Is RFID for you?
RFID is a contactless technology capable of identifying and counting a diverse range of objects, without contact or line of sight. It enables automatic communication between objects and computers. The principle is similar to bar-code technology, where data is transferred quickly and accurately.
RFID relies on the use of small tags or 'smart labels', which can be attached to, or embedded within, a wide range of objects. These tags are generally 'passive', in that the electrical power for their operation is provided by an electronic 'reader' , which transfers information to and from a tag and a computing system. Active tags are also available but at a higher cost. Active tags offer a larger read range.
Such information may simply be a unique (and unalterable) identification code, or more sophisticated data that can be written wirelessly into the memory of individual tags, allowing each tagged object to store a small database that can be dynamically updated through a product's lifecycle.
Radio frequency waves are electromagnetic (em) and range from 30kHz to 300GHz. Only certain frequency bands within this range (listed below) are available for licence-free RFID systems. These bands now support RFID tags and reading/writing solutions.
The use of RFID technology offers the following advantages over the more traditional forms of Auto ID technology:
Download a Tag Frequency Comparison Chart.
RFID technologies are being used for high-value goods and wherever the use of bar codes is difficult or impractical. The main obstacle to their widespread adoption has been the cost of implementing RFID systems (particularly the tags and labels). However, implementation costs are reducing as the technology becomes more mature. Consequently. the adoption of RFID systems for specific applications has been increasing.
A common misconception is that there are no standards in RFID. In fact, there are many well-established standards and others are still emerging. Standards are critical for many RFID applications, such as payment systems and tracking goods, or for reusable containers in open supply chains. A considerable amount of work has been carried out over the past decade by many organisations, including ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) and EPC Global to develop standards for different RFID frequencies and applications. Click here for a glossary of terms.
These standards address a wide range of issues, such as the communication between tags and readers; the way in which data is organised or formatted; general product compliance; and the use of standards on shipping labels.
A number of larger companies, particularly within the supply chain, are now implementing RFID within their businesses. This is raising awareness of RFID and is driving other orgaisations to consider how this technology could benefit their business.
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