Learn how to start a timer with an RFID tag reader. The video below demonstrates starting and stopping timers using RFID readers and proximity cards.
Manufacturing and assembly shops use RFID every day. 125k Hz EM4100 RFID readers are inexpensive, and multiple readers can be attached to a single PC.
Prox cards are assigned to employees so they can start the timer when they begin work, and stop the timer when finished. Use different RFID cards or tags for different projects or tasks. Hang RFID cards or keyfobs on products for manufacturing automation during assembly.
Watch the video and then scroll down for Q&A.
Commonly asked questions for RFID scanners and proximity cards
Q: Which RFID tag reader and tags do you recommend?
A: Any reader and tag will work. Consider purchasing a simple reader from an online retailer to get started. A starter kit will cost about $20. Once you identify the potential, you can upgrade to ruggedized and wireless units for commercial and manufacturing use. Any RFID tag, proximity card, key fob, silicone RFID wristband, or adhesive RFID labels will work.
Q: How do RFID readers connect to PC’s?
A: USB is the most common connection. Just plug them in and they will immediately be available for scanning. No drivers are required.
Q: Do I need to install any software to use RFID tag readers with ST?
A: Only ST is required. No other software, and no drivers are typically needed. RFID readers typically emulate keyboards, and plug into the same USB ports that keyboards use.
Q: Should I use passive or active RFID tags?
A: Either one works. In both cases, ST receives the ID and can start and stop a timer with it.
Q: What is the difference between passive and active RFID?
A: Passive RFID tags do not contain a battery, so they are cheaper but have limited range. They rely on the radio frequency energy from the reader to active the RFID transponder chip inside the card or tag. Just enough energy is emitted to power the chip. When powered up, the transponder sends its ID to the reader, which passes it along to the USB port. Active RFID tags contain a battery, which gives them much longer ranges of detection, but they cost a lot more and are not considered disposable.
Q: How do RFID and proximity readers work?
A: Radio frequency emitted from a reader is enough energy to “wake up” a passive RFID tag. The energy passing through the air powers a small transponder chip inside the tag or card. When the tag wakes up, it begins transmitting its ID. The reader receives the ID and passes it to the USB port. Active RFID tags use a battery for greater range, which increases their cost. In either case, the RFID tags are contactless, meaning you don’t need to touch anything with them. They send ID’s through the air using radio signals.
Q: How do I associate a card or tag with an employee?
A: Press F4 to open the Barcode window in ST. Then press the “Prefixes” button in the lower left. Click the “+” button to add a new prefix. Scan the RFID tag to enter the name. Now choose an employee from the dropdown list below. You’ll also need to choose a project and task. Whenever that employee scans the card, a timer will start. Key fobs, prox cards, and tags all work the same.
Q: I scanned an RFID tag, but the timer didn’t start. Why?
A: Check to make sure you associated the tag with an employee and a project. Without those required fields, the timer will not start.
Q: Can I use RFID tags and barcodes together?
A: Yes, any combination of barcode scanners, magnetic card readers, and contactless RFID readers can be used simultaneously. Use a multiport USB hub to connect multiple devices to a single PC. But just make sure employees have a line of sight when barcoding so they can see the results of their scans.
Q: Can I program my own RFID cards?
A: Sometimes. ID’s within cards and tags are sometimes not writable. You usually get whatever the manufacturer sends unless the card or tag is programmable. But, you can associate the ID from any card to an employee using ST, so it doesn’t matter what ID is stored in the tag.
Q: What information is recorded for each RFID scan?
A: The ST software collects the following information for each scan.
- Employee name, along with the workgroup they are in
- Timestamp when timer is started
- Timestamp when timer is stopped, including actual duration between timestamps
- Project, which may have a unique code and billing rate
- Client, which the project is usually assigned to
- Category (user defined)
- Billing rate for the unique user and project
Q: What reports will result from RFID scanning
A: Time log reports list detailed scans with timestamps and durations. Employee reports show time spent for each employee and workgroup. Project reports show time for each project and task. Client reports list all time for all client projects. Invoices can contain time entries from scans with their unique billing rates.
Q: Where will time entries be visible in the ST program?
A: You’ll see exact hours in employee timesheets. And, you’ll see all time log records in the Time Log view. Reports will also display time entries, timestamps, durations, and billable amounts.
Q: Can I bill clients for scan entries?
A: Yes, each time entry contains exact timestamps, duration, and costs. The client cost is dependent upon those scan durations. Billing rates for each hour of time may vary for clients and projects. Billing rates may also vary by the employee who performed the scan. Flexible billing choices allow you to plan ahead for invoicing.
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