RFID: What is it and how it works? (Introduction)

RFID stands for Radio-Frequency Identification. It is a method of Automatic Identification and Data Capture (ADIC). It means identifying objects automatically, collecting data, and information collected from the tags is then transferred through a communications interface to a host computer system. Now, the most familiar thing that comes out from this description is Bar-code. Yeah, they are similar to RFID tags but RFIDs are more powerful than Bar-codes.

Reading information from an RFID tag does not require line-of-sight. And another advantage is “Bulk reading”. It is a great strategy for interrogating multiple tags at the same time(which can’t be done by bar code), but it is not very much reliable.

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Active Tags and Passive Tags

Passive tags need power from the nearby RFID reader but active tags have their own power (a battery or something) which helps them to work even from long distances from the reader. Think of a unique application area for both of these and comment it down below. Talking of which we need to get to the application area of RFIDs.

Applications of RFID

  • Automobile industries use it to track the progress in the assembly line
  • Identifying a vehicle and track it. Tags can be placed on the windshield, rearview mirror, or number plates.
  • Identification of pets. Tags can be embedded in anything
  • Currencies
  • Airport baggage tracking logistics
  • Tracking in sporting events
  • Museums and Libraries
  • Retailers are using them to track products and deliveries.
  • RFIDs can be in different forms like labels, cards, chips, etc.
  • To attach these to humans and animals apparel, baggage, and for other purposes containers, construction materials, laundry, and bottles.
  • Cargo tracking and fleet management. Also used in various ways to track shipments.
  • Employee ID badges, passports and some other kind of IDs

What is inside a RFID tag and its mechanism

Most RFID tags are made up of at least two main parts. The first is an antenna, which receives radio frequency (RF) waves. The second is an integrated circuit (IC), which is used for processing and storing data, as well as modulating and demodulating the radio waves received/sent by the antenna. The third can be any means to capture the power from the reader signal.

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These are made very durable and are good enough to resist any damage from water, oil, dust, shocks, vibrations. The tag information is generally stored in non-volatile memory with 24/7 power. So, we don’t have to be worried about harsh outside conditions. All the main parts are contained inside a weather-proof enclosure and are made as small as possible.

An RFID reader transmits an encoded radio signal to interrogate the tag. The RFID tag receives the message and then responds with its identification and other information. This may be only a unique tag serial number or maybe product-related information such as a stock number, lot or batch number, production date, or other specific information. Since tags have individual serial numbers, the RFID system design can discriminate among several tags that might be within the range of the RFID reader and read them simultaneously.

It is an approx $9.5Bn industry and is rapidly growing as it is continuously finding new applications in various fields. But a primary RFID security concern is the illicit tracking of RFID tags. Tags, which are world-readable, pose a risk to both personal location privacy and corporate/military security.

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