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Glossary for SCADA software users : Barcodes, and RFIDs

It’s time again to explore some of those acronyms and obscure phrases that make up the world of SCADA software. Bar Codes are often  used in SCADA systems as a method of accurate data entry and record keeping, so today’s post is focused on the acronyms surrounding bar code technology.

Bar Code – A bar code is simply a method for displaying data optically. Bar codes are traditionally thought of in terms of parallel lines, but more recent QV bar codes that employ a 2D matrix are being used as well. The use of bar codes can be very advantageous to users of SCADA software, because information entered via bar code removes some element of human error (also known as “fat finger mistakes”).

The current method of bar code use involves hardware that either plugs into the PC via USB, or transmits data input to a wireless SCADA system using drivers like those bundled into IWS. This method of data entry is popular because it is very fast, and it saves time in entering data into a spreadsheet or database, as well as eliminating human error in entry.

No more fat fingers

No more fat fingers

2D Data Matrix – a 2D data matrix barcode is another form of code that can be scanned and read optically. This type of code uses cells of black or white to depict information, rather than parallel lines. The most common 2D matrix barcodes are the QR code (Quick Response), which is used very heavily in Asia, and the High Capacity Color Barcodes.

The 2D data matrix barcodes can often be read with mobile phones, which make them ideal for use with a version of InduSoft Web Studio running on a Windows CE mobile device. Data entry using a smartphone can be difficult, but barcodes and 2D barcodes can make data entry easy, fast, and accurate.

RFID tag – An RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tag is an identification tag that can be read using radio waves, whether or not the tag is within line of site of the reader. Often RFID tags have a range of several meters, or even further when assisted by battery. Other types of RFID include passive tags, which require a battery in the reader, and active RFID tags that can transmit signals on their own. An RFID system often consists of two parts Tags and scanners or readers. Tags are found in passive (unpowered) and active types, and are often printed on and applied as labels. Some active types can be read distances of many meters.

A popular example of an RFID tag is the train system in Japan, which uses passive RFID tags in cards commuters carry with them. To board a train, commuters merely hold their wallet or bag within proximity of the reader, and the fare amount is deducted from the card. RFID tags can be utilized in SCADA systems for quick and easy data input that does not require a high level of effort to read.

RFID tags can also be used in employee badges or ID cards to log when employees access the system. For higher SCADA security clearance levels, employees may also use an RFID tag or bar code to enter their username and information so that they may then enter a personal password manually.

Someday RFID technology may enable us to push our shopping carts through the checkout lane and not have to place the individual items on the belt. Just push the cart through the scanner and all items will be scanned at once. And in a similar fashion, an entire batch of product may be scanned and the SCADA software will handle the serial number tracking all at once.

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