What are RFID Tags?

2020-08-20 09:21:29

Table of Contents:

1.What are RFID Tags?
2.How RFID Tags Work?
3.What Do RFID Tags Cost?
4.Are RFID Tags Safe?
5.Where are RFID Tags Used and Who Uses Them?

1.What are RFID Tags?

RFID is short for “radio frequency identification” and refers to a technology whereby digital data encoded in RFID tags or smart labels are captured by a reader via radio waves.

RFID Tags are small objects that contain a chip and an antenna,it’s an electronic tag that exchanges data with a RFID reader through radio waves.These radio waves transmit data from the tag to a reader, which then transmits the information to an RFID computer program, it can be used to track anything of the objects they are attached to (or embedded in) with the help of an RFID reader,such as tracking vehicles, pets and merchandise.

2.How RFID Tags Work?

Most RFID tags are made up of at least two main parts.The first is an an antenna, which receives radio frequency (RF) waves. The second is an integrated circuit (IC), also called a microchip, the microchip on an RFID reader is written with whatever information the user wants.

There are two main types of RFID tags: active and passive.
Active RFID tags contain an onboard battery as a power supply, whereas a passive RFID tag does not, instead working by using electromagnetic energy transmitted from an RFID reader, it’s powered by a stationary or mobile RFID reader that emits an electromagnetic field. For more information about active tag and passive tag, read our the difference between active and passive.

For passive tags, there are low-, high- and ultra-high frequencies standardized (LF, HF, UHF).When a passive RFID tag is scanned by a reader, the reader transmits energy to the tag which powers it enough for the chip and antenna to relay information back to the reader. The reader then transmits this information back to an RFID computer program for interpretation. There are two main types of passive RFID tags: inlays and hard tags. Inlays are typically quite thin and can be stuck on various materials, whereas hard tags are just as the name suggests, made of a hard, durable material such as plastic or metal.

Active RFID tags use a battery to broadcast via BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) or WiFi. Active RFID tags use one of two main frequencies — either 433 MHz or 915 MHz — to transmit information. They contain three main parts, including a tag, antenna, and interrogator. There are two main kinds of active RFID tags: beacons and transponders. Beacons send out an information ping every few seconds, and their signal is readable from several hundreds of feet away. Because they are sending out data so frequently, their battery tends to deplete quicker. Like passive RFID tags, transponders require the use of a reader to transmit information. When within range of one another, a reader first sends out a signal to the transponder, which then pings back with the relevant information. Because they only activate when near a reader, transponders are much more battery-efficient than beacons.

3.What Do RFID Tags Cost?

The least expensive RFID tags typically cost a few cents and are like sticky labels. Often tags like these are used for retail or logistics applications and are meant for one-time use in non-rugged environments. Depending on the tag’s required RFID chip capabilities, memory size, durability to survive flames, impact, freezing, direct sun, chemicals etc. and the type of tag, cost may go up to a few USD. Active tags with a battery are more expensive than passive tags.

4. Are RFID Tags safe?

While there are many benefits to implementing RFID chips in every way possible, there are many concerns about the safety of the technology, mainly security. If you search for RFID you are sure to find a lot of articles focusing on the scary security disadvantages than any of the great advantages out there. Take for example, RFID chips embedded into your skin. If everybody had RFID tags in their skin, and all products in stores were uniquely tagged with an RFID chip, we could in theory walk in with nothing, and walk out with a full cart without taking out a credit card, or even stopping at a register. Sounds pretty awesome right? For some this is a great idea, but for others this poses a huge security risk.

There are already many methods for making sure your information is not leaked by someone attempting to track your RFID tag or any other kind of unauthorized reading. One way is challenge-response authentication ( CRA ) which uses software to ask for a cryptographically coded response from the tag. Other ways use what is called “shielding” which only works with some RFID frequencies, and uses thick metal cases, ( like the one shown above for wallets ), around the RFID tags to protect them from the long range readings.

5.Where are RFID Tags Used and Who Uses Them?

RFID tags are used whenever a physical object needs to be uniquely identified in a quick and reliable way. Applications are very broad and are constantly expanding. Some main areas of RFID tag use today are:

Animal identification (pets, livestock, lab animals)
Contactless access control systems
Contactless payments
Electronic passports and citizen ID cards
Retail logistics
Automation & manufacturing
Returnable transport Items
Commercial laundry
Medical and health equipment
Waste management

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.