The global economy is radically different from what it was just two years ago. From enterprise organizations down to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), every business is looking for new ways to compete, increase revenue, and improve their performance. One option many are exploring is the use of RFID personnel tracking software.
The radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracking market is expected to grow at an annual rate of 8.5 percent through 2027. Clearly, many business customers think this technology has the potential to solve their problems.
So how does RFID tracking work? What are the advantages of RFID over other wireless tracking standards? And what good is it anyway? We’ll answer all of those questions in this article.
How does RFID personnel tracking software work?
RFID software collects location data from a network of personnel badges and sensors scattered around your facility. That data includes real-time tracking information and detailed location histories. While personnel tracking is a popular use case, many companions also use RFID tracking software for asset management.
The software structures that data into a meaningful dashboard you can use to better manage and protect your personnel. You can monitor performance in real time, generate comprehensive reports useful for compliance efforts, and reveal performance trends that you hadn’t otherwise noticed. You can also use software to customize triggered alerts that can notify security personnel if a user hasn’t checked in on schedule or if someone strays into a restricted area, for example.
What wireless standards can location tracking use?
Many different wireless communication technologies are used for personnel location tracking. Some of the most popular include Bluetooth, ultra-wideband (UWB), Wi-Fi, and infrared. However, of the popular standards, one of the most cost-effective is radio-frequency identification (RFID).
What’s the difference between active and passive RFID?
RFID tracking systems employ either active or passive transmission. Each has its pros and cons.
Active RFID badges have built-in batteries to power the badge’s antenna. Onboard power for the badge’s antenna increases the range at which tracking sensors—usually called receivers—can identify a badge’s location. Active RFID is necessary when you want real-time location tracking anywhere in a covered facility.
Passive RFID badges have no onboard battery. Instead, their antennas receive power from receivers when they’re close together, usually one meter apart in normal conditions. This range limit means passive RFID is most suitable for scanning personnel locations when they pass access control points or nearby checkpoint receivers. In addition, passive badges are significantly less expensive than active badges and are very durable.
How accurate is RFID tracking?
Passive badges must be within about one meter of a scanner. Active RFID sensors can trilaterate badge locations to within three meters at a range of up to 100 meters. However, all of these figures depend on how much wireless signal “noise” is present in your facility. If you’re running other RFID systems or wireless systems on nearby bands, then you might see lower accuracy.
Can you use GPS for personnel tracking?
Not usually. GPS signals don’t work reliably indoors since devices must receive GPS signals from three or more satellites in orbit.
This question often arises due to confusion over names. RFID personnel tracking software is a type of indoor positioning system (IPS), the indoor equivalent of GPS.
Why choose RFID for personnel tracking?
RFID offers many key advantages:
- Durable hardware: RFID badges—passive badges in particular—are highly durable. Passive RFID badges are solid-state electronics, meaning there are no moveable or mechanical components. Many personnel tracking system providers offer lifetime guarantees on their passive badges and asset tags.
- More data storage: RFID badges have more data storage space than badges in other systems. The specific amount varies by badge type. Some badges also support reading and writing data so that you can update stored information live in the field.
- Fast scan times: RFID sensors can read tags in milliseconds, making them ideal for high-traffic environments no matter whether you’re using active or passive RFID. So even if a group of people approaches a crowded checkpoint all at once, the sensors will be able to read every one of their passive RFID badges the moment they’re in range.
- Low cost: RFID badges are very affordable. The basic technology has been around for decades but has now been miniaturized and refined to a point where badges can provide excellent and cost-effective personnel tracking capabilities.
While RFID has much to offer in a personnel tracking system, there are a few potential downsides to this technology that you might need to manage.
- Material interference: RFID signals easily pass through most build materials. However, water and thick metal surfaces will interfere with their transmission. You will need to take extra care in determining your sensor placement if you have significant amounts of either material in a facility where you want to deploy RFID personnel tracking. With just a little bit of extra attention, you’ll ensure you get reliable information fed back to your RFID personnel tracking software.
- Potential privacy concerns: Without proper training and oversight, system operators may use a corporate personnel tracking system for unauthorized or personal reasons. Unfortunately, there are few technical means of preventing this problem. In most settings, you will need to control operator performance through a combination of screening, training, policy setting, and direct management.
What security benefits can companies gain by using RFID personnel tracking software?
Any company that employs RFID tracking can expect to see the following eight benefits:
1. Reduce manual labor.
Using personnel tracking software automates the time-consuming manual task of monitoring people inside your facility. You gain constant, up-to-the-second location data for every single tagged person. As a result, there is no more need for on-site security guards watching traffic flow through checkpoints or officers in a camera room flipping through dozens of video feeds to identify whether anyone enters a restricted space without authorization.
2. Automate tracking for compliance efforts.
Because tracking is automated, you can also streamline and simplify any compliance efforts. Personnel tracking, especially during emergencies, is often a government-mandated practice.
3. Reduce the risk of insider attacks.
A disgruntled employee can do more damage than an external threat in many industries. Using personnel tracking, you’ll have an accurate record of who was in which restricted spaces, how long they were there, and when they left. If you also track assets, you can monitor the movement of data-carrying devices, such as laptops and mobile phones.
4. Cut human error.
Manual security practices, including personnel tracking, are always prone to human error. For example, a guard’s attention may wander, or they could record the wrong staff ID number or lose a paper roster.
RFID personnel tracking software can’t make these mistakes. Tracking software never gets tired or needs to change shifts, never pencils in the wrong information, and all of its logs are kept on backed-up servers.
5. Improve operations.
Switching to automated personnel tracking allows you to redirect human security staff to more productive work. For example, you could use tracking software to handle your lower-priority tracking needs and pull available security officers to focus on your highest-risk areas. Everything stays covered, but you concentrate hands-on security staff into where human intelligence and intervention offer the most value.
6. Gain new insights into performance and security.
Personnel tracking software provides detailed insights on when, where, and how people move through your facility. In addition, tracking software can analyze performance trends as data accumulates over time, revealing positive and negative patterns you might not see otherwise. In other words, using tracking software, your people going about their day-to-day business will have become an entirely new source of business intelligence.
7. Enhance real-time readiness.
Good tracking software offers more than just passive monitoring. It allows you to respond to security issues proactively.
Because tracking works at range, the system can draw security officers’ attention to users before they even reach a restricted space or exit. Then, if they breach either perimeter, you can have audible alarms or other alerts sound, so those readied officers instantly respond.
8. Access highly adaptable and customizable workflow support.
RFID personnel tracking software not only improves how you already work but also allows you to create whole new workflows that weren’t previously possible. For example, you can use tracking software to create geofences or virtual perimeters within an open facility.
Do you have a restricted research and development (R&D) space? Set curfews on specific job types or individuals who need to enter that space. Is a low-level employee from the warehouse past their curfew in R&D? The system can notify the department head or a nearby security officer to verify their reason for being there.
RFID personnel tracking software can power your company.
RFID tracking can be the solution you need to get the most from your people in a changing economy. It can improve the way you already want to work and offer whole new workflows to boost your company’s performance.
Want to learn more about RFID personnel tracking software? Then check out our RTN Workplace Safety solutions today.
About the Author
Jay Palter, VP of Marketing