RFID - Is it a GOOD idea or a BAD idea

As a small team in FRC we can not really field a full scouting group for events. I am sure we are not the only team that has this problem. We need to be able to track indivdual teams some how; SO wouldn’t RFID be the way to help us do that?

I know that large teams, can field enough kids to gather this data, and they have very effective scouting. They say come on over we will help you, but that does not work out when they end up on another team in finals. Typically what happens is we just pick teams that we think are good, but that is really just like picking a favorite not picking a team that could help us win. So what happens is the big teams know who to pick, while there will never be a good way for us to do the same. I think RFID is the answer to leveling the information data that large team enjoy over everyone.

Some say that RFID is too expensive and complex. They say it… but they do not know it. I feel like they are saying that because they belong to a big team that has top scouting. They are not saying because it is a bad idea. There are sports that have electronic scoring, teakowdo for one. All the students have to buy electronic socks. The association buys the helmets and vests. There is software on a computer that tracks the electronic messages. The point is there is a sport that does it. How can they do it and we can not?

For example…How much would it cost to have the FRC slide in a reader/antenna into a holder that is mounted to a shooter then plug it into the TCP/IP hub before each round? The teams would only have to mount the holder on thier shooter, a couple of screws they are done. Of course another reader/antenna is mounted in the Goal station. How much would it cost for that data to be captured by a computer and stored into a database that an API could access? How much would it cost for an app that everyone could access? Not all teams would have to buy the RFID equipment… all they have to do is mount the reader/antenna fixture.

I am sure there are ways that this RFID tech would open up our game for many other possible FRC challenges, because then we would be able to keep track of our scoring in ways that have not been thought of yet.


I think you bring up an interesting idea. There are a lot of options if the competition mandates sensors/components on a robot, at the expense of complexity on the team’s side. We can already see things similar to this showing up is, for example, the Zebra Dart/whatever they’re calling it now system that’s been at a few offseasons and events. RFID in particular might not be the right technology for every game or FRC as a whole, but I expect FIRST and the FIRST community to continue exploring what can be done in FRC in the future.


We had this conversation with you in the FUN discord and told you that it was incredibly impractical for use and not worth the money and time it would take for marginal benefit


That came across as kind of harsh.


Have you heard of scouting alliances? This is a pretty common way to get around the issue of having a small team and have “real data” (you can arguably do better than a lot of teams with just a notepad and a couple students knowledgeable about the game lowkey) if thats the desire.

This one I dont really get. Even if we ignore scouting alliances, a lot of top teams are more than willing to share data to those struggling. I cant speak to anything specific in FIM, but in PNW 3663 consistently has their data public both via printouts at the event and a full Tableau workbook online for teams to use. If you’re waiting till playoffs to ask, thats kind of on you.

Teams still forget to turn on their bot before every match.

I dont think its so much “its bad because we can scout ourselves,” but moreso it puts in a restraint that is hard to deal with and track. We were very much against the size limits this year with how tight we had everything packed, and there would be no room to install any RFID solution on our shooter, especially if it was the size of the ZEBRA modules (ill touch on these in a second) as our shooter was on the very edge of our perimeter at its side.

This also totally ignores trying to have anything on the gamepiece. RFID (at least any currently used in FRC) isint that small, its going to drastically change how a ball is shot.

We already are, through ZEBRA. Some events this year used ZEBRA Technologies to track robot movements at events. It wasnt perfect (no robot heading), but its super impressive and is definitely something I see continuing because of the possibilities. As i alluded to above though, these are not that small, and you need 2 per robot to make it work properly. Imagine having 4 of these per robot, and 2 per ball. Thats not going to be cheap or easy to implement.

RFID is cool and could very much help with scouting, but even ignoring the current pandemic I cant see FIRST investing too far into this currently until the technology advances a bit more.


It may be kind of harsh but I and multiple others had a very long conversation with the OP about this topic and he refused to see our points. I’m sorry if it came off as overly confrontational


Your idea is interesting, and while I can see how it might work (for varying definitions of “work”) for those parts of game play that involve a robot shooting something, how would it work for other aspects of game play and scoring? From IR: moving off the line, park/climb, color wheel, defense, etc.

It sounds like this is a bit of an XY problem. To try to solve the actual problem, what’s been your issue with getting people to scout in the past? Is it a “not enough people who want to scout/enjoy scouting” or “we have 4 people and all of them are on drivetrain”? It sounds like you’ve tried scouting alliances, have those not gone well? It looks like your team hasn’t really been in a picking position, at least from looking at TBA for the team on your profile. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be scouting, it means your scouting should have a different goal. Focusing on scouting to guide qualification strategy is one of the main motivators - we’ve had matches where our scouts have won a key match for us by giving our drive team the data we need to make the most out of our alliance. One of the best resources I’ve seen is Your scouts hate scouting and your data is bad: Here’s why and some of the other threads by Katie and Brian.


If teams are just given a bunch of data without being involved in collecting the data or determining what data is collected and how it is collected, would the teams really understand the nuances in the data?

One year I mentored a “perpetual rookie” team where they had just enough students to make up the drive team so I didn’t even mention scouting to them. Half way through the regional, they rose to rank 8 or 9 and the students became concerned about how/who to pick. I talked to several larger, more established teams an they were all happy to share their scouting data with us.

Some people might consider scouting as part of the challenge…


To me if I was on a team that was giving our scouting information to another team, it would come with my opions, which probably would include opions that favor me or some team that we already like. That is exactly why the big teams like it the way it is.

This is exactly what as a small team we want to avoid, being controlled by the big teams.

Could you clarify how this system would work? The post is a little vague and handwavy.

Also not to be that guy because I don’t think the specific technology is that important to what you’re suggesting, but are you sure RFID is the right tech for this? LF and HF RFID are usually only readable within a few centimeters, meanwhile UHF setups are relatively expensive and still might not reliably cover the entire field, especially with big metal structures and robots everywhere.


As a member of a small team with few scouting resources in high school, we would partner with teams in similar circumstances so that our meager resources could be shared and get better data than each of us could alone.

And I think you ascribe too much malice to “big teams.” Everyone is there for FRC, after all, and there’s nothing more graciously professional than giving up an advantage to help another team.



If youre getting data from another team, chances are they already know how useless it is trying to “favor” themselves in their data. It wouldnt be too hard to load up a match and see if theyre data is wrong, no?

Id be throwing out any data from a team who altered it to make a team look better or worse, and i highly doubt a team would be giving away bad data if another team asked for help.


The big misunderstanding here is that scouting data is not “this team good, this team bad.” Scouting data is a collection of who did what in which match.


we had other teams ask us for help scouting, and we did help them … how did that really help our team? I could not tell you. scouting can help us to understand what makes a team a good team to be picked…which helps us to understand what we need to change on our robot (abilities and stratagies) . There are lots of good reasons to have good scouting information, the big teams already know that, that is why I am sure they do it. They are not doing it for just the fun of it, I am sure. The smaller teams are just do not have a good chance with out it (scouting).

In theory a scouting alliance should involve you receiving the data that you helped another team collect. If that wasn’t the case, then that’s not FIRST’s fault for not implementing systems that benefit them minimally. I’m going be blunt here and say that is the fault of your own team for not negotiating an agreement that benefited your team in any way. If you agreed to send over people to help them scout and didn’t ask for anything in return, you shouldn’t expect it to benefit you. Asking FIRST to spoonfeed data to every single team at an event isn’t the solution to not clearly discussing what help you are looking to receive from other teams.

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Did you go in with the expectation of being picked simply because you worked with them? What did you do with the data that you got out of it? Like I said in my other post, scouting can be that difference that pushes your team into picking position or even just making it onto an alliance. There’s two main ways to accomplish that - incorporate scouting data into your pre-match discussions with alliance partners and use that data to sell yourself to another team who is in picking position. Being able to accurately talk about (and back up with data!) your robot’s abilities is one of the best ways to improve your performance, both for talking to other teams and for guiding a “what went wrong” discussion after your event.


By giving you access to the data you helped collect?

They’re doing it to inform their strategy in qualification matches and to know what good picks for eliminations are.

What’s your point here? Most teams with scouting data perform better, implying that teams without scouting data perform worse… that doesn’t have anything to do with team size. If you’re struggling to collect data, you need to do what everyone in this thread has already said: form a scouting alliance. If your scouting alliance for some reason doesn’t benefit you in any way, I have to agree with @Theultracorgi that it’s probably your team’s fault for agreeing to work for less than nothing.


I have worked with RFID in industry for 30 years. For me to detail that out for you would take me awhile to do. This is not a real good place to detail it out. There are issues with distance from the tag to govern signal strength, radio reflection off of metals, where you get multiple reads… it is complex, but the user does not need to understand the Tech (it is nice if they do) they just need to mount the fixture as recommended.