead of scanning one item at a time, with RFID technology you can read information from all items in the working radius at the same time. For example, if you need to check in inventory on a service van, all you need to do is turn on RFID reader and information for all inventory in the van will be read and transmitted to an asset and inventory management software in a matter of seconds.

The tags do not even need to be on the item's surface and in a line of sight of RFID reader. As long as the tag is present, even inside the item packaging or casing, it can be read.

This speed and convenience comes with a high price tag. RFID reader can cost anywhere between $500.00 and $2,000+. You also need to purchase special RFID tags, that are generally noticeably more expensive than barcode labels. Add software and service that you will need in order to put the entire system together - and it becomes cost prohibitive for small businesses.

What is NFC

NFC (Near Field Communication) uses the same principles as RFID. The difference is that NFC tag should be much closer to the reader (usually within 4 inches), therefore you cannot stand away and read a truckload of items at the same time. You do need to read each item separately. However, you do not need to focus a reader (scanner) on a tag as you do when scanning barcodes or QR codes. As with RFID technology, tag can be on any side of the item or even inside a packaging. Therefore, you still have significant gain in speed as compared to barcode or QR code scanning. For example, you can walk along the warehouse shelf at a normal pace holding NFC reader close to the shelf and all inventory or assets on the shelf will be read and processed as you go.

The advantage of NFC - you do not need to purchase special hardware. You can use a smartphone as your NFC reader / scanner. At present you can only use Android phones for this purpose, but this technology is gaining popularity so hopefully iOS will add it in not-so-distant future.

How To Use NFC For Inventory Management / Asset Tracking

In order to use NFC technology for assets and inventory tracking you need the following components:

  1. NFC Reader
    The situation with NFC readers is similar to barcode scanners - you can either purchase a stand alone NFC reader or use your smartphone as an NFC reader. Advantages of using a smartphone as NFC reader are the same as for using smartphone as barcode scanner. Unlike barcode scanners that are faster than smartphones, you do not have a speed advantage for stand-alone NFC reader. Smartphones will read NFC tags with the same speed as stand-alone NFC readers.
    The only drawback is that at present you are limited to Android smartphones. However, since NFC is growing in popularity, perhaps soon you will be able to use iPhones as well.

  2. nfc tag   nfc label

  3. NFC tags
    You need special NFC tags in order to use NFC technology. Those tags consist of an antenna (which is used to detect NFC reader and send information) and a chip that stores information to be sent. Antenna / chip combination is very small, and can be embedded in almost anything depending on the situation. For the purpose of assets and inventory management you can purchase NFC tags in a variety of materials. You can have plastic tags, disks, sticky labels (including durable, whether proof labels), plastic sticky tags, etc.
    Although you can print information on the NFC tag / label, no printed information is required for the purpose of scanning assets and inventory. All information that is transmitted to the reader is stored in the chip. You need to encode NFC tags so that they contain information you need.

  4. A Way To Encode NFC tags
    Just as for reading NFC tags, you can use either stand along NFC reader / writer, or a smartphone to write data to NFC tag. You also need software or mobile application to do the actual work: take your input and write it to NFC tag.
    If you are using inventory management and asset tracking software that supports NFC, the package will likely include a tool to encode data into NFC tag. There are also stand-alone software packages and mobile applications that will allow you to do it.
    As a rule, you will encode unique id / serial number in NFC tag. It is also possible to purchase pre-encoded NFC tags with sequential numbers, and associate them with your assets / inventory by scanning (if inventory / asset tracking software of your choice supports this option).

  5. Asset and Inventory Management Software
    You will need asset and inventory management software that supports NFC.

Takeaways

NFC is a new promising development for asset tracking and inventory management applications. If you need to process large batches of inventory or assets you should certainly consider it. You will significantly reduce processing time and increase productivity using NFC. And since you do not need to purchase expensive hardware and network consulting services, NFC technology is affordable for businesses of any size.

 

 

Inventory & Assets Tracking Software Selection Topics
Small Business Inventory Software Trends - Overview
Online Inventory Management & Asset Tracking
Mobile Asset Tracking & Inventory Management
Barcode And QR Code Scanning For Inventory Management
Mobile Computers vs Smartphones For Assets & Inventory Control
Using NFC and RFID To Track Assets And Inventory
Mobile Asset Tracking Technologies: Barcodes, QR Codes, NFC, RFID, GPS Tags


Mobile Asset & Inventory Tracking In Action

 
  QR Inventory
At A Glance
Features
How Does It Work
Why QR Inventory
Industries
Business Solutions
New Additions
Your Inventory Project
Demos & Trials
QR Inventory Tour
Video Overview
Demo
Try It Out
Get A Quote
Video Library
QR Inventory Modules
Service & Maintenance
Stocktaking & Asset Audits
Assemblies & Kits
Accounting (PO & Invoices)
NFC Asset Tracking
Barcode Scanners
QR Code Based Ordering
Resources
Software Selection Guide
Asset & Inventory Management Blog



Contact Us
 
 

Taking Assets And Inventory Under Control: Next Steps

  Track Assets & Inventory
Use QR Inventory to track mobile assets and inventory on site in real time by scanning barcode or QR code label with a smartphone. Access up to the minute inventory stock, locations and transactions history from anywhere.
  Take Stock Fast & Error Free
Use QR Audit to do stocktaking, physical inventory count or asset audits fast and error free. Scan in items with a smartphone, submit collected information to a secure cloud.
  Use Mobile Forms To Collect Data In The Field
Use QR Mobile Data to collect data in the field using mobile forms, barcode scanning and a smartphone. Send collected data to a secure cloud, access real time information from anywhere.