What is RFID?
Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) is a communication technology that uses radio waves. It utilizes various frequency wavelengths in the electromagnetic field to send and receive data.
To understand the technology better, you should comprehend how each of its elements works. This article offers an in-depth analysis of all the aspects and applications of RFID technology.
How Does an RFID System Work?
RFID technology uses radio waves to transfer data. An RFID reader captures data that is encoded in an RFID tag via radio waves. For this to happen, the RFID system must consist of the following functional elements:
- RFID Tags
An RFID tag refers to a small chip with enough memory to store information. If you want to track or identify an asset, then you should embed the tag. This tag contains all the relevant details about that particular item, making identification and inventory management a breeze.
How RFID Tags Work
An RFID tag has two main elements that must work together to transfer data efficiently. They include:
- A Microchip. This part stores and process information
- An Antenna. This part receives and transmits signals
The RFID tag contains all the information required to identify a specific item. For the encoded data to be analyzed, you’ll need a two-way radio transmitter/ receiver. This device is called an RFID reader or an interrogator.
Types of RFID Tags
There are two main types of RFID tags based on their functionality:
- Active Tags. These tags have a battery and can actively transmit a signal even before an RFID reader triggers them. They have the widest reading range of up 100 meters. They either use 433 MHz or 915 MHz frequencies to transmit data.
- Passive Tags. These tags do not have a power supply. As such, the chip only becomes active upon detecting an external wave created by the RFID reader. These tags have a limited read range and are less expensive.
Passive tags operate under three main frequencies. They include:
- Low-Frequency Passive Tags. These tags operate with 125 kHz or 134 kHz frequencies. They work well in liquid and metallic environments. Also, they are the best for livestock tracking.
- High-Frequency Passive Tags. These tags use a frequency of 13.56 MHz
- Ultra-High Passive Tags. These tags use frequencies ranging from 865 MHz and 960 MHz
The frequency used on the passive tag will affect its read range. The ultra-high tags will have a wider read range than the low-frequency tags.
- RFID Reader
An RFID reader is a crucial element of the RFID system. It emits radio waves through the antenna. If the tag is within the acceptable read range, it will detect the reader’s radio waves and release its data from the memory bank.
Once the tag releases the information, the transmitter will analyze it and send the read results to an RFID computer software for interpretation.
There are two main types of RFID readers. They include:
- Handheld Readers. These readers are portable, making them ideal for use when tracking items in different locations. For example, you can use it to track and identify objects in a dark, disorganized store.
- Fixed Readers. These RFID readers are placed in a central location. They are either attached to one or more antenna and can detect an RFID tag without human intervention.
RFID has become quite ubiquitous, and you likely encounter them daily, even without your knowledge.
The technology provides an affordable and reliable way to store data. It is applied in many areas, including:
- Asset Tracking. The technology is used in different sectors to track products and manage inventories. To track your asset, you’ll only be required to stick the RFID tag/label on your items. Once it detects radio waves from an RFID reader, it will release the data for identification.
- Corporate Identification. Human resource departments in the corporate world use RFID technology to store and manage their employee’s data. This technique has made it easy for managers to track the attendance and performance of the employees.
- Toll and Parking Payments. Have you ever wondered how pointing your card to a parking/toll machine subtracts an exact amount of money from it? Well, the card is embedded with an RFID tag that releases the data to the RFID reader. The reader will then relay the data to the RFID software system that deducts the required amount from your card.
- Passports. Some countries embed RFID tags in their passports to store information about the passport holder. With this technique, these countries can track all visitors entering and leaving their borders.
- Identification. RFID technology is used to identify people and animals. For example, low-frequency chips can be embedded in animals to track their movements or trace them when lost.
RFID vs. Barcode Technology- What’s the Difference?
Both barcode and RFID are useful in asset tracking and inventory management. However, a few differences exist between them. The differences include:
RFID has several advantages over barcode technology, including:
- Can track multiple items simultaneously
- It is relatively faster than the barcode
- It does not require a line of sight between the reader and the tag
- It can read codes that are relatively far
Unlike barcode technology, RFID tags may have a battery. This means that the tag can receive signals from RFID readers that are up to 100 meters away.
Additionally, one RFID reader is capable of reading multiple tags simultaneously. This way, it will be faster and more convenient to use RFID as opposed to using barcodes.
- Ease of Customization
RFID tags store a lot of information that can be updated in real-time. On the contrary, the information contained in barcodes is static and cannot be changed.
This ease of customization makes it easy to use one RFID tag for a long time, despite changes in item-specific data.
RFID technology has many applications. If you were wondering what RFID is, then this article answers all your questions. You can use the technology in your businesses for ease of inventory management and identification.