The Beginners Guide to RFID – Basics of RFID Technology

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The flow of content:

What is RFID
History of RFID
How does RFID work and What are RFID Tags?
What are the Types of RFID Tags?
What are the Types of RFID?
Comparison between RFID and Barcode Technology
Advantages of RFID Technology
Conclusion
References

 

What is RFID

Radio Frequency IDentification is commonly known as RFID. The objective of RFID is to track and identify objects or products through tags. The RFID tags are imbibed by a small chip that can receive and transmit information through electromagnetic fields. 

RFIDs are frequently used for all sorts of products, from pharmaceuticals to warehouses, clothing, and accessories to transportation and logistics. Though the function of RFID is similar to Barcode, to identify and capture product data, the difference between the two is, the RFID tag does not need to be within the line of sight of the RFID reader. It varies from a range of few centimeters to over 20+ meters.

RFID

Image Courtesy: Flickr.com

 

History of RFID

One of the early uses of RFID can be traced back to World War II. Germany and other nations would use this technology to identify if the aircrafts were friendly or of enemy regions. Later, on January 23, 1973, Mario Cardullo, an American inventor, patented the first RFID tag, which is known to be the start of modern RFID. 

Before patenting the RFID technology, the device was demonstrated to the New York Port Authority and many other potential users in 1971. They wanted to show how the RFID device can be useful in multiple industries such as transportation, security, banking, and medical industries. 

Since then, technology has been improving every year while making the RFID tag more efficient and affordable.

 

How does RFID work and What are RFID Tags?

Radio Frequency IDentification systems (RFID) work by attaching labels or tags to the products or objects. When the tags are attached, a two-way radio transmitter, also known as READERS or INTERROGATORS, sends a signal to the RFID Tags and reads the information through it. 

Saying so, RFID Tags consists of three crucial parts:

  • A Microchip – This is an integrated circuit, and it stores all the required information, further processes the same when required.
  • An Antenna – An antenna is required to read and transmit data for the READERS.
  • A Substrate – It is commonly a plastic film that firmly holds both the microchip and antenna.

 

What are the Types of RFID Tags?

While talking about RFID Tags, there are mainly three (3) different types of RFID tags:

  • Active Tags: The Active Tags run on their own battery, and transmit their own ID signal.
  • Passive Tags: The Passive Tags are small in size, have no batteries of their own, and instead uses the Reader’s energy source.
  • Battery-assisted Passive Tags: The Battery-assisted Passive Tags consist of a small battery (Not full-fledged battery like an Active Tag). This battery gets activated only in the presence of the Readers.

However, Battery-assisted Passive Tags are used less frequently in comparison to Active Tags and Passive Tags. Thus, let’s see the difference between the two.

 

Differences

Active RFID

Passive RFID

Power Source

Runs on own Battery

Uses the Tag Reader Energy

Readability Range

30 Meters to 100 Meters

Within Contact to 25 Meters

Operations

An Active Tag has its own Battery, thus, always active

A Passive Tag needs to be in the presence of the Reader

Battery Life

Maximum Life is upto 5 years

Life Expectancy is Very High. It survives over a Lifetime

Storage Capacity

Larger amounts of data can be stored

Data storage is limited to 128 Bytes.

Average Cost

Nearly between $25 – $50

Nearly between $0.10 – $20

Application

Manufacturing Companies, Construction Companies, and Tracking Vehicles

Manufacturing Companies and Tracking Assets or Products

 

What are the Types of RFID?

Well, as discussed above, RFID and RFID Tags are two separate entities. So, allow me to remind you again that there is a difference between RFID and RFID tags. 

RFID is a small chip that contains data or information and uses radio frequency to transfer information.

RFID tags are the tags or labels that have the RFID chip installed in it. It is these RFID tags that are attached to products in order to track them.

The RFIDs are majorly divided into three types. 

Types of RFID

So, let us know the types of frequencies that RFIDs work upon:

  1. Low Frequency
  2. High Frequency
  3. Ultra-High Frequency

1. Low Frequency

Low Frequency RFID

The Low-Frequency RFID tags generally fulfill the following checklist

  • Primary Frequency Range varies from 125 – 134 kHz
  • General Frequency Range varies from 30 – 300 kHz
  • Read Range for the Readers or Interrogators: Within Contact – 10 Centimeters
  • Average Cost Per Tag falls between $0.70 – $5.00
  • Most commonly used for animal tracking, factory data collection, Access Control, or Car Key.
  • Highly used for and works wonders near Liquids & Metals, Global Standards.
  • Limitations are the Extremely Short Read Range, Limited Memory, and Low Information Transmission Rate.

 

2. High Frequency

High Frequency RFID

The High-Frequency RFID tags generally fulfill the following checklist

  • Primary Frequency Range varies from13.56 MHz
  • Read Range for the Readers or Interrogators: Within Contact – 30 Centimeters
  • Average Cost Per Tag falls between $0.20 – $10.00
  • Most commonly used for Gaming Industries and Gaming Chips, Personal Identification (ID) Cards, DVD Kiosks, and Book Stores.
  • Highly used for and works wonders near Larger Memory Options.
  • Limitations are the Short Read Range and Low Data Transmission Rate

 

3. Ultra-High Frequency

Ultra High Frequency RFID

The Ultra High-Frequency RFID tags generally fulfill the following checklist

  • General Frequency Range varies from 300 – 3000 MHz
  • Primary Frequency Range varies from 433 MHz, 860 – 960 MHz

 

Comparison Between RFID and Barcode Technology

Industries often debate on the functionality of the  RFID and Barcode technology. Yet many are puzzled between the better usage of the two. Let us say that both have their own pros and cons, and both are extensively used worldwide. We can surely point out one of the reasons for this debate, as both RFID and Barcode are trying to solve the same problem. They both are trying to bring a quick change in calculating inventory and retrieving data. 

Let us see how RFID and Barcode are different from each other.

RFID

  • Frequency: The RFID Technology works on Radio Frequency.
  • Quick Scan: RFID can scan multiple tags at a time. Thus, it is quicker as it reads the information faster, and yet, it can identify each product individually. Moreover, it avoids scanning the same object multiple times, which is a constant challenge with Barcodes.
  • Strong and Sturdy: The bodies of RFID tags are much more sturdy compared to Barcodes. Where Barcodes are treated with delicacy and try to preserve the Barcode, the RFIDs can withstand harsh conditions.vAlso, RFIDs with Advanced Tags can be embedded with sensors to monitor temperature and moisture.
  • Line of Sight: Where Barcodes require the Barcode Scanner to be within sight, the RFID Readers can scan even if the products are within range (nearly 15 meters). It is not necessary that the RFID tags need to be within line of sight. 
  • Tag Information: RFID Tags are more involved with product information. Also, it has the capacity to store more information. Thus, RFIDs can not only identify a product but can also track the movements using the same SKU.

 

Barcode

  • Frequency: The Barcode Technology works on Optical Frequency.
  • Slow Scan: Unlike RFID, a quick scan is not possible with Barcodes. They scan the products individually through their Barcode Scanner. Thus, the process can be slow and time-consuming.
  • Delicate and Tender: The Barcodes are generally printed on an adhesive paper and are attached to the products. Thus, during the event of rough usage or a change in weather, the adhesive tends to release its tolerance, or the paper gets damaged in the process. Either way, once the Barcode loses its original form or is in poor condition, it becomes difficult for the scanner to read the Barcode. 
  • Line of Sight: Barcodes can only work in close contact with the Barcode Scanner. Unlike RFIDs, they have a short and close reading range. 
  • Tag Information: Barcodes work on providing minimal information. It consists of the necessary details like generic product details. 

 

Advantages of RFID Technology

While we can compare RFID and Barcode Technology all day, let us see a few of the advantages of using an RFID Technology.

  • Saves Time

While discussing the comparison between RFID and Barcode, we can easily conclude that RFID saves more time. This is because they can read multiple items at a time. For a better understanding, do go through the below video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7NVpebqL4A

  • Minimized Errors

The RFID Technology works great from a distance and scans multiple products. Thus, human error reduces exponentially, and a rise in accuracy is seen. Also, it has the advantage of tracking and identifying products during transit.

Minimized Errors

 

  • Diverse Environment and Weather

RFID Tags can survive diverse environmental conditions and roughness. Though the RFID tag endures tough situations, it can still be scanned and retrieve information. It has a life expectancy for a lifetime! Also, it is one of the reasons that RFIDs are used for tracking livestock and in the scientific and pharmaceutical industries.

 

Conclusion

RFID Technology is best used all across the industries and has a great deal of applications to offer. They can be used from the manufacturing industry to the tracking attendances or from tracking inventory to library operations. They are easy to understand and are simpler, even though it is sophisticated in performance. RFID is based on simple principles, thus, making it highly appropriate for many companies. Moreover, the working process of this technology is such that no matter the working environment, it still yields the best results. Through this guide, I tried to give a thorough explanation, if anything seems to be missed out, please refer to the below-mentioned references.

 

References