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  • Homework 3:RFID



    Radio frequency identification, or RFID, is a generic term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify people or objects. There are several methods of identification, but the most common is to store a serial number that identifies a person or object, and perhaps other information, on a microchip that is attached to an antenna (the chip and the antenna together are called an RFID transponder or an RFID tag). The antenna enables the chip to transmit the identification information to a reader. The reader converts the radio waves reflected back from the RFID tag into digital information that can then be passed on to computers that can make use of it.

    RFID has come a long way from its first application of identifying airplanes as friend or foe in World War II. Not only does the technology continue to improve year over year, but the cost of implementing and using an RFID system continues to decrease, making RFID more cost-effective and efficient. RFID is similar to barcoding in that data from a tag or label are captured by a device that stores the data in a database. RFID, however, has several advantages over systems that use barcode asset tracking software. The most notable is that RFID tag data can be read outside the line-of-sight, whereas barcodes must be aligned with an optical scanner.

    RFID is a example of Automatic Identification. Automatic identification, or auto ID for short, is the broad term given to a host of technologies that are used to help machines identify objects. Auto identification is often coupled with automatic data capture. That is, companies want to identify items, capture information about them and somehow get the data into a computer without having employees type it in. The aim of most auto-ID systems is to increase efficiency, reduce data entry errors, and free up staff to perform more value-added functions, such as providing customer service. There are a host of technologies that fall under the auto-ID umbrella. The Other example of Automatic Identification are bar codes, smart cards, voice recognition, some biometric technologies (retinal scans, for instance), optical character recognition.




    RFID belongs to a group of technologies referred to as Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC). AIDC methods automatically identify objects, collect data about them, and enter those data directly into computer systems with little or no human intervention. RFID methods utilize radio waves to accomplish this. At a simple level, RFID systems consist of three components: an RFID tag or smart label, an RFID reader, and an antenna. RFID tags contain an integrated circuit and an antenna, which are used to transmit data to the RFID reader (also called an interrogator). The reader then converts the radio waves to a more usable form of data. Information collected from the tags is then transferred through a communications interface to a host computer system, where the data can be stored in a database and analyzed at a later time.


    Types of RFID

    Within the Electromagnetic Spectrum, there are three primary frequency ranges used for RFID transmissions – Low Frequency, High Frequency, and Ultra-High Frequency.


    Low Frequency


    General Frequency Range: 30 - 300 kHz

    Primary Frequency Range: 125 - 134 kHz

    Read Range: Contact - 10 Centimeters

    Average Cost Per Tag: $0.75 - $5.00

    Applications: Animal Tracking, Access Control, Car Key-Fob, Applications with High Volumes of Liquids and Metals

    Pros: Works well near Liquids & Metals, Global Standards

    Cons: Very Short Read Range, Limited Quantity of Memory, Low Data Transmission Rate, High Production Cost


    High Frequency


    Primary Frequency Range: 13.56 MHz

    Read Range: Near Contact - 30 Centimeters

    Average Cost Per Tag: $0.20 - $10.00

    Applications: DVD Kiosks, Library Books, Personal ID Cards, Poker/Gaming Chips, NFC Applications

    Pros: NFC Global Protocols, Larger Memory Options, Global Standards

    Cons: Short Read Range, Low Data Transmission Rate



    Ultra-High Frequency


    General Frequency Range: 300 - 3000 MHz

    Primary Frequency Ranges: 433 MHz, 860 - 960 MHz


    There are two types of RFID that reside within the Ultra High Frequency range: Active RFID and Passive RFID.



    Active RFID


    Primary Frequency Range: 433 MHz, (Can use 2.45 GHz - under the Extremely High Frequency Range)

    Read Range: 30 - 100+ Meters

    Average Cost Per Tag: $25.00 - $50.00

    Applications: Vehicle Tracking, Auto Manufacturing, Mining, Construction, Asset Tracking

    Pros: Very Long Read Range, Lower Infrastructure Cost (vs. Passive RFID), Large Memory Capacity, High Data Transmission Rates

    Cons: High Per Tag Cost, Shipping Restrictions (due to batteries), Complex Software may be Required, High Interference from Metal and Liquids; Few Global Standards


    Passive RFID


    Primary Frequency Ranges: 860 - 960 MHz

    Read Range: Near Contact - 25 Meters

    Average Cost Per Tag: $0.09 - $20.00

    Applications: Supply Chain Tracking, Manufacturing, Pharmaceuticals, Electronic Tolling, Inventory Tracking, Race Timing, Asset Tracking

    Pros: Long Read Range, Low Cost Per Tag, Wide Variety of Tag Sizes and Shapes, Global Standards, High Data Transmission Rates

    Cons: High Equipment Costs, Moderate Memory Capacity, High Interference from Metal and Liquids






    – Inventory management

    – Asset tracking

    – Personnel tracking

    – Controlling access to restricted areas

    – ID Badging

    – Supply chain management

    – Counterfeit prevention (e.g. in the pharmaceutical industry)


    Although RFID technology has been in use since World War II, the demand for RFID equipment is increasing rapidly, in part due to mandates issued by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and Wal-Mart requiring their suppliers to enable products to be traceable by RFID.

    Whether or not RFID compliance is required, applications that currently use barcode technology are good candidates for upgrading to a system that uses RFID or some combination of the two. RFID offers many advantages over the barcode, particularly the fact that an RFID tag can hold much more data about an item than a barcode can. In addition, RFID tags are not susceptible to the damages that may be incurred by barcode labels, like ripping and smearing.

    From the read distance to the types of tags available, RFID has come a long way since World War II and there is a bright future ahead.

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