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What is RFID

We’ve all seen, or at the least experienced RFID, even if we didn’t know it at the time. Those little tags you see on clothing, or the patches on electronics that set the alarms off in retail stores, those use RFID technology to work. But what is RFID and how does it apply to other industries? 


What is RFID? 


RFID stands for Radio-Frequency Identification. Using Radio waves, RFID tags are able to transmit information to an RFID reader regardless of whether there is direct sight or not. How far the range of the reader is and how much information can be stored depends on a variety of factors.  





The system is made up of three basic parts. There is a scanning antenna, reader, and transponder. The antenna’s purpose is the same as any antenna. Its attached to the small RFID tag and is designed to pick up and emit the radio signals. The reader is the device used to decode and interpret the data imprinted on the RFID tag. Its this device that sends out the radio waves that make many of the systems operate. Lastly, theres the transponder. This often takes the form of a tag, but can take on nearly any form, from tags to small capsules to even screws. This also, depending on what type of RFID tag you are using, can broadcast its signal to readers. 


Types of RFID 


There are three types of RFID; active, semi-passive, and passive. Depending on which type thats being used dictates how much data the transponder can hold and how far away it can be read. With ranges from 3 to 300 feet, the choice of which device is important for each specific application. 



 RFID Antenna


Active – The most expensive of all the options, an active RFID can hold the most data and has the longest potential range to be read. Containing their own internal battery allows them to have longer reading ranges as well as a larger memory bank. The batteries last around 5 years before the device needs to be replaced.


Semi-Passive – Semi-passive RFID tags perform similarily to pasive RFID tags. The only difference is that Semi-Passive RFID tags have a small battery that is most often used to aid in external sensors such as thermal or moisture sensors which send out data to the antenna and aid in monitoring.


Passive – This is the cheapest and weakest of the three options. A Passive RFID tag has no battery and requires a reader to activate it. Their range is short, reaching anywhere from only a few inches to up to 10 feet. Often referred to as WORM devices which stand for write once, read many. These devices are programmed when they are made but can be read nearly unlimited times.  Because of their low cost, they are favored in throwaway applications such as retail. 





 RFID Tag Attached to a Jeep for Shipping


One of the most common uses for RFID is tracking. With the variety of shapes and ruggedness of RFID tags, they can aid in tracking everything from livestock to industrial vehicles. Yet tracking isn’t the only thing RFID technology is capable of. If combined with various sensors, they can aid in delivering real-time data on nearly any front. A RFID tag combined with a thermal sensor can ensure that dairy products are kept at an appropriate temperature to keep them from spoiling. They can also possess the data on when the product was made and when it is due to spoil. 


RFID technology can open a floodgate of information, possessing the potential to connect with the internet and smart devices. While not there yet, it is something that the future could be closing in on. There is nearly limitless applications for RFID technology as it continues to advance and change. And while some of it is controversial, most of it has aided in helping make this a more efficient world. 

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