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What Is RFID? A Comprehensive Guide For Beginners

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Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a wireless system that uses radio frequency waves to transfer data. In the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, RFID incorporates the use of electromagnetic coupling to uniquely identify an animal, object, and person. Readers, antennas, and tags make the backbone of an RFID system.


RFID reader


RFID readers are differentiated depending on connectivity, power options, available utilities, antenna ports, processing capabilities, and available features. RFID readers can be handheld or they can be fixed. Mobile readers allow for flexibility when reading RFID tags. RFID readers have one or more antennas that transmit and receive radio waves to communicate with RFID tags. The most costly component of the RFID system is the RFID reader. However, the pricing of both mobile and fixed RFID readers varies greatly depending on the functionality and features offered.


RFID tag


An RFID tag is made up of an antenna, an integrated circuit (IC) or chip, and a substrate. These tags can either be passive or active and they use radio waves to communicate their identity and any other information to nearby readers. Passive tags are powered by the reader while active tags are powered by batteries. These tags allow users to uniquely and automatically identify and track assets and inventories. Several factors determine the read range for RFID tags. These are; the type of reader, interference in the surrounding environment or from other RFID readers and tags, and the type of tag. Due to the battery’s stronger power source, active RFID tags have a longer read range than passive RFID tags. Active tags can read from distances of 100 feet or more while Passive tags read up to 3 meters which is usually the area covered by the reader. Passive RFID tags operate at different frequencies namely; Low Frequency (LF), High Frequency (HF), and Ultra-High Frequency (UHF). Passive LF tags (125-134 kHz) usually have a short read range of about 1-10 centimeters. HF tags (13.56 MHz) have a read range of about 1 cm up to 1 meter. UHF tags (860-956 MHz) can read up to an average distance of about 5-6 meters but larger UHF tags can achieve up to 30+ meters of reading range in ideal conditions.


RFID antenna


RFID antennas convert the RFID reader’s signal into RF waves that can be picked up by RFID tags. The antennas receive their power directly from the reader. Antenna’s polarity is when the RFID’s antenna gives off RFID waves along a vertical or horizontal plane. The antenna’s polarity can have a significant impact on a system’s read range. Therefore, to maximize the read range, it’s important to ensure that an antenna’s polarity aligns with the polarity of the RFID tag. To narrow down the best antenna for an application, it’s important to consider the antenna’s frequency range, mounting type, read range ruggedness, and polarity.


The common application of RFID


RFID systems are applied in; inventory control, asset tracking, livestock and pet tracking, supply chain logistics, healthcare industry, retail inventory tracking, event and attendee tracking,  pharmaceutical tracking, laundry, and textile tracking.


Nexqo is a professional RFID hardware provider with more than 10 years of experience in the RFID industry. Click here to learn how the RFID tag works.

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