WO2007070938A1 - Method and system of radio frequency identification tagging - Google Patents

Method and system of radio frequency identification tagging Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2007070938A1
WO2007070938A1 PCT/AU2006/001929 AU2006001929W WO2007070938A1 WO 2007070938 A1 WO2007070938 A1 WO 2007070938A1 AU 2006001929 W AU2006001929 W AU 2006001929W WO 2007070938 A1 WO2007070938 A1 WO 2007070938A1
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
rf id
item
id tag
rf
database
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/AU2006/001929
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Timothy James Buckley
Sean Nicholas Diamond
Original Assignee
Timothy James Buckley
Sean Nicholas Diamond
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
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Publication date
Priority to AU2005907353 priority Critical
Priority to AU2005907353A priority patent/AU2005907353A0/en
Application filed by Timothy James Buckley, Sean Nicholas Diamond filed Critical Timothy James Buckley
Publication of WO2007070938A1 publication Critical patent/WO2007070938A1/en

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    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q10/00Administration; Management
    • G06Q10/08Logistics, e.g. warehousing, loading, distribution or shipping; Inventory or stock management, e.g. order filling, procurement or balancing against orders

Abstract

A method of tagging items in a supply chain comprising the steps of (a) programming a unique identifier to a passive RF ID tag, (b) attaching the RF ID tag to a first item, (c) registering in a database external to the RF ID tag, information relating to the first item and the unique identifier, (d) reading the RF ID tag at least once using an RF reader, (e) detaching the RF ID tag from the first item, (f) re-attaching the RF ID tag to a second item, and (g) entering information into a database to relate the unique identifier with the second item.

Description

Method and system of radio frequency identification tagging Field of the invention

The invention relates to a method and system for using and re-using radio frequency identification (RF ID) tags particularly in the context of a supply chain and in managing inventory. In particular, the present invention relates to a method and system for using and re- using RF ID tags to identify items, manage information relating to that item and manage an inventory of any items to which the RF ID tags are attached such as consumer goods. The invention further provides a method of reusing non-reprogrammable RF ID tags by storing a unique identifier on the RF ID tag and maintaining the information relevant to the item to which the RF ID tag relates on a database external to the RF ID tag. Background of the invention

In this specification unless the contrary is expressly stated, where a document, act or item of knowledge is referred to or discussed, this reference or discussion is not an admission that the document, act or item of knowledge or any combination thereof was at the priority date, publicly available, known to the public, part of common general knowledge; or known to be relevant to an attempt to solve any problem with which this specification is concerned.

In this specification where a document, act or item of knowledge is referred to or discussed, this reference or discussion is not an admission that the document, act or item of knowledge or any combination thereof was at the priority date publicly available, known to the public, part of the common general knowledge, or known to be relevant to an attempt to solve any problem with which this specification is concerned.

While the current invention will be described with reference to clothing, including footwear and the clothing and footwear industries, it should be understood that the invention is not so limited but applies to any industry that handles items where RF ID tagging and inventory management systems may be useful. The invention is particularly relevant (by virtue of lowering the cost of RF ID solutions) to low cost, high volume items. For example the present invention could relate to tagging items of clothing including footwear, stationery, hardware, fast moving consumer goods and so forth. More efficient supply chain and stock management (in terms of speed, accuracy and cost) is a major focus for a number of organisations including retailers and those who sell goods business-to-business such as suppliers of spare auto parts. In the past, before computer technology was available, retailers used to stocktake on a regular basis by manually counting items and keeping written or typed records. In more recent times, barcodes have been attached to retail items and barcode readers used to increase the speed and accuracy of stocktakes as well as to identify items and price at the point of sale. Whilst passing barcodes across a reader still involves manual labour, the use of barcodes does have the advantage of being inexpensive to manufacture. RF ID tags offer a convenient alternative to devices such as barcodes because multiple RF ID tags can be read at a longer distance or through barriers or in bulk lots simultaneously as they pass an RF reader compared to a bar code reader. There are well-developed standards for low frequency and high frequency RF identification systems. Although standards for ultra-high frequency (UHF) tagging have only been recently established, UHF tagging is particularly useful because it offers a longer read range.

An RF ID tag typically consists of a chip that holds information, such as information about the item to which it is attached. Passive RF ID tags do not contain a battery but do include an aerial to receive transmissions from the reader. When radio frequency waves transmitted from the reader encounter a passive RF ID tag, the coiled antenna within the tag creates a magnetic field. The RF ID tag draws power from the magnetic field, energising the circuits in the chip on the tag so that information encoded on the chip is transmitted to the reader.

This area of technology continues to evolve. In particular the functionality continues to improve with the development of RF ID tag and RF reader technology and RF ID systems and processes. RF ID tagging for 'closed loop' (ie in house) applications is already known in the manufacturing industry. In particular, this is used in the automotive industry where components for a product being manufactured are tagged with chips so RF readers can automatically identify the product being assembled. In 'closed loop' applications, the tagged items are tracked only within the manufacturer's 'four walls' . The present invention is relevant to closed loop and non-closed loop environments.

RF ID tags are attractive for tagging items because the tags can be small in size (as small as a rice grain in some instances) and can be incorporated into packaging for the items and can be used to deliver other functionality, such as integrating store security and point of sale systems to utilise the RF ID tag. RF ID tags also have a comparatively long lifespan. Today non- reprogrammable 'passive' tags are intended typically to be thrown away with the packaging of the items to which they are attached. Their limitation to single usage means that RF ID tags are relatively expensive when compared with barcodes and RF ID tagging has a significant cost for use with low cost mass produced goods. Accordingly, thus far RF ID tags have typically been applied to high margin goods or goods that are prone to theft, such as razor refills and watches where the cost of adding an RF ID tag to the item is negligible compared to the profit margin and overall cost of such goods. However because of the functionality advantages associated with RF ID tagging, some major retailers have started urging their suppliers to put RF ID chip containing tags on product pallets or cases so the retailers can more efficiently track shipments of goods from warehouse to store shelves. This has prompted high-technology firms such as Intel and SAP to make significant investments in chip research in an attempt to bring down the cost of RF ID tags. However some retailers suggest that RF ID tags will not be used for lower value items, such as clothing, until the cost to the retailer of the RF ID tags is reduced. Therefore there exists a need for a convenient method and system of RF ID tagging that is suitable for use with lower value items. In particular there is a need for an economic method for tracking and relating information to low value items such as clothing, footwear, hardware and stationery. The lower cost RF ID tagging system would also have benefits for more expensive items already utilising RF ID tag technology by lowering the overall cost of RF ID tags used and the cost of the overall RF ID tagging solution. Summary of the invention

The present invention provides a method of tagging items in a supply chain comprising the steps of:

(a) programming a unique identifier to a passive RF ID tag, (b) attaching the RF ID tag to a first item,

(c) registering in a database, information relating to the first item and the unique identifier,

(d) reading the RF ID tag at least once using an RF reader,

(e) detaching the RF ID tag from the first item,

(f) attaching the RF ID tag to a second item, and (g) entering information into a database to relate the unique identifier with the second item. The method of the present invention can be extended to re-use of the RF ID tag on a third, and subsequent items. Specifically the steps of attaching, registering, reading and detaching the RF ID tag can be repeated for multiple items during the life of the RF ID tag. The step of entering database information to relate the unique identifier with the second item, can include actions such as modifying information in a pre-existing database (such as the database referred to at step (c)), or entering the information into a new database.

The person skilled in the area will be familiar with the 'passive' RF ID tags for use in the present invention. These are tags that are not re-programmable. Typically they are attached to a cardboard or plastic label and hermetically sealed for protection and to guard against moisture ingress. Typically, the RF ID tag is applied at item level in the facility where the item is manufactured.

The principal advantage of the present invention is that it provides for re-use of an RF ID tag, even though such tags are not reprogrammable, by holding the detailed information relating to the item on a database external to the RF ID tag but referenced back to the unique identifier on the RF ID tag.

As a result of the re-use, over time the method provides a lower cost RF ID tag solution than is currently available. Specifically, the present invention provides for recycling of RF ID tags which can be extremely effective for reducing long term average tag costs.

Furthermore the method of the present invention is equally applicable to use and re-use of an RF ID tag in an open market or in a closed loop. The method may form an entire supply chain, or a part of a supply chain. In this context, a supply chain does not end upon delivery to a retailer but may continue throughout retailer handling, including activities such as warehousing, distribution and transport to outlets, placement within outlets, all the way to the point at which an RF ID tag is removed from an item and a customer leaves the shop having purchased the item.

The system and method of the present invention not only provides for recycling of RF ID tags but can also in effect provide reprogrammable tag functionality. The data held by an external database can be changed or updated easily, whereas it is not technically possible to change data held on non-reprogrammable 'passive' tags. Useful database data fields such as 'location', 'damage', 'price' and 'destination' are more meaningful because they can be set, updated or altered easily on the external database. In addition, interfacing and integration with IT systems is simple and there is flexibility to accommodate and take advantage of industry and technological developments. Re-use of the RF ID tag reduces the cost of each tag to a retailer, the size of the reduction in cost depending on the frequency and amount of re-use. For example, the ability to electronically update information pertinent to a specific RF ID tag and thus use the RF ID tags with successive items allows for quick and efficient exchange of information within and between various parties, such as a manufacturer and retailer, and other members within the supply chain such as distributors and logistic companies.

Another advantage of the present invention is that it provides that when the items are subject to regulation, such as when they are taken across national borders, the database information may be readily exchanged with customs and excise officials and other regulatory bodies. This potentially increases the efficacy of regulatory processing and helps to avoid delays in supply.

Initially the database includes a list of unique identifiers, each identifier associated with information relating to the various first items. This information may include, for example in relation to clothing, an indication of the nature of the item (e.g. blouse, skirt, trousers, socks etc), its colour and size, cost or price, related products or any other information which is at all related to the item to which the RF ID tag is attached. It may also include information such as the manufacturer's name, style code, date of manufacture, location of manufacture and intended retail destination. Because the information is centralised on a database, information can be changed or updated easily. When the RF ID tag is attached to a second or subsequent item, the information in the existing database corresponding to the unique identifier may be entered by amendment, or deletion and replacement of information associated with the unique identifier. Alternatively, information relating the unique identifier with the second or subsequent item can be entered into a database other than the database holding information relating to the first item (e.g. if the database is for a different manufacturer or retailer). This ensures that the information in the database associated with an RF ID tag relates to the item to which it is allocated.

The database can be interfaced and integrated with any IT systems in use by manufacturers, distributors, merchants and others in the relevant supply chain.

Preferably the database can be accessed instantly at any point where the tags are to be read and/or where the information is required. The present invention also includes the use of multiple RF readers in multiple locations so that the location of the RF ID tag and associated item can be tracked and the information in the associated database accessed and used or updated as required. During transport or whilst the item is in stock, each time the RF ID tag passes within range of an RF reader, the location of the RF reader is automatically electronically communicated to a server and recorded in the database. Thus the location of the item can be tracked over time, or its last known location relative to an RF reader can be recorded. An up-to-date inventory of items held by a manufacturer, distributor, retailer or other party in the supply chain can thus be held in the database, allowing more efficient stocktaking.

The present invention further provides a method of utilising a lower cost RF ID tags solution that is presently available, preferably in a supply chain comprising the steps of:

(a) programming a unique identifier to a passive RF ID tag, (b) reading the RF ID tag unique identifier,

(c) attaching the RF ID tag to a first item,

(d) registering in a database information relating to the first item and the unique identifier,

(e) reading the RF ID tag at least one further time using an RF reader,

(f) detaching the RF ID tag from the item, (g) attaching the RF ID tag to a second item, and

(h) entering information into a database to relate the unique identifier with the second item.

Any of these steps may be carried out by the same, or different entities. Typically, steps (b) and (c) are carried out by a manufacturer, steps (e) and (f) are carried out by a retailer and step (g) is carried out by a manufacturer (not necessarily the same manufacturer as in step (b)). In another embodiment, an organisation retained to coordinate and manage the return of the RF ID tags from the retailer to the manufacturer may arrange for transport services (e.g. postal bags) from the retailer's various outlets directed to the manufacturer or back to the coordinating organisation. In another embodiment, the retailer has the capability to organise and coordinate the return of RF ID tags to the manufacturer thereby avoiding the need to employ or purchase used tags from a third party. In a retail supply chain context, an organisation providing (and typically also programming) a unique identifier may enter into a legal arrangement or financial arrangement, or offer incentives to encourage the retailer or other parties using the RF ID tags will return them for re-use. The RF ID tag may be programmed with a unique identifier by, for example, the tag manufacturer, the retailer or some other organisation that provides the RF ID tag. In a possible embodiment an RF ID tag vendor exists for establishing and maintaining the inventory of RF ID tags for the system and method of the present invention. The RF ID tag vendor may retain full ownership of the RF ID tags at all times. Alternatively ownership of the RF ID tag may reside for part or all of the time with another party. Accordingly, in another embodiment the method and system of the present invention is associated with an RF ID tag manufacturer, service provider or vendor who carries out the steps of;

(i) allocating unique identifiers to individual RF ID tags, (ii) maintaining an inventory of RF ID tags, (iii) entering arrangements for other parties to use the RF ID tags in the method or system of the present invention,

(iv) supplying batches of RF ID tags,

(v) receiving returned RF ID tags used in accordance with the method or system of the present invention. In a specific embodiment the method and system of the present invention is associated with an RF ID tag vendor who carries out the steps of;

(i) allocating unique identifiers to individual RF ID tags, (ii) maintaining an inventory of RF ID tags,

(iii) entering arrangements with another party to use the RF ID tags in the method or system of the present invention including incentive arrangements relating to return of the tags and supply of software to allow association of each unique identifier with information,

(iv) supplying batches of RF ID tags to the other party,

(v) receiving returned RF ID tags from the other party following use of the RF ID tags in accordance with the method or system of the present invention, and (vi) reading the returned RF ID tags to maintain the inventory of RF ID tags.

The method and system may also include providing the other party with an incentive related to return of the RF ID tags.

Typically the party entering the arrangements with the RF ID tag vendor is a retailer and the arrangement is in the form of a commercial agreement. The arrangement may also take into account any special requirements of the retailer (point of sale). As mentioned earlier, the unique identifier may be included on the tag either by the RF ID tag vendor or the RF ID tag manufacturer, or some other party. The unique identifiers could be independently created by the party allocating them, or alternatively unique identifiers could be created according to an industry standard.

The method of the present invention could be applied to an entire supply chain, from manufacturer all the way through to retailer (point of sale). Accordingly, in a preferred embodiment the method of tracking items in a supply chain comprises the steps of,

(a) programming a unique identifier to an RP ID tag,

(b) having a manufacturer attach the RF ID tag to a first item,

(c) registering in a database information relating to the first item and the unique identifier, (d) distributing the first item to a retailer via the retailer reading the RF ID tag at least once using an RF ID reader,

(e) having the retailer detach the RF ID tag from the first item,

(f) returning of the RF ID tag from the retailer to the manufacturer,

(g) having the manufacturer attach the RF ID tag to a second item, and (h) entering information into a database to relate the unique identifier with the second item.

In a further preferred embodiment the method of tracking items in a supply chain (including the retailer 'in house') comprises the steps of,

(a) programming a unique identifier to an RF ID tag,

(b) having a manufacturer read the RF ID tag and attach the RF ID tag to a first item, (c) registering in a database information relating to the first item an the unique identifier,

(d) distributing the first item to a retailer, the organisations in the supply chain using the RF ID tag system to improve accuracy, speed and lower cost,

(e) the retailer reading the RF ID tag at least once using an RF reader,

(f) having the retailer detach the RF ID tag from the first item, (g) returning of the RF ID tag from the retailer to a manufacturer, optionally via the organisation initially providing the RF ID tag and optionally coordinating its return,

(h) having the manufacturer read and attach the RF ID tag to a second item (not necessarily for the same retailer), and

(i) entering information into a database to relate the unique identifier with the second item. The database information may be modified or replaced on the existing database, or on a new database not necessarily relating to the same retailer. For example the second or subsequent items could be for a different retailer.

The retailer might not be the only party wishing to account for the items using the RF ID tag. For example the manufacturer and distributor, or various parties involved in distribution may also read the RF ID tag. Therefore, the method of the present invention may include the additional step of,

• the manufacturer (or other party in the supply chain) reading the RF ID tag at least once using an RF reader. Alternatively, or in addition, the present invention may include the step of,

• the manufacturer providing the first item to a distributor or retailer, the distributor or retailer reading the RF ID tag at least once using an RF reader.

In one embodiment, the present invention is applied to just part of the supply chain, for example, between the manufacturer and distributor, or alternatively between the distributor and the retailer, or 'in house' in the retailer.

The RF ID tag and RF ID reader can be of any readily available type. Typically the RF reader will be modified in house to suit the application. For example a manufacture or distributor will typically require RF readers that can be placed at convenient locations around a warehouse or other storage area. The RF readers for a manufacturer or distributor typically need to be adapted to read multiple tags at a distance, for example, all the tags attached to items on a pallet being moved in and out or around a warehouse or other storage facility. It will be readily apparent to the skilled addressee, that technology in this field is evolving and further developments will be applicable to the present invention. Conversely a retailer may require RF readers that can read RF ID tags on individual items being processed at a point of sale. Typically, but not necessarily, the RF ID tag can be readily attached and detached from an item by any convenient means. For example the RF ID tag may be attached to a swing tag so that is attached to the item by a light tie (eg string or synthetic twine) so that the RF ID tag can be simply removed from the item by severing the string or twine with a pair of scissors. Another example is an RF ID tag with similar attachment design to existing RF security tags so they can be removed and reapplied in the manner RF security tags are removed and reused today.

Usually the RF ID tag will be detached from the item by the retailer at a point of sale checkout, pooled with all the other RF ID tags removed from items, and then couriered directly or indirectly to a manufacturer or service provider or other person responsible for reattachment and redeployment of the RF ID tags in association with further items. The RF ID tag may, along with a large number of other detached RF ID tags are sent directly to the third party who organises and coordinates their return to a manufacturer. A large retailer for example, may potentially detach many tens of thousands of RF ID tags per day and post them directly from each retail outlet, or consolidate them centrally and send them back in larger shipments, or have them collected by the coordinating organisation. The third party or the manufacturer to whom they are returned may or may not offer a financial incentive for their return.

Due to their small size and light weight, transportation of large numbers of RF ID tags is relatively inexpensive. Accordingly the costs associated with return of RF ID tags from a retailer to a manufacturer, even by standard mail, is comparatively minor. Even air mail is inexpensive enough to be a commercial alternative and a viable approach to shipment of the tags. In one embodiment, a charge is incurred for any tag not returned thus providing an incentive for efficient RF ID tag recycling.

In a further embodiment the RF ID tag may also be used as a security device. When the RF ID tag is utilised for security as well as relating to the database of information, the RF ID tag can be affixed to the items in a secure manner so that unauthorised removal of the tag is difficult. An RF reader may be located at the exit of a retail store so that if someone by-passes the point of sale checkout carrying an item with an RF ID tag attached, the RF reader at the retail store exit may trigger an audio or visual alarm. In this context the system will require a more secure method of attaching RF ID tags to the items.

It may further be advantageous to have RF readers located about the store, such as in change rooms. It is not uncommon for shoplifters to remove security devices from clothing items in the privacy of store change rooms. However, if someone takes an RF ID tagged item into a change room, and removes the tag from the garment, the reader will detect the presence of the tag. Furthermore, because an RF reader can read multiple tags simultaneously, it will be able to detect whether a person entering a change room with, for example 5 uniquely tagged clothing items subsequently leaves the change room with less than 5 RF ID tagged clothing items.

In a further embodiment the present invention provides a system for tracking items in a supply chain comprising:

(1) one or more servers,

(2) one or more remote terminals,

(3) one or more RF ID tags (4) one or more remote RF readers, wherein in use,

(a) a unique identifier is programmed into each RF ID tag,

(b) a RF ID tag is attached to a first item, (c) information relating to the first item and the unique identifier is registered in a database,

(d) the RF ID tag is read at least once using the remote RF reader,

(e) the RF ID tag is detached from the first item,

(f) the RF ID tag is attached to a second item, and (g) information relating the unique identifier with the second item is entered in a database, wherein the one or more servers,

(i) receive from the one or more remote terminals, information relating to the first item and the second item, and (ii) receive from the one or more remote RF readers, the unique identifiers read from the one or more RF ID tags.

The term 'remote' in this context is intended to be interpreted broadly to mean that the terminal or RF reader may be located at any distance from an associated server and may communicate with the server by any convenient means including hard wiring or wireless communication.

The system of the present invention can be extended to re-use of the RF ID tag on a third, and subsequent items. Specifically the steps of attaching, registering, reading and detaching the RF ID tag can be repeated multiple times, for the life of the RF ID tag.

Typically, the one or more servers can exchange information. For example, information relating to the first and second items may be input through remote terminals to a database on a server operated by a manufacturer. The unique identifiers received from the one or more remote readers may be saved to a server operated by the manufacturer or a distributor or a retailer. Typically these two servers would be able to exchange information.

The servers may include any convenient processor known in the field of information technology. For example the server may include one or more digital processors. The server includes processors that are typically responsible for exchange of information and database updates and may comprise data storage means for storing files for example, of information obtained by a manufacturer, distributor or retailer.

In a further embodiment the present invention provides a method for tracking items in a supply chain comprising the steps of:

(a) communicating from a remote terminal to a database, information relating to a first item and an associated unique identifier that is programmed into an RF ID tag attached to the item,

(b) communicating the unique identifier from the RP ID tag to an RF reader, (c) communicating the unique identifier from the RF reader to a server, and

(d) communicating from a remote terminal to a database, information relating to a second item and the unique identifier.

In a further embodiment the present invention provides one or more servers when used for the communications described in the above steps. Typically information is communicated from two or more RF readers to the server(s) such that the location of the item may be identified and tracked.

Example

The present invention will now be described with reference to the following non-limiting example and with reference to the drawing (Figure 1). Example 1

Specifically, the example relates to a method for tracking relatively low cost clothing items in a clothing industry supply chain. After a retailer places an order for clothing items with a manufacturer, the following steps occur,

(1) the RF ID tag coordinator programs a unique identifier to a small, lightweight RF ID tag,

(2) having manufactured the clothing items, the clothing manufacturer attaches the RF ID tag to a first item using a natural or synthetic string, or a more secure affixing method,

(3) information relating to the first item (e.g. 1 White T-shirt) and the corresponding unique identifier (A000000000001, A000000000002 etc) are registered in a database, the database being destined for electronic transmission to a stock management system accessible by the retailer receiving the first item, (4) the clothing item is forwarded through the retailer's supply chain, the parties in the supply chain use the RF ID tags and associated database information to improve speed and accuracy and reduce cost.

(5) the retailer uses RF readers to read the RF ID tag (5a) upon delivery of the shipment, (5b) at various points during transit of the clothing item through the storage warehouse and (5c) at the retail outlet; the unique identifier and RF reader location are communicated to the database so that anyone accessing the database can see information such as the location of the last RF reader to read the RF ID tag. The RF ID tag can also be used for security purposes at any point or to facilitate information for a sale.

(6) forwarding the RF ID tag to the RF ID tag coordinator for return to the item manufacturer. Typically the RF ID tag coordinator reads the RF ID tag upon its return in order to calculate a rebate. The retailer may also read the tag when it is included in a shipment back to them. (7) the third party returns the RF ID tag to the manufacture so that the RF ID tag can be attached to a second item, and steps (3) to (6) are repeated for the second item. The procedure can be repeated and the tag re-used for the useful lifespan of the RF ID tag.

Example 2

This example relates to a method for a retailer to introduce efficiencies to bring costs down and use IT more effectively. After the retailer places an order for hardware items with a manufacturer, the following steps occur,

(1) the RF ID tag coordinator programs a unique identifier to a small, lightweight RF ID tag,

(2) having manufactured the hardware items, the manufacturer attaches the RF ID tag to a first item using a natural or synthetic string, or a more secure affixing method,

(3) information relating to the first item (e.g. claw hammer) and the corresponding unique identifier (B000000000001, B000000000002 etc) are registered in a database, the database being destined for electronic transmission to a stock management system accessible by the retailer receiving the first item, (4) the hammer is forwarded through the retailer's supply chain, the parties in the supply chain use the RF ID tags and associated database information to improve speed and accuracy and reduce cost. (5) the retailer uses RF readers to read the RF ID tag upon delivery of the shipment, at various points during transit of the clothing item through the storage warehouse and at the retail outlet; the unique identifier and RF reader location are communicated to the database so that anyone accessing the database can see information such as the location of the last RF reader to read the RF ID tag. The RF ID tag can also be used for security purposes at any point or to facilitate information for a sale.

(6) forwarding the RF ID tag to the RF ID tag coordinator for return to the item manufacturer. Typically the RF ID tag coordinator reads the RF ID tag upon its return in order to calculate a rebate. The retailer may also read the tag when it is included in a shipment back to them.

(7) the third party returns the RF ID tag to the manufacture so that the RF ID tag can be attached to a second item, and steps (3) to (6) are repeated for the second item. The procedure can be repeated and the tag re-used for the useful lifespan of the RF ID tag.

The word 'comprising' and forms of the word 'comprising' as used in this description and in the claims does not limit the invention claimed to exclude any variants or additions. Modifications and improvements to the invention will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art. Such modifications and improvements are intended to be within the scope of this invention.

Claims

The claims defining the invention are as follows:
1. A method of tagging items in a supply chain comprising the steps of:
(a) programming a unique identifier to a passive RF ID tag,
(b) attaching the RF ID tag to a first item,
(c) registering in a database external to the RF ID tag, information relating to the first item and the unique identifier,
(d) reading the RF ID tag at least once using an RF reader,
(e) detaching the RF ID tag from the first item,
(f) re-attaching the RF ID tag to a second item, and
(g) entering information into a database to relate the unique identifier with the second item.
2. The method of tagging item according to claim 1 wherein the steps of attaching the RF ID tag, registering information in a database, reading, detaching and re-attaching the RF ID tag and entering database information are repeated for a third and subsequent items.
3. The method of claim 1 or claim 2 when used in an open market.
4. The method of claim 1 or claim 2 when used in a closed loop.
5. The method or claim 1 or claim 2 when used as an entire supply chain.
6. The method of claim 1 or claim 2 when used as part of a supply chain.
7. The method of any one of the preceding claims wherein the RF ID tag is read at least twice by an RF reader.
8. The method of any one of the preceding claims which further comprises the steps of:
(i) allocating the unique identifiers to individual RF ID tags (ii) maintaining an inventory of RF ID tags,,
(ii) entering arrangements for other parties to use the RF ID tags, (iii) supplying batches of RF ID tags, and
(iv) receiving returned RF ID tags used in accordance with the method or system of the present invention.
9. The method of claim 8 which further comprises the steps of reading the returned RF ID tags to maintain the inventory of RP ID tags.
10. The method of claim 8 which further comprises the step of providing the other party with an incentive related to return of the RF ID tags.
11. The method of any of the preceding claims wherein the RF ID tag includes additional functionalities.
12. A system for tracking items in a supply chain comprising:
(1) one or more servers,
(2) one or more remote terminals,
(3) one or more RF ID tags
(4) one or more remote RF readers,
wherein in use:
(a) a unique identifier is programmed into each RF ID tag,
(b) a RF ID tag is attached to a first item,
(c) information relating to the first item and the unique identifier is registered in a database,
(d) the RF ID tag is read at least once using the remote RF reader,
(e) the RF ID tag is detached from the first item,
(f) the RF ID tag is attached to a second item, and
(g) the information is entered in a database to relate the unique identifier with the second item, wherein the one or more servers,
(ia) receive from the one or more remote terminals, information relating to the first item and the second item, and
(ib) receive from the one or more remote RF readers, the unique identifiers read from the one or more RF ID tags.
13. The system for tracking items in a supply chain according to claim 12 wherein the RF ID tags are used in accordance of the tagging method of any one of claims 1 to 10.
14. The system for tracking item according to claim 13 wherein the steps of attaching the RF ID tag, registering information in a database, reading, detaching and re-attaching the RF ID tag and entering information are repeated for a third and subsequent items.
15. The system of claim 12 when used in an open market.
16. The system of claim 12 when used in a closed loop.
17. The system of claim 12 when used as an entire supply chain.
18. The system of claim 12 when used as part of a supply chain.
19. The system of any one of claims 12 to 18 wherein two or more servers are used and said servers can exchange information.
20. A method for tracking items in a supply chain comprising the steps of:
(a) communicating from a remote terminal to a database, information relating to a first item and an associated unique identifier that is programmed into an RF ID tag attached to the item,
(b) communicating the unique identifier from the RF ID tag to an RF reader,
(c) communicating the unique identifier from the RF reader to a server, and
(d) communicating from a remote terminal to database, information relating to a second item and the unique identifier.
PCT/AU2006/001929 2005-12-23 2006-12-19 Method and system of radio frequency identification tagging WO2007070938A1 (en)

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