What is RFID technology?

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is a technology that allows to identify almost every object with data send by radio waves.

Benefits of RFID technology:

  • reading does not require direct visibility between the reader and the label,
  • labels (tags) may be re-used many times,
  • tags may be resistant to external conditions,
  • data written in the tag are encoded and may be additionally secured with a password,
  • relatively large data capacity,
  • RFID readers may read hundreds of tags in several seconds,
  • RFID labels may include printed information such as barcodes, company names or any alphanumeric string,
  • RFID systems may be integrated with other internal systems of customer processes.

Elements of RFID system:

RFID reader is the ‘brain’ of the system. You can program it to read:

  • only specified RFID tags,
  • tags in specified times,
  • given tag only one,
  • each tag every time it is within range.

RFID antennas transmit radio wave to RFID tags to boost them and listen to answer. They are connected to the reader with concentric cable, send and receive information.

RFID tags are placed on objects and if they are not active tags they wait for reading. They have one or more memory banks to store information and unique identification.

Cables – concentric cables connect the reader and antennas, allowing the reader to send orders to antennas. Cables differ by connectors, length, isolation – this influence quality of the single.

Software – in almost all RFID systems, software is vital in order for hardware to fulfil customer’s requirements.

Additional elements depending on system complexity and way of installation, e.g. signal columns, motion sensors, drivers, RFID printers, montage elements, etc.

Several/ over a dozen devices comprise for a working RFID system. Correctly configured, tested and tuned up system can read stationery and mobile RFID tags with almost 100% efficiency.

Types of RFID frequency

Low Frequency (LF) 125 – 134 kHz – low frequency, mainly used for tracking and marking of animals, identification of people, access authorization. Reading range from contact to around 10 cm.

High Frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz –high frequency systems have reading range from 1cm to 1m. Short range communication (NFC) is a part of this frequency. This range is commonly used with payments, ticket applications, proximity cards, etc.

Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) 865 – 960 MHz – this frequency is used with most RFID application. In Europe, the norm is 865 – 868 MHz. Reading range for passive UHF tags is from a few centimetres for small tags up to 10m for large tags. This frequency is used in tracking application, supply chain management, manufacturing and logistics and retail.

433 MHz or 915MHz –  active RFID tags operate in this frequency. What distinguishes them from passive system is battery charging the tag, prolonging reading range. These tags can be read from significant distance, but the battery life span is only about 3-5 years. These tags are larger, more massive and more expensive than their passive equivalents.

Use of RFID technology

Logistics – providing visibility and transparency of supply chain. Sending information about products’ status in real timer allows for faster action.

Retail &Distribution sector – tracking single positions is specially beneficial in retail and distribution. Starting from production to sale location, we can trace full product history. Additionally, we can perform inventory in a few minutes.

Time measurements on different running events or marathons is one of the most popular RFID users. The participants may not even know their timing is measure this way.

Registration of participants – many conferences and fairs use RFID to monitor entry/exit of participants to the event, thus eliminating standard registration.

Asset management – in construction and similar sectors, materials are often the most expensive element of the project. On large sites, finding given material may be difficult. Using RFID tags and gates helps locate the material.

Access control – some places require security level and access control, e.g. attended parking lot, office, warehouse, etc.

Tracking IT assets – IT assets, such as laptops, tablets, servers or peripherals are costly investments. What is more, data stored on them cannot fall into wrong hands. Tags on IT assets enable fast inventory and tracking.

Tracking tools –tool management is a challenge in sectors where a lot of different tools is used. Tracking them with RFID technology allows to see when a given tool was collected, who collected them and which ones were not returned.

Libraries – RFID monitors books flow. Barcodes require visibility with device, which is not the case with RFID, so the process of issue/return of given books is faster. Another advantage is fast inventory.

Laundry and textile rental – some companies have to manage large number of uniforms. Thanks to RFID tags you know which uniforms were assigned to worker, what is their wear level since production, laundry, etc.

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