The hardware part of the RFID technology consists of an RFID reader, antennas for transmitting and receiving a code signal, and RFID tag that carry numeric information to identify goods in logistics, manufacturing or in a shop.
The advantage of RFID technology over barcodes is their reading speed. An RFID reader can read hundreds of codes in a second, as opposed to reading one barcode at a time. You can easily load all products in the shipping box simply by passing a reading frame equipped with RFID antennas. The identification codes can also be changed during the process.
There are many sectors where RFID technology can be used, warehouse management, employee records, medical and biological material records, farm animal records, rental, logistics and production processes.
How does this work?
As the name RFID suggests, this technology uses radio waves for identification. This differs slightly depending on the choice of active or passive RFID tag. In the case of a passive tag, the reader periodically emits electromagnetic waves. If there is a passive RFID tag in range, the wave energy is used to charge the capacitor of the tag and it is able to send a response. Passive chips can either transmit a single number (electronic product number EPC), determined during their production, or they also have an additional memory that can be used for writing other information.
Active tags are used less often than a passive RFID system. Their production is more expensive and more demanding, and the tags also have to contain a power supply. The main difference is therefore the ability to constantly broadcast your identification. In addition to their identification number, active RFID chips usually have more space for other information that they can store or send together with the identification number.
However, both types of RFID tags store the so-called EPC, which is a unique 96-bit number that (in terms of logistics and trade) can be assigned to each individual piece of goods. A 96-bit EPC can offer enough numeric space for all manufacturers.
What RFID do we know?
There are 3 frequency ranges available for RFID technology: low frequency, high frequency and ultra-high frequency.
The low frequency region corresponds to a frequency of 125 kHz and is characterized by low data rates. The construction of an RFID system in this area is relatively inexpensive and the system is resistant to the effects of metals or liquids, and is therefore used to identify animals, but we also encounter it when identifying ourselves with a chip, for example when entering a building. This RFID system can operate at approximately 10 cm.
The high frequency range for RFID systems corresponds to the 13.56 MHz frequency band. RFID systems operating in this area are characterized by high data rates. Since this is a high frequency area, it is possible to use etched or printed antennas, which allows the use of various RFID tags. The most famous tags in this area have the shape of a card. An example of an RFID system using high frequency can be tracking attendance at work using identification cards. This RFID system can operate at approximately 1 meter.
The last but not least, the area of ultra-high frequency band is characterized by very high data rates and very high range. However, the specific frequencies for RFID systems vary by region. For Europe, the available band is 868 MHz. Thanks to the shorter wavelengths, all that you need as an antenna is a simple dipole, which significantly simplifies production and thus lowers the price. RFID tags for this area are available in many designs which differ in shape and material used. RFID systems operating in this frequency range are widely used in various industries, but we can encounter them in everyday life as well during our shopping. With the right configuration and components, this RFID system can operate up to the distance of 10 meters.
Example use of RFID?
The RFID system can be implemented in almost any industry area. By implementing RFID we can get:
- tracing of production
- real-time monitoring of order execution
- error minimization, cost reduction
- quick and easy access to product information
- monitoring of personel
- inventory management
- supply chain management
We discussed the use of RFID technology in various fields in this article on our blog.
More information about RFID technology in this PDF.