Asset Tags – Their Technology And Environments

Asset Tags And Their Designs

Asset tags made from various materials and for various surfaces are used in just about every industry. The types of tags range from the humble Barcode label to QR (Quick Response) codes, RFID, GPS or Wi-Fi technology. The purpose of tagging your valuable assets, tools and equipment is to reduce human error, and asset “misplacement” and automate business processes.

Asset labels or tags typically “stick-on” to assets using an industrial adhesive backing and can be tamper-evident. The most common asset tag materials are anodized aluminium or laminated polyester.

The asset tag design (what you see on the tag itself) usually includes a company logo and can be colour-coded and/or contain a border around the label/tag, providing a contrast to the equipment that is being identified.

On the other hand, there is a variety of tags that do much more than uniquely identify an asset. In this article, we look at the different types of tags/labels, the materials used, and the environments where industries put these asset tags to use.

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Why Asset Tags Are Important

Organisations purchase hundreds of different types of assets, tools and equipment for the successful operation of their tasks. Often these assets circulate within different departments or across different locations, and even countries.

Currently, with most businesses having at least some staff working from their home, the situation faced by most companies globally is to track the location and ownership of those IT assets.

Moving assets around increase the chance of assets being misplaced or even stolen. But not utilising your assets to their fullest doesn’t make good business sense either. And this is where asset tracking comes into play.

Tagging or labelling your high-value assets, tools and equipment and making sure all employees are aware assets are being monitored, is a powerful theft deterrent.

Regular physical auditing (or asset verification) also sends a message that assets are being monitored and will be missed.

The benefits of regularly auditing your assets

Adding this unique identifier to an asset management system allows you to record and store all sorts of data about your assets. With information being accessed via Web, Cloud and Mobile Apps, asset tracking streamlines your business workflows.

Tagging your assets serves as the foundation for an asset tracking solution. Enabling organisations to monitor equipment usage. Including planned regular maintenance and repairs to maintain compliance. Streamlining reporting, re-ordering and optimising operations.

  • Asset tagging makes it easier to perform physical audits for compliance with regulatory bodies
  • Standardises asset identification so employees can easily identify and locate assets
  • Lowers the risk of misplacement and theft
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Asset Tags, Movement And Security

While some asset losses are due to mismanagement and poor tracking, theft is a serious concern in most industries. Barcodes themselves cannot deter theft, they can be tamper-evident. With anti-theft designs (tamper-evident or tamper-proof materials), making detection is easier.

Some barcodes have an invisible passive RFID chip inside the label (think of retail stores) that can trigger an alarm when the item moves through an RFID receiver (shop doorway or chokepoint). RFID sentinel asset tracking solutions Tracking assets automatically with an RFID solution offers two major benefits; automated workflows relating to asset movements and automated asset data collection. You no longer need to manually enter data when issuing and returning or checking in/out moving items.

Asset tags are overt methods to alert thieves that your assets are protected, being tracked and are not safe to steal!

Focusing on the efficiencies and cost savings goals will drive the success of your RFID asset management project and improve your asset management processes. A targeted pilot program will successfully prove the solution and often yields changes to project scope to achieve greater value from the RFID implementations.

Types of RFID applications in Industry
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What To Consider When Purchasing Asset Tags

Selecting the right types of asset tags/labels for your applications is crucial for the longevity of your asset management system. With many different types of asset tags, materials, security and durability considerations. Selecting the right asset tags for your business needs can be challenging.

Some asset tags can withstand exposure to the harshest chemicals and solvents, abrasion, salt spray, paint, oil etc. Aluminium tags and rigid plastic tags have a long-standing reputation for durability. Which types of tags or labels you choose will depend on:

  • Where assets are located (indoor/outdoor)
  • The environment they are exposed to (chemicals, water, harsh weather)
  • How precise do you want the asset’s location to be
  • Where you attach the asset tag (placement visible or not)
  • The surface of the assets to be tagged (textured, curved, metal)
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Tamper-Evident Asset Tags

Organisations working with high-value items need to implement strict asset tracking to protect expensive equipment from theft. Asset tags for this purpose can be “tamper-evident” and break apart if someone attempts to remove them from the asset’s surface. Trying to pry a tamper-evident tag off an asset may damage the tag, but not remove it whilst RFID tags can be internally attached, ensuring they are protected from removal and damage.

Tamper-evident asset tags

Tamper-evident tags are great for detecting any attempt to pilfer items. A common use for these tags is high-value assets, like laptops, computers and printers.

Coloured Asset Tags

Coloured asset tags

Asset labels and tags may be coloured such as blue, red and yellow. Colour coding of asset tags is sometimes used as an effective means of quick visual identification of ownership, departmental responsibility or value (such as red tags for high-value and/or sensitive assets).

There is a wide variety of identification technology available today. Customised polyester, aluminium, stainless steel barcode labels, and RFID tags are suitable for every type of environmental application. From an indoor situation to labels that withstand the most extreme environments.

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Types Of Barcode And QR Code Technology

A Barcode label is a machine-readable data representation that is used to store short descriptions about items that can be read by scanners and/or mobile apps for asset and inventory management. The most common and broadly supported standards are 1D Code 39 and Code 128, and 2D QR codes, which enable the encoding of a greater amount of data. QR codes consist of tiny black Squares arranged across a square space and can be scanned easily by a smartphone camera.

QR Code attached to operational equipment

QR codes are everywhere! You can find them printed on your latest gadgets’ packaging and included in conferences’ presentations. People and companies use them to store and distribute all kinds of information, in a manner that is quickly accessible to anyone with a smartphone.

Surface Type For Labels

Flexible plastic asset tag

Barcode labels are popular because they can be attached to any sort of equipment and surface (even metal) with minimal infrastructural spending. This is why they are a good option for small business asset management looking for low upkeep costs.

Plastic Rigid And Flexible Materials

Flexible plastic tag
Hardcat plastic asset tag

Plastic tags are suitable for mostly indoor use. Where the tag is required to adhere on a variety of difficult surfaces or in applications where occasional exposure to water and mild detergents is expected.

Metal Rigid And Flexible Materials

Hard Plastic asset tag

Rigid aluminium barcode tags are highly durable and backed with a high-performance acrylic adhesive. Holes can be drilled for rivets or other forms of attachment (other than adhering to the surface of the asset). These tags are recommended for flat surfaces due to their firmness of the tag. And are suitable for harsh industrial and external environments.

Foil Barcode Labels

Roll of foil asset tags

Aluminium foil barcode tags are highly durable, bendable and backed with a high-performance acrylic adhesive. These tags are recommended for curved and flat surfaces as they are flexible and adhesive enough to stick to uneven surfaces. They are also able to withstand abrasion, chemicals and harsh weather conditions and are suitable for harsh industrial and external environments.

Benefits Of Barcode Labels

Barcode labels are a valuable and viable choice for businesses looking to improve efficiency and reduce overheads. Both cost-effective and reliable, barcodes allow for:

  • Barcodes eliminate the possibility of human error
  • A barcode scan is fast and reliable
  • Barcodes are inexpensive to design and print
  • Barcodes are extremely versatile
  • Inventory control improvement; barcodes make it possible to track inventory so precisely, inventory levels can be reduced
  • Both inexpensive and user-friendly, barcodes provide an indispensable tool for asset, tools and equipment tracking
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Types Of RFID Asset Tagging Technology

RFID passive tag

Asset tags designed for RFID are generally focused specifically on both off-metal and on-metal assets. RFID asset management, using RFID tags is a worthy but slightly more expensive solution. We recommend testing to ensure adequate read range. RFID asset tags are a good option for organisations that use expensive or mission-critical equipment. RFID tags transmit information in the form of radio waves and don’t have to be in the reader’s sight to be scanned.

Two Main Types Of RFID Asset Tags

Passive RFID tags; do not have a power source built in and are powered by the signal carried by the RFID reader. Passive RFID uses high-power readers and battery-free tags and is often used to track assets that go through a chokepoint such as a doorway.

“Semi-active” and “battery-assisted” are also applied to this type of tag. “Battery-assisted” is probably the best term, since it most clearly explains this type of tag requires power to function.

Active RFID tags; have a built-in power source, and their behaviour can be compared to a beacon. These can operate at a greater distance and with higher data rates. These tags have a limited life (longevity of battery) and higher cost. Please note that Hardcat capabilities are with passive tags currently.

RFID On-Metal Asset Tags

Metal surfaces reflect and create interference for RFID. This means the average RFID tag isn’t able to receive power and transmit information. Specific “on metal” RFID tags will work around this issue with technology that allows RFID to work when attached to a metal surface.

RFID On Metal Tag

As long as you choose the correct RFID equipment for your situation and application, you won’t need to worry about interference from metal. RFID on-metal tags are perfect for equipment tracking. With the recent developments in RFID technology, the possible applications of metal mount RFID tags are expansive in scope.

The metal RFID tag, something thought impossible just a few years ago is on the cusp of changing the durable RFID landscape. Fusing the strength and longevity of a metal asset tag with the technological power of RFID.

Applications may have different or similar uses for tags; one is successful using passive RFID tags, and the other uses barcode labels. The versatility of the tags and the applications are your deciding factors.

Benefits Of RFID Tags

  • Automation – system requires minimal manual handling once up and running
  • Efficiency, read rate and reduced human error
  • Line of sight is not required and items can face any direction, as long as they are in the read range
  • Durability – extensive range of RFID tags available dependent on the environmental conditions and tags are selected to match the project
  • Security – RFID tags can be internally attached ensuring they are protected from removal and damage
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Ensure Scanner Compatibility

The most common methods of reading asset tags are with hand-held, hands-free or fixed/mounted scanners/readers and mobile phones. Most scanners can read common linear symbologies, such as code 39, UPC, EAN, Code 128 and QR if it is enabled in the scanner.

High-performance next-generation RFID readers scan RFID and 1D/2D barcodes and are the modern alternative for today and tomorrow.

Sense, analyse and act in real-time

Difference Between Scanners And Readers

A barcode scanner collects information from barcode labels using a light that is reflected on a series of black bars (or tiny black squares in QR codes) to read the barcode label. Your mobile phone can scan these tags.

Whereas RFID scanners/readers use radio waves, that can pass through solid objects to read the tag signal. Meaning an RFID tag can be hidden from sight but still be readable.

While both devices collect information from tags, an RFID scanner/reader can collect information from both RFID tags and QR codes/barcode labels. Allowing for a mix of RFID tags for high-end assets and the more economical barcode labels for other equipment.

Tip; when selecting a specific symbology for an asset tagging application, you need to consider the capability of your scanning hardware to read the tags. Most scanner manufacturers usually ship new scanners with most symbologies disabled, so make sure the symbology is enabled before attempting to scan.

Talk to us about your hardware needs
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Hardcat RFID Capabilities

Hardcat software is ever-evolving and we continue to invest heavily in new product development. We offer the benefits of the latest advances in software development and service excellence.

Hardcat solutions support the scanning of a great number of barcode encoding symbologies. When selecting a specific symbology for a tagging application, you need to consider the capability of scanning hardware to read the tags.

The most common and broadly supported standards are Code 39 and Code 128, and the two-dimensional (2D) QR Codes which enable the encoding of a greater amount of data but require a QR Code capable scanner.

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We Supply Everything!

We supply everything you need to maximize the benefits of barcode and RFID technology in your organisation. Our team will work with you to select the correct asset tags and readers for your environment. And the all-important Hardcat software that ties it all together!

  • Barcode labels and/or RFID tags
  • RFID readers either handheld or fixed/mounted to certainly entryway points
  • Antennas (if using fixed/mounted readers) to maximize RFID signal performance
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Leverage Our Experience

The key message here is the need to consider the environment, cost, and motivation (e.g. asset value/portability) when establishing a tagging strategy. When it comes to asset, property and evidence management, success is all in preparation and planning. Something we take very seriously with every client.

Our experience has developed over 34 years of working on critical projects with organisations from a range of industries that have the highest requirement for governance and reliability.

Success stories

When it comes to asset management services, we offer you a proven methodology to help you establish solid processes and ensure your success, from beginning to end. We supply everything you need to maximize the benefits of either Barcode or RFID technology in your organisation.

Asset Tags PDF Cover

Hardcat has sourced the very best in Barcode labels and RFID tags, with their readers, so we can supply you with everything you need to start your tracking solution.

View the Hardcat asset tag brochure

Our professional services team will work with you to recommend the best tags and hardware for your environment and the all-important software that ties it all together.

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