RFID stands for Radio Frequency Indentification and exists in different shapes. RFID can be used for various applications. This blog introduces RFID and explains the different applications and standards of RFID.
RFID is the identification of objects by using radio waves. These objects differ from post packages to living animals. The basics of a RFID system consists of a reader and a tag that can be placed in or on the object. Besides this, there is a controller that controls the system. The reader and the tag (Figure 1.) communicate using radio waves. In this way an ID number of a tag can be read for example.
Figure 1. Basics of a RFID system
Already since the 60’s, RFID has been used. The first applications were for example the detection gates in shops to prevent theft and the digital identification of cows by giving them ear tags. Over the years, RFID has been applied to more products and is currently widely accepted. As a result, the functionality also increases over time because of the usage. An overview of these developments can be found in the figure below.
Figure 2. Development of RFID
In this figure we see initially that the information, gathered by RFID, is only being used locally. Later, because more companies and industries start making use of RFID, more information is integrated in existing systems. Because of this, an object’s status or location can be determined. With Internet of Things (IoT) entering the market, this is even going one step further. Intelligent devices are being developed that can make own decisions and take action automatically.
Besides RFID, there are different ways to identificaty an object. For example by using bar codes or magnetic strips. Disadvantage of a bar code is that it has to be in the direct view of the scanner, and there can be no object in between the two. Moreover, the magnetic strip must even be aligned with the object. With RFID, it doesn’t matter how the object is placed for scanning. The tag can already be scanned without being visible.
The detection speed with RFID is relatively high. A tag can be recognized very fast, because no direct view is required, and data can be rapidly exchanged digitally. Because of this high speed performance a mail company is able to process thousands of packages per hour automatically.
With RFID, different applications are possible. We can divide them into 3 differerent categories; Identification, Data exchange and payment.
With RFID, the first thing you think about is identification. This is also the most used application. Think for example about access control or recognition of items. Speed and detection distance are very important for identification. The tags need to be as cheap as possible for this. The readers can be more expensive. Readers are used more often and less of them are needed normally. A tag will sometimes be thrown away after being used five times, for example the stickers.
Data exchange, also Near Field Communication (NFC), is being used more often nowadays. For example images that can be exchanged between two smartphones or the exchange of a secret key for opening a secured wireless connection, for example with bluetooth. But also Internet of Things is used more often to read a serial number and to register an object in the cloud.
With data exchange, the difference in complexity between reader and tag is often not that big, and sometimes even equal because data can be exchanged in two directions. A reader is therefore more used in comparison with an identification application. This means that readers for data exchange can be much cheaper and for example also be placed in smartphones.
Payment is also about identification. This is a different category because security is more important in this case. For payment it is important that the right person or bank card id is recognized. Besides this, this card may not be copied. Therefore more complex protocols are required. To make these protocols work faster, higher basic frequencies are needed. This makes the hardware and software a lot more expensive.
Because of different applications there are different RFID standards. The standards are divided into 3 categories; Low Frequency (LF), High Frequency (HF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF). These categories are compared below.
To choose a categorie, it is important to take a look at which requirements are really important. This can have a big influence on the price. Some functionalities or security aspects can for example also be replaced by (cloud) software. This can result in more costs-effective hardware design.
Because RFID is wider applied, we see it’s functionalities growing. Besides this we see different applications for which price, complexity and security differ a lot. At last, it is very important to consider which standard your application fits best.
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