Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology is increasingly being used on construction projects to improve efficiencies, manage assets and reduce theft. RFID technology is used in a number of applications that you’re probably already familiar with like the E-ZPass transponder in your vehicle or the microchip in Fido that helps you locate him when the dogcatcher picks him up. The technology traces its roots back to World War II when identification, friend or foe (IFF) systems were developed using radar and transponders to identify friendly aircraft.
RFID uses the same basic principal as the IFF system. RFID systems consist of a reader or interrogator which is a two-way radio transmitter that emits a signal to labels or tags. The tags contain a microchip to store and process information and an antenna that receives and transmits a signal to the reader. In passive systems when the reader emits electromagnetic waves it powers the tag which transmits its data back to the reader.
Over the past several years, a number of applications have been developed for use in the construction industry. As the cost of RFID systems continue to drop, their use in construction has continued to grow. Today we’ll take a look at some of the ways RFID technology is being used at the construction site.
Keeping Track of Tools
If you’ve ever had to deal with your company’s tools mysteriously walking off the jobsite, RFID solutions are an easy way of keeping track of which tools have been checked out, which employee checked them out as well as how long the tool was used once it is checked back in. These systems can be used on everything from hand tools to heavy equipment.
Here’s an example of how an automated system like this works. In order to check out a tool the employee scans their badge to gain access to a tool crib, they get the tool or tools they need and checks them out by scanning them with a reader. When the employee is finished using the tool, they simply scan it again to check it back in and return it to the tool crib.
Ensuring worker safety is always the most important thing at any jobsite. One method being used is to install readers around potential hazards like guardrails or open elevator shafts. When a worker wearing a tag approaches a potential hazard, the reader would activate an alarm to alert them of the danger. RFID readers can also be used to create barriers that would alert project managers when workers enter areas they aren’t authorized or don’t have the proper safety training to be in.
There is also a safety-equipment manufacturer of fall protection equipment that is using RFID technology. The system allows safety personnel to track the location, inspection and maintenance of the various fall protection systems they are using on the jobsite and easily provide that information to regulatory agencies like OSHA and ANSI.
Everyone who has ever had to use a time clock, myself included, has forgotten to punch in or out for a shift at some point in their life, probably more than once. This creates extra work for whoever has to track down these errant employees in order to make corrections when it comes time to do payroll. RFID tags for each employee can be attached to either a hardhat or employee ID badge and scanned either through walking through a portal located at the entrance of the jobsite or with a handheld reader.
Other benefits of a system like this includes knowing how much manpower you have on a jobsite at any given time as well as tracking employee movement and monitor time spent on any given task to improve efficiencies in the future.
Managing Building Materials & Supplies
Keeping track of building materials and supplies is crucial to keeping a project on schedule and within budget. With RFID you can keep track of what materials you have onsite at the beginning of each day and the quantities used in order to schedule deliveries from off-site storage or your suppliers. Never again will you have to stop work because you ran out of materials. Using RFID technology is also a great way to identify and track waste of supplies and materials.
Building Maintenance & Inspections
RFID tags can be used in a number of applications once construction has been completed. Maintenance and inspection logs can be kept on RFID tags on HVAC systems. Networked RFID tags can also be paired with sensors to control temperature and lighting systems as well as monitoring building occupancy. RFID is also used on buried infrastructure such as water/sewer pipes, telecom cable and electrical cables to locate them easier when they need to be repaired or replaced.
Regardless of whether you want to better manage your assets, employees and equipment, improve efficiencies, reduce theft or improve safety chances are there is an RFID solution to meet you needs.