The ever popular but often under-appreciated RFID tag has been the object of new research and experimented in new applications of many authoritative scientists around the world. Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a term describing a system transmitting information of an object or live being through radio waves. In fact, RFID is all around us, from ID tags injected under the skin of your pet, to tagging of patients in hospitals and jails, or used in fields like transportation, garment tracking and inventory systems; RFID technology simplifies the lives of all of us in many ways we often don’t pay attention to.
InTech‘s authors Shu-hsien Tseng and Chien-ju Chou have recently published “A Study on the Influence of RFID Tagging on Circulation Services and Collection Management: a Case Study of the Taipei Public Library“, a chapter comprised in the book “Designing and Deploying RFID Applications” edited by Dr. Cristina Turcu. In light of the rapid progression in developing novel RFID applications, Intech has invited author Chien-ju Chou to talk about her research work in the field as well as her chapter on how the Taipei Public Library successfully applied the little wonder tags to simplify management processes.
Miss Chou, when it comes to RFID technology, what are its advantages and disadvantages?
Taipei Public Library had the motto “build up a new-century smart library” as the goal in order to adopt RFID solutions, creating the first self-help library – “OPEN BOOK RFID library” in 2005. In the same year, 2 other libraries implemented the RFID solution and replaced the traditional collection management method (barcode or magnetic stripes). Actually, since we implemented the RFID solution to deliver a self-help service, it successfully saved the processing time when borrowing items increasing the speed and quality of collection circulation.
The benefits of the RFID solution are as follows:
-when replacing barcodes with RFID tags, we can enforce the identification and security of the collection process
-the library can increase the speed of items’ check-in /check-out by using RFID technology
-the library can process items’ check-in /check-out with no staff needed, while at the same time,
-with RFID scanners to process the inventory the focus is placed on a specific range and therefore time can be saved and working hours lowered
On the other hand, we found out that RFID technology needs to be improved as:
-the types of materials used for book covers and the edition shape of books do affect the reading rate of RFID tags
-the position of the RFID tag on a book affects the efficiency of inventory operations
-The size of RFID tags affects its widespread use
-the data link of RFID tags and the automated circulation system for shelved material needs to be elaborated on
In your chapter “A Study On The Influence Of Rfid Tagging On Circulation Services And Collection Management: A Case Study Of The Taipei Public Library”, you state that in consequence of introducing RFID tags in libraries workers can be eliminated saving up money. Substituting staff with technological solutions can lead to socio-economical issues. Specifically in your study case, what happens to librarians, what is their role after introducing RFID-based systems in libraries?
When we implemented RFID technology in the library, the staff was still needed to face a series of issues, the following are the significant ones:
-even if the library processes check in/out’s, there is still the need to clear the customers’ computer records
-when checking out items, the security gates of the library may still block the customers and assistance is needed
-when customers borrow items using their RFID cards, unexpected items may still appear in their computer records and therefore further monitoring by staff is necessary
In view of these facts, the librarian’s role is still key to solving customer issues as well as educating, informing and acting as the first point of contact when problems related to RFID tags arise.
The benefits of RFID tags used in libraries are: access to saved information repetitively, reading information of many individuals simultaneously and identifying it quickly. What about bugs in the system? Are there any?
In our research we found out RFID bugs include: the stability of RFID tags’ storage, the capability of information carrying devices and RFID tags, and the privacy issues related to RFID tags.
What is the conversion period when switching to RFID technology? How much time it takes to introduce an RFID-based system to a service and start using it by the customers?
In our case, we submitted our plan to introduce RFID tags in the Taipei library in 2004, and we got the budget for it the same year. We spent almost a year implementing RFID technology to all the library processes. Once the technology was in place, we designed a logo to identify libraries using RFID and then we introduced the technology to other 2 libraries and synchronised all RFID solutions among the libraries using it. Finally, we successfully reversed the traditional barcode and magnetic stripes process to a highly technological and efficient one. So it took about a year to put the whole thing in place.
What about information privacy issues? A primary RFID security concern is the illicit tracking of RFID tags. In the book “Spychips: how major corporations and government plan to track your every move with RFID ” by Katherine Albrecht and Liz Mcintyre , one is encouraged to imagine a world of no privacy. Can you comment on that?
I can only say that in our case, the library is forbidden from revealing any information regarding individual privacy. Each RFID user card has its own unique number and does not contain any data concerning the customer’s borrowing history.
Do you think that the less tech-savvy groups might suffer these technology changes and new services introduced in public institutions like libraries?
In my experience, the less tech-savvy ones do require more efforts when being informed, taught and trained to use RFID technology. Nevertheless, eventually everyone gets used to the new system so we don’t worry too much about it.
According to your research, the library clients are satisfied with the changes RFID tags brought. Do you think we are heading towards a growth in readership and information literacy enabled by new technology and ease of accessing public services?
Yes, according to my research both the investors, the library and the clients are extremely satisfied with the RFID technology we implemented. Looking back makes me realise we have been very successful in both implementing and promoting RFID technology and I think we did obtain a growth in readership since 2005.
What about your future projects within this dynamic field of study; what are you currently working on?
In the past few years I have been working for a university library. As RFID technology is not popular within universities yet, we haven’t been given the budget needed to implement RFID tags within university libraries. However, I still monitor all the latest developments in the field as well as the advantages and disadvantages of RFID tags in order to be fully prepared if asked to introduce RFID technology in the library I currently work for.
You chose InTech as your open access publisher. Are you satisfied working with InTech?
What is your view on Open Access: do you feel the whole scientific community will benefit if deciding to switch to publishing Open Access?
In my view, I really support Open Access because it’s an efficient business model that spreads research intelligence. If the scientific community published more OA, whole populations would benefit from the freely disseminated knowledge.
About the author:
Chien-ju Chou has obtained her MA degree in Library and Information Science at the Fu Jen Catholic University. Her previous working experience includes the roles of Head of Collections and Circulation Section, National Yang-Ming University Library, Department Member, Researcher, and Branch Director of the Taipei Public Library, Executive Officer of Circulation & Collection Department, National Central Library (Taiwan branch). Also, in 2008 Chien-ju Chou was awarded for excellency in her work by the Taipei City.
To read more about the subject of RFID please follow the links below:
“Deploying RFID: Challanges, Solutions and Open Issues“, edited by Cristina Turcu, (August, 2011)
“Current Trends and Challenges in RFID“, edited by Cornel Turcu, (July, 2011)
“Advanced Radio Frequency Identification Design and Applications“, edite by Stevan Preradovic, (March, 2011)
“International Journal of Radio Frequency Identification & Wireless Sensor Networks“, edited by Cristina Turcu