The introduction of RFID technology has improved on the processes in the aeronautic industry in ensuring that proper inventories are kept. The system had evolved over time since when it got introduced, and many positive impacts get realized by the industry. This paper provides an overview of the RFID systems, the role that it plays in the aircraft industry and the advantages and disadvantages of the technology. Besides, it also provides discussions of the major advancements which did not exist in the previous RFID technology. Also, the paper provides the security and privacy concerns that have been existing in the industry despite the efforts to eliminate them. The paper goes ahead to provide the STid standard and its specifications as far as aeronautics is concerned. The paper also provides the major impacts of RFID system use. In the conclusion, the paper describes that there are so many achievements and realizations made since the discovery of electromagnetic induction and its application in developing the system, despite the challenges.
While reading about the product or good packaging, identification, or supply, you may bounce into an advert for barcoding and Radio Frequency Identification promotion. In most situations, you may ignore it thinking that it is meant to trick you into spending on a technology you do not understand. Due to the rapid growth of technology, business organizations have realized the advantage of RFID in good and asset identification. The system applies to all organizations which need to manage their inventory easily without much paperwork. In the aerospace industries, RFID serves major purposes as follows: Firstly, it is used in tracking and managing the plane parts at the production plant. RFID tagging is also used to track and manage the tools during the plane assembly procedures as well as during the maintenance. The process of manufacturing, maintenance and assembly of equipment in the aerospace industry is usually taken strictly to ensure that no item gets lost. Additionally, since the rate of production is usually high, they should ensure that quality gets maintained. The RFID system, therefore, does not only assist in supply chain optimization but also in improvement of its quality.
The tool management in aeronautics mutually gets taken very seriously. Some of the tools include hand tools, torque, and pneumatic tools. RFID is also applicable in recording inventories of security assets such as life jackets and oxygen bottles to enable the technicians to know if they are still available or valid. A RFID tag is fitted onto each of the equipment according to the aerospace standards (such as ATA SPEC 2000) and with additional information (such as date of manufacture, expiration, and manufacturer). The systems get installed onto PDA, which gets used when undertaking inventory. Other applications include ground support equipment management, raw material monitoring, and management of maintenance kit (Bartneck, Klaas, Schoenherr & Weinlaender, 2009).
The RFID system is made up of four main components namely transponder, transceiver, antenna and reader interface layer. The transponder (commonly referred as the tag) is programmed to provide unique automatic identification. The transceiver (or reader) handles radio transmission via the antenna and pass the details to other systems. The antenna gets attached to the reader to facilitate information transmission with transponders. Finally, the reader interface layer (or middleware) compresses tag signals to single signal and provides a conduit between the hardware parts to software parts (such as inventory and shipping).
When the tag gets passed over the antenna and reader-generated radio frequency field, it gets activated. The tag then responds through a program which gets detected by antenna attached to the reader. Later on, the reader provides data to the interface layer which sends the tag information to the required system that needs it. The tag has a memory area that is usually programmed and contains unique information to differentiate it. The antennas are radio devices that receive and send waves while the reader instructs the antennas. The middleware comprises Reader and device management, data management, application integration and partner integration.
Figure 1: Components of RFID system
The changes in technology have led to the new shape of inventions and advancements through the social, political and economic factors. Initially, Michael Faraday did not know that his electromagnetic induction discovery would lead to such great technology. There are great trends in RFID system development that may drive mass adoption of its use. The advancements get associated with benefits such as increasing ease of use, increase in functionality and reduction of deployment costs. Such advancements have led to more open doors for innovations and invention than before. The popular advancement is the development of new and enhanced tags. The process of innovation in the design and development of the RFID tags has continued for decades. Firstly, we have new alternative designs. It is likely that the external conditions such as weather may affect the performance of tags. For example, the reader may provide inconsistent results when the detection is performed near a conductor or during harsh weather like low temperature.
Due to the mentioned limitations, there is a need for the development of alternatives. The alternative design includes chip fewer tags which utilize Surface Acoustic Wave technology. Additionally, Smart Active Label technology is another alternative that performs accurately without being affected by external factors. Tag packaging has also been enhanced to improve on practicability and applicability. For example, as for the printed electronics, more companies are adopting less costly approaches of printing of tags on boxes or when packaging items. On the other hand, the packaging design of tags is done in a more creative and in genuine as compared to the past way of tagging. New sensory tags have continued getting developed in such a way that they can sense the changes within surroundings. Recently, the vendors have begun developing RFID systems attached with sensors. A good example is the Smart Dust. Its popularity is increasing because it is applicable in many areas unlike the traditional RFID systems (Miles, Sarma & Williams, 2008).
The second major advancement is the new architecture for networks. It is evident that nowadays, data is essential and most big organizations have many assets and processes such that the processes and procedures have to get done in/near real time. Every single tag appears like a single computing device, which also acts as a network node, and therefore other billion devices which have to interact. The tag network is usually complex as compared to the internet network. Newer RFID hardware and software get developed in such a way that they outdo the performance as compared to the older tags. Additionally, there have been massive changes in microprocessor development and design. The recent one in the chip multithreading (CMT) pioneered by companies such as the Sun Microsystems. The advantages of the architecture are that its speed of performing tasks is higher than the previous one. Also, the system allows processing of multiple tasks simultaneously, hence the name multithreading.
Peer to peer computing has still gained popularity since it allows data distribution all over the globe, unlike the centralized computing whereby the RFID reader had to request for resources from the centralized computer before the document then gets transmitted to the other parts of the world. Additionally, the RFID systems possess some kinds of ‘intelligence’ such that readers are capable of performing the necessary processing, analysis, and task management within a LAN other than using the centralized servers. The final and yet a crucial advancement is the tremendous reduction of RFID tags, as compared to the beginning. The drop still gets expected because the processing and manufacturing cost of the devices has greatly reduced and also many competitor manufacturers have entered the market, thereby reducing the nature of the market from monopolistic down to competitive market structure (Karmakar, 2013).
The standard used in the identification or aeronautical parts to achieve desired management and traceability of the system is STid. STid ensures that all aircraft components get identified, tracked and provide a wide range of the required information when using the technology. The objectives of the standard include improvement of the quality and reliability of RFID, development of new terms and output in RFID, facilitating tagging all parts of aircraft and ensuring adaptability of all aerospace industry tags and readers. The standard ensures that the readers comply with the associated RFID laws on the planet.
The aerospace RFID systems have both advantages and disadvantages. Firstly, on the merit side, the tag needs not to be directly visible to the receiver to be read (unlike the barcode and scanner). Additionally, RFID tags have high memory capacity and are programmed to store information. They are also able to locate themselves, and the technology is advancing positively, bringing new features to RFID systems so as to improve its efficiency and performance (Ustundag, 2013).
The greatest disadvantages associated with the systems are that their costs are higher as brought by their batteries. Again, they are associated with regulations which need to get followed to the later. Also, there have been issues that criticize the use of the systems that they expose people’s privacy. Even though RFID systems are highly encrypted, they are still insecure and vulnerable to interception. Finally, the programmers invest much of their time in developing the systems; therefore the interval of the release of a new system is large (Ustundag, 2013).
Like any other technology systems, RFID systems are also prone to security and privacy issues. Unlike the traditional applications similar to trackers which were usually closed systems whereby the tags lacked sensitive information, the increase in consumer applications get associated with many privacy issues. The greatest of privacy issue is eavesdropping, whereby since the tags get into contact with consumers, the sensitive data could leak, or possibly used to locate some people. The eavesdropper may be able to spy from a passive system because the signal contains the power of the tag which can get monitored from within 100-1000meters. The attackers can track the signal even if the tags do not have the unique serial numbers. Another issue is the forgery of the tags by attackers (Miles, Sarma & Williams, 2008). While it is easy to remove a tag, it is also easy to replace it with another fake one which response similarly to the previous.
There have existed many issues of forgery whereby an aerospace industry plans to ship products but later find out that they got replaced with fake ones. Thirdly, the RFID systems are also subject to denial of service in case they get sabotaged, thereby preventing readers from reading tags. The attackers may poison the database or even alter the normal functioning of readers thereby leading to denial or service. Finally, hackers and other attackers may place intentional attacks onto RFID for example by use of SQL injection to perform destructive queries on their databases. When the database gets infected, the normal functioning may be altered, or even it completely turns useless due to deletion of records. The entries of such viruses are any of its input sources such as USB port, network or keyboard (Karmakar, 2013).
The introduction of RFID technology into an aeronautic industry certainly has impacts. The organization changes the way of documenting their inventories in a new way. The first process involves training of the employees or acquires of new employees to assist in data input into the device database. Alternatively, they may directly transfer the data from a computing device or server to the RFID device. Changes have to get made by aligning the personnel so as to bring stability into the industry (Karmakar, 2013).
It is important to realize that many changes got realized in the development of RFID systems. Their integration into many small aircraft enterprises, however, is still low because it is because individuals still fear to spend on them because of their cost and nature of businesses. However, by comparing the benefits and negative impacts, the RFID system is advantageous if the aeronautics personnel strictly follow the regulations and standards governing its usage.
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Karmakar, N. C. (2013). Advanced RFID systems, security, and applications. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference. Retrieved fromhttps://books.google.com/books?isbn=1466620811
Miles, S. B., Sarma, S. E., & Williams, J. R. (2008). RFID technology and applications. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved fromhttps://books.google.com/books?isbn=0521169615
Ustundag, A. (2013). The value of RFID: Benefits vs. costs. London: Springer. Retrieved fromhttps://books.google.com/books?isbn=1447143450.