Mobile vs. Portal – Which is Best for RFID?
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Mobile vs. Portal – Which is Best for RFID?

While RFID has now been with us as a technology for over twenty years, it still hasn’t been widely adopted for two typical reasons: cost and effort.  Until recently, including this technology in your productivity arsenal has seemed like a bigger challenge than the benefits would support.

The primary driving force for using RFID was the ability to capture a bunch of items at one time (even outside of line-of-sight) with limited human involvement.  This level of data capture allows for some strong productivity gains along with the additional confirmations of items and their locations.


Early Approaches to RFID

Early RFID was implemented by building portals (fixed locations) to capture information at choke points (docks, doors, etc.).  While an excellent “hands-free” concept, the portals could not verify all passing items or provide an easy way to resolve any issues that arose.  So while it didn’t require human interaction, the accuracy of those portals could become questionable.

Another approach has been to leverage WI-FI antenna readers that can verify items in an area at scheduled times for continuous confirmation on what is there.  While this did allow for a higher number of “read opportunities” and minimized those “missed” items, it still had the limitation of seeing a specific area – and the question quickly arises of how often do I really need visibility?

“Active” tags offered another approach.  Active RFID tags have a power source and periodically broadcast out a signal to RFID readers “I am here.”  This is a very reliable method for auditing the location of items, but it has two significant drawbacks: cost of tags and infrastructure.  Active RFID tags require some level of proprietary infrastructure to read and process their signal – and the individual tag cost is usually in excess of $100 – each.


The Mobile Approach

Today we have a new mobile alternative to the traditional fixed approach for RFID.  While mobile RFID does require a certain level of human involvement, it provides the option of taking this capability out to where the items are versus forcing the items to go where your portal is.  The cost and effort to implement can be considerably less with potentially better results.

Besides making RFID available where items are already located, it can also provide an easier means to resolve issues.  Should a problem arise, there can be an awareness and path forward to resolve it when it occurs.  This improves the overall quality – and value – of this technology option.  After all, the goal of collecting data is to gather data you can use and trust.

Both the traditional and mobile options have merit depending on your goals for the use of RFID.  While we at HL Group focus on mobile inventory and audit solutions, we also support RFID portals as another capture method.  What’s important is that the business case drives the approach.


Our mobilePLUS solution can greatly assist you in the implementation and use of RFID in your business.  It provides all the capabilities for creating the work to be accomplished, harvesting and resolving any conflicts from the capture activities, and then sharing the information.  We can also support the initial effort of getting all of your assets and items tagged.

As you’re considering RFID for your organization, look for our post next week when we focus on the Low Cost to Implement a Mobile RFID Solution.