What is RFID?
Radio Frequency IDentification is essentially a form of an electronic bar tag that uses small radio frequency identification devices for identification and tracking purposes. Put simply, RFID is similar to bar code technology but uses radio waves to capture data from tags, rather than optically scanning the bar codes on a label.
An RFID tagging system includes
- The tag itself which consists of a chip, some memory and an antenna.
- A read/write device
- A host system application for data collection, processing, and transmission
How does RFID work?
Information is sent to and read from RFID tags by a reader using radio waves. In passive systems, which are the most common, an RFID reader transmits an energy field that “wakes up” the tag and provides the power for the tag to respond to the reader. In active systems, a battery in the tag is used to boost the effective operating range of the tag and to support additional features over passive tags, such as temperature sensing. Data collected from tags is then passed through communication interfaces (cable or wireless) to host computer systems in the same manner that data scanned from barcode labels is captured and passed to computer systems for interpretation, storage, and action.
Current RFID technology uses Radio Frequency that ranges from 50 kHz to 5.8GHz.
Typical RFID System Frequency Ranges:
- Low Frequency (125-134 KHz) has a maximum read range of up to 20 inches.
- High Frequency (13.56 MHz) has a maximum read range of up to 3 feet.
- Ultra-High Frequency (856-960 MHz) has a read range of 20 feet or more.
- Microwave Frequency (2.45 GHz) has a read range of upto 1 meter as a passive tag.
What Are The Advantages?
In an RFID system that uses an electronic product code (EPC) or similar numbering scheme, the following RFID attributes lead to those kinds of savings:
- Serialized data:Every object in the supply chain has a unique identifying number.
- Reduced human intervention:RFID allows tracking automatically without needing people to count or capture data or scan bar codes, which means reduced labor costs and fewer errors.
- Higher throughput supply chains:RFID allows many items to be counted simultaneously.
- Real-time information flow:As soon as an item changes state (off the shelf, out of a truck, sold to customer), the information can be updated across the supply chain.
- Increased item security:Tagging items allows them to be tracked inside a confined facility or space.
What’s NFC Then?? Why Would I Bother About It?
Near Field Communication, or more commonly known as NFC, is a subset of RFID that limits the range of communication to within 10 centimeters or 4 inches by locking it to one particular frequency (13.56 Mhz). This literally requires the device to tap on the tag in order to be read which in turn increases the security as it reduces the possibility of the tag read by anyone with a reader. This makes NFC perfect for more secure applications like paying for things or securely logging in at a location. NFC also allows two-way communication, as opposed to RFID’s one-way reading technology. So transferring photos or contacts between devices is a common use of NFC.
Some Uses of NFC
Some Common Uses of RFID/NFC…
- Asset Tracking: Asset tracking is one of the most common uses of RFID. Companies can put RFID tags on assets that are lost or stolen often, that are underutilized or that are just hard to locate at the time they are needed. Just about every type of RFID system is used for asset management. Air Canada is saving millions of dollars each year by tracking food carts used at airports around the world. It chose to place active transponders under the carts and readers on the entrance and exits of catering facilities around the world. It not only loses fewer carts and spends less time and money taking inventory, it also is able to better manage the movement of carts so there are always carts at the airport catering stations that need them.
- Supply & Chain Management: Wal-Mart uses RFID for supply chain applications which has greatly improved product visibility, because now item-level tagging is possible. Item-level tagging provides increased visibility into the whereabouts of goods, whether they are in a case, pallet, truck, or container. Increased visibility supports reduced shrinkage and greater control of the supply chain process, particularly in the area of multimodal transport. In the warehousing, shipping and receiving of RFID item-level-tagged goods, RFID readers installed at entrance and exit portals, and mounted on vehicles, have helped automate many business processes. The technology has also helped users improve inventory management and product track and trace.
- Inventory Management: Retailers can gain continuous “live” store inventory on their stock through an on-going automatic scan system in warehouses and stores. This is much more efficient than having an employee manually check inventory on shelves, and could eventually cut costs and improve consumers’ experiences in stores, through better stocking and supplies.
- Automation: RFID can automate manufacturing processes and boost efficiency. Storing data related to manufacturing processes directly into RFID chips allows users to integrate the technology into manufacturing steps, supporting more flexible and decentralized production.
- Interactive Advertising: You are walking past a bus stop and see an advert for a movie or see a house for sale. All you need to do is wave your phone in front of the advert and you will be able to instantly watch a trailer or get more information. QR codes currently do this, but it can be a bit hit-and-miss, and it’s also a one-way-only data transfer.
- Paperless Ticketing: Venues around the world are using RFID/NFC wristband technology to offer fast-track entry, cashless payments and perhaps the most exciting bit – integration with social media.
- Retail: Among the most talked about potential applications are the ability to automate the checkout process and eliminate lines and the ability to market to consumers who opt in to loyalty programs while they are making purchasing decisions. Experts envision people putting items into a shopping cart equipped with a computer, small display and RFID reader. When consumers that have opted into a loyalty program put a steak into the cart, they might get an ad for steak sauce or be told about wine that’s on sale. When checking out, the consumer walks through a tunnel reader, has all the items in the car read automatically and pays with the swipe of contactless credit card.
- Security: RFID has long been used as an electronic key to control who has access to office buildings or areas within office buildings. The first access control systems used low-frequency RFID tags. RFID tags can also be combined with motion sensors so that when objects are moved without authorization, an alarm is sounded. RFID tags can be put on laptops and files containing sensitive documents to make sure they are not removed from a building without authorization.
How Can RFID/NFC Benefit My Business?
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