This article aims to show the advantages of using RFID tags for asset management or in hazardous process industry settings compared to more traditional barcode solutions.
Uses of RFID Tags and Barcodes in Hazardous Areas
Radio signals are potential causes of explosions in hazardous areas. As such, the use of Radio Frequency Identification, known as RFID, needs to be carefully considered. Versatile and low cost, passive RFID systems can improve efficiency, reduce downtime, and aid productivity.
These systems have proven valuable to industrial companies, helping with asset and personnel tracking, inventory management, maintenance planning, and more. As such, they are becoming more and more commonly found in hazardous areas.
This rise in popularity is reflected in the updated IEC 60079-14 standard. In June 2014, a new clause concerning RFID tags was added and has potential ramifications for their use in hazardous areas.
Clause 5.15 states that passive tags do not have to be certified if they meet the criteria for simple apparatus: seemingly clear. However, the electromagnetic field generated by most readers exceeds the RMS value limits stated in the standard mentioned above.
Therefore, to read passive tags in hazardous areas, the tags must be certified as safe by a notified body. Awareness of this issue needs to be raised as adoption of passive RFID technology becomes more widespread, and as readers become smaller, handheld, and more mobile – and therefore more likely to be carried into and used in hazardous areas.
RFID Tags Instead of Barcodes
An RFID tag, particularly the latest Ultra High Frequency (UHF) type, has several advantages over a barcode:
- The RFID reader does not have to be pointing directly at the tag, as a barcode scanner must
As a result, an RFID tag can still be read easily in a less accessible place, or on items in an automated line where the tag cannot be in the same position every time.
- The environment may be harsh or dirty, causing a barcode to become damaged or too dirty to read
An RFID tag can be completely obscured, yet still be perfectly readable.
- Multiple RFID tags can be read at the same time
For example, several tagged items on a pallet can be identified without searching for their individual bar codes, speeding up processes without losing accuracy.
Evolving RFID Technology
Over the years, different versions of RFID technology have been used. The original tags were Low Frequency (LF), first used in animal husbandry, but their slow read rate makes them less suitable for industrial applications.
Next came High Frequency (HF) tags, commonly used in applications such as passports or credit cards, but their short-read range is also not ideal for the process industries.
There are often legacy applications where LF and HF tags are used, but the latest Ultra High Frequency (UHF) technology is generally considered to be most appropriate for general manufacturing and process industries going forward. Their fast read rate, long range, and relatively low cost make them a practical option.
Image caption: RFID tag and reader diagram
Extronics RFID Solutions
Extronics offers a range of intrinsically safe passive UHF RFID Tags and readers to suit any process industry application.
We specialise in developing and manufacturing ATEX, IECEx, and North American certified equipment for use in hazardous areas, and rugged industrial products for harsh environments. We serve customers around the world from industries such as oil and gas, chemical, pharmaceutical, and mining.
Check out our range of passive RFID products here or, speak to a member of our team by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling us on +44 (0)1606 738 446.