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All You Need To Know About RFID LF Tags

lf rfid tags

Have you ever been to an animal farm?  You might wonder how to farm managers identify a particular animal as every animal resembles other animals.

Thanks to RFID technology. Without it, it would be an arduous task to manage animal farms. On farms, you may have noticed that each animal has a tag attached to its ear. These tags are Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, also known as LF or low-frequency tags.

RFID tags can be found in many different places around the world. In fact, they are widely used in contactless cards and reader systems,  as well as in laundry management systems and in other applications.

In this article, I will discuss how RFID LF tags work, where they are commonly used and what materials they are made from.


RFID Tags at a glance:


RFID technology is the most widely used technology around the globe nowadays. The name Radio Frequency Identification suggests that some type of radiofrequency is used in that system. Based on these frequencies, the RFID tags are divided into the following three categories.

  • Low-frequency tags (LF tags)
  • High-frequency tags (HF tags)
  • Ultra-high frequency tags (UHF tags)

Based on their functionality, these tags are separately used for different purposes.


What are LF RFID Tags?


LF tags are the type of radio frequency identification (RFID) available in low frequencies, which is normally 125 kHz. The maximum frequency of LF RFID tags is around 300 kHz. While the minimum frequency on which LF tags can operate or communicate is  30 kHz.

As they work at low frequencies, these tags have short ranges, i.e. up to 10 cm,  so LF readers and LF tags must be in close proximity to each other. However, they are not suitable for fast object identification technology.

The properties of LF tags make them suitable for fixed infrastructure setups where large numbers of tags are installed at fixed positions. However, they cannot be used for applications where tags are attached to moving objects.


What are the features of LF RFID tags?


An RFID tag consists of a small chip and an antenna. The LF tags have the following features.

  • Low frequencies: They work at low frequencies around 125 kHz, which is nowhere close to HF tags that operate at 13.56 MHz or UHF tag that operates at 860-960 MHz for radio frequency identification systems.
  • Small size: The size of these tags is very small because they have a limited capacity to store information as well as no battery is attached to them.
  • Tag type:  They are passive tags and have no battery as they get power from the RFID reader. They use the energy from the radio waves sent by RFID readers for sending signals back to them.
  • Compatible with metals and liquids:   LF tags can work with metals and liquid so they are more suitable for access control systems, animal tagging, and other applications where metal objects are present.
  • Low cost: Since these tags have no internal power source, they are less costly compared to UHF and HF tags.

What are the practical applications of RFID LF tags?


In many applications where a large number of tags are needed to manage the objects, LF tags come into play. You may have noticed these tags in a school or college library. RFID LF tags are widely used in the following applications.

Animal identification system:

In the animal identification system, these tags are connected with the ears of the animals. This tag contains all the information and record of the animal. Thus a single tag can be uniquely identified and tracked by an RFID reader to manage the animals well.

Access control systems:

The access control systems at offices, schools, and colleges use LF tags because of their low cost, metal compatibility, and security reasons. One more example of LF tags being used for the access control is hotel key cards.

Laundry management:

Laundry management is a process of managing the laundry operation in an efficient and effective way. This includes the receiving, sorting, washing, drying, and folding of the clothes. In order to manage the laundry operation well, different types of RFID tags are used. LF tags are one of those tags that are used in laundry management. LF tags are compatible with liquids therefore these tags are widely used in laundry management. Most laundry machines are now equipped with RFID readers to detect the tags placed in the pockets of the clothes.

Library management system:

These tags play a significant role in managing large book collections by identifying each and every book placed on the library shelf. LF tags are used in book collections as a means of identification. When a book is checked out, the LF tag is scanned by the RFID reader, and the corresponding information is stored in the system. This helps in keeping track of all the books that are currently checked out and also keeps a record of who has borrowed what book. This system helps in managing large book collections effectively and efficiently.

Point of Sale Systems:

LF tags are widely used in the Point of Sale systems for contactless payments. These tags are compatible with metals so they can be used even if a metal is present between the two devices such as cards and readers. This, in turn, makes the payment process faster and more efficient. An LF tag-based point of sale system can also provide the advantage of knowing the position of a product in an inventory system.


Read-only LF RFID tags:


The Read-only LF RFID tags are used to identify the product. These tags cannot be written, rewritten, or programmed at all. They are only used for identification purposes. Hence they’re very cheap but can’t hold much information as compared to read-write LF RFID Tag. The following are some of the disadvantages of read-only tags.

  • Limited memory capacity which means they cannot store much information or data.
  • Cannot be written or rewritten at all. This makes them a poor choice for applications where the tag needs to be updated frequently.

One advantage associated with the read-only tags is that they are cheap as they have no memory.


Read-Write LF RFID tags


On the other hand, the Read-write LF RFID tags are used to identify the product but can also be programmed or rewritten. These types of tags have memory capacity, which means that these tags can hold a substantial amount of information for further use. These are often used in applications where the tag needs to be updated frequently. The following are some advantages of read-write tags over read-only tags.

  • These tags have the capacity to store more data and information.
  • Read-rite tags can be used for a wide range of applications as compared with read-only tags.

The key disadvantages of these RFID tags are that although the cost of these tags is relatively higher than read-only LF RFID tags. In addition, these are less secure as compared to the read-only tags because anyone using an LF reader has full access to the memory of the tag making it possible to copy data or alter it.


Current situation and potential market for LF RFID TAGS:


The market size of RFID technology was approximately $ 11.6 Billion in the year 2021.  As per the report of IDTechEx,  23.8 billion passive RFID tags were sold in the year 2020, and 28.4 billion passive RFID tags were sold in the year 2021. The report further states that out of these 28.4 billion tags,  640 million tags are low-frequency RFID (LF tags).  The market size, i.e. $11.6 billion, of RFID technology is comparatively lower than other technologies. The main reason for the low consumption of these tags in the market is that there is a lack of awareness regarding this technology and most companies are still using barcodes to identify their products. In order to gain a larger share in the market, tag producers need to invest a lot more in the marketing and promotion of RFID tags.

A study predicts that the market will grow to $12.2 Billion by 2022 as awareness about these tags grows and more companies adopt this form of data collection.


What’s the future of RFID LF tags?


The market has a great scope for RFID LF tags and is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. The technology is still new and hence the investment put into this by companies will make them come up with more advanced communication devices which use this technology.

As stated earlier, the main advantage of these tags over barcodes is that they can be read without line of sight. Hence, they can be used in applications where the tag and reader may not have direct contact with each other due to physical obstruction or space constraints. For instance:

RFID tags can be used on wine bottles as the cork often obstructs barcodes from being scanned properly. They can also be attached to jewelry products as they can be used to identify products without any physical contact. RFID Tags are a promising technology and the future of these tags is bright.


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