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Using Cloud-Native Architecture to Scale RFID Asset Tracking

Cloud native architecture and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) asset tracking are two technologies that are revolutionizing industries such as supply chain management and healthcare. Yet many businesses are unaware of the benefits of integrating RFID with the cloud that they can take advantage of. Not to mention, it even can be daunting to some who are used to working with traditional systems, while others worry about the cost. 

The problem with not exploring cloud technologies for RFID is that the field is moving really fast, and missing such opportunities might get you leap-frogged by competitors jumping on the trend. It’s far better to stay on top of evaluating these technologies personally by becoming familiar with their use cases and how the technology can benefit business owners, service providers, and customers.

Working with cloud native technology brings reduced costs, speedier processes, better scaling and improved distribution, to name a few. Compared to more traditional systems, there really is no question about which is best to implement for use in the future.

Keep reading our guide to learn the advantages and disadvantages of using cloud native architecture to scale RFID asset tracking.

Implementing Cloud Technology

While it is no easy task to implement cloud native technology for a project like RFID, it can be done in the following steps:

  • Define your project and do a feasibility study. While some projects should not be on the cloud, others can scale more quickly and easily on a cloud architecture.
  • Choose a platform that is easy and safe to deploy. Make sure this platform will support your business model and future growth as you scale.
  • Understand the security policies. Whether you use the cloud or not, data security is your responsibility and no one else’s. Know who is responsible for what and make sure you have the right resources in place.
  • Select your cloud provider who has had success with businesses similar to yours and understands your needs.
  • Determine service level agreements. Be clear with your cloud provider on exactly what they do and don’t cover, including availability, uptime, or data protection.
  • Understand who owns the recovery process. Let’s face it, outages can and will happen. It’s best to know ahead of time whether you or the cloud provider is responsible for recovery and restoration.
  • Conduct a phased migration allowing you to slowly increase the workload, giving you time to minimize risks while ensuring business continuity.

Most importantly, think ahead. Your requirements can change over time. Choose a flexible cloud solution that allows you to shift between on-premise and cloud on an as-needed basis. 

For further reading on what is cloud computing and how to implement it, Microsoft has a great cloud computing guide to help you get up to speed.

How RFID Benefits Asset Tracking For Supply Chain Management and Healthcare Providers

With the economy becoming steadily more globalized, the need for better asset tracking has become more apparent. RFID asset tracking is being praised as the one thing that has the potential to single-handedly transform how supply chains and healthcare providers manage their products and services. 

Using the power of RFID asset tracking, these industries can increase supply chain visibility to ensure their inventory gets delivered to their end points while preventing counterfeiting.. 

Still, the question remains: how will RFID streamline business operations?

Although RFID serves multiple purposes, it mainly takes care of inventory management and tracking the number of assets they have available. In supply chain management, for example, transit items can be tracked as they enter and leave a warehouse, get transported by trucks or other methods of delivery. RFID enables manufacturers and their customers to monitor their warehouse inventory in real-time.

In healthcare, the impact of RFID technology will be similarly ground-breaking. At present, the average supply chain costs amount to more than a third of the operating budget in hospitals, and it’s one of their largest expenditures each year. Reducing these costs allows healthcare service providers to redirect these key funds into other avenues like additional medical equipment, financing for research, staffing, and fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For example, Pfizer and BioNTech have begun distributing their vaccine to countries to help them fight the coronavirus. However, the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at extremely cold temperatures of -70°C while being shipped to their destinations. Temperature sensors with RFID can ensure that these vaccines are stored at the correct temperature, and with cloud integration, the temperature data can be tracked in real time. Clinics and hospitals will ensure that they provide their patients with vaccines that have been stored at the right temperature, and discard the ones whose storage temperature fell out of the appropriate range.

Other studies have found that using RFID with medical asset tracking has resulted in hospitals  improving the quality of their services. Some of the other benefits can be drawn from this technology, including improving patient safety and the ability to track medical equipment. Monitoring for theft prevention, equipment tracking, medical distribution, patient billing, and preventing counterfeit prescription drugs make RFID asset tracking implementation a no-brainer. 

While the advantages are numerous, there are a few disadvantages.

Problem and Challenges of RFID Implementation at Scale 

With the adoption of RFID technology worldwide across different organizations, some problems have naturally emerged. Until these issues have been addressed, scaling and exponential growth are likely to be slower than desired by the general market. As many advantages as there are to RFID in supply management and healthcare, there are distinct disadvantages that can impact an organization’s willingness to adopt it.

Cost is one. While costs can be reduced over the long-term, the initial cost to implement the technology can be high and an RFID system is an expensive investment for some businesses. For some supply chains and healthcare providers, the startup cost can be too much to justify in some specific cases.

The other problem with RFID asset tracking is the quality. As a relatively new technology, best practices are in their infancy and thus are still developing. This means that if an RFID professional is employed, they need to be pre-vetted for their choice of architecture design, platform selection, integration choices, and how they are managed. Even with a pre-vetted professional, the absence of set industry standards will prove to be a significant challenge, especially when it comes to interoperability.

There is also the challenge of adding RFID to existing infrastructures. While some commonalities will exist, RFID asset tracking systems are often specific to businesses based on their size and needs, which might not crossover to other industries as well.

Finally, RFID can create large datasets that can be tough to manage. In supply chain management, for example, an RFID system can deliver data amounting up to a hundred times greater than traditional barcode scanning systems, a boost in volume that can be tough on business IT infrastructure systems.

It’s therefore essential for businesses like healthcare providers using asset tracking for supply chain management to weigh both the pros and cons of using RFID asset tracking. It is critical for them to see how they can realistically introduce these technologies to their daily operations. 

How Cloud Native Architecture Makes Scaling RFID Possible

There has been ample talk about the possibilities that RFID could bring to supply chain management and healthcare as a whole, but that there are also performance issues that can affect computational capacity and data management. Luckily, cloud technologies are helping RFID asset tracking become more manageable and accessible to most businesses. 

Cloud native architecture is addressing these scaling issues with a paradigm shift that takes RFID asset tracking to the next level. Using cloud native infrastructures enables you to set up servers, operating systems, and even databases quickly, effectively helping you shift focus from the technology and hardware to delivering the best possible customer experience. Cloud native tools are more affordable and scalable, allowing businesses to focus on rapid innovation.

This further includes the promise of dynamic scaling and virtual resources, using microservices and even elastic rule processing. Cloud native architecture can accommodate RFID tracking systems to boost performance and overcome many, if not all, of the challenges listed above.

The Bottom Line

With asset management, cloud native architecture is a natural fit. For RFID asset tracking solutions, it alleviates many of the issues that put businesses off of implementing them in the first place. While initial costs and setup can prove to be difficult, the long-term advantages are significant enough to make implementation worthwhile. 

Need help setting up asset tracking with RFID and Cloud Native Architecture with scaling capabilities? Visit our Cloud Native Architecture page to learn more and talk to our experts for assistance.

December 17, 2020

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