Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology has proven to be a powerful tool that can help contractors manage equipment and materials, reduce theft, enhance efficiency, and improve safety. Electromagnetic fields identify and track RFID tags — tiny computer chips with attached antennas — affixed to various objects. Contractors can read these tags remotely on a laptop or mobile device. Here are four ways this technology is being used in construction:

  1. Tracking tools and equipment. You can place RFID tags on virtually any tool or piece of equipment, regardless of size. This allows a contractor to track their movement in real time, which helps deter theft, allows the contractor to manage these assets more efficiently, and helps pinpoint their location in a laydown yard or other storage facility. Tags may even provide usage information and maintenance schedules. RFID tags are difficult to remove. For larger pieces of equipment, you can hide or embed them where would-be thieves can’t find them. And for smaller assets, such as hand tools, you can “print” the RFID tag on the item using “magic ink,” a chemically enhanced ink that makes it possible to print circuits that perform like computer chips.
  2. Managing inventory. Contractors can use RFID technology to manage materials and supplies on a job site, across multiple job sites, or even in transit. This ensures access to the materials when and where they’re needed. You can also replenish supplies before they’re depleted. RFID tags can also provide detailed information to ensure that contractors use the right materials. They can even let workers know how old an item is or when it was last inspected or certified.
  3. Managing personnel. RFID tags aren’t just for inanimate objects. Increasingly, contractors are using them to track people, too. By placing tags in workers’ hardhats or ID badges, contractors can determine where workers are and what they’re doing. Contractors can use RFID tags for time tracking, eliminating timecards and reducing time-related disputes, by having workers pass through portals equipped with an RFID reader. RFID also helps reduce unauthorized access to a job site or to specific areas within a job site.
  4. Improving safety. There are many ways to use RFID technology to improve safety. For example, contractors can install RFID readers near potential hazards and design them to activate an alarm when a worker approaches. They can also alert management if a worker enters an area without the proper authorization or certification. And in the event of an accident or emergency, workers can be located quickly.

These are just a few examples of the many ways contractors are using RFID tags. The potential benefits of RFID technology are limited only by the creativity of those who use it.

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