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Radio Frequency Identification Device

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Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID)


Businesses, today, are researching ways to improve their daily processes, both logically and physically. This may include better reporting of profit and loss, return on investment using a low cost technological solution. Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) is one technology that many companies are considering implementing.

Description of Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID)

Department of Homeland Security defines Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) as "wireless systems that allow a device to read information contained in a wireless device or "tag" - from a distance without making a physical contact or requiring a line of sight between the two. RFID provides a method to transmit and receive data from one point to another." RFID is an automatic identification method relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using devices called RFID tags or transponders.

Historically, the RFID technology was around in 1920s; however, the first known device was invented in 1945 and was said to be used as an espionage tool; however, this tool was just a listening device and not an ID tag. The actual RFID system was developed around 1960s.

RFID System

The RFID System includes the tags, transponders, transceivers and application to retrieved and read data from tags to transponders and application software. Additionally, the human component must be skilled and trained for the application.


The RFID tag is a small object that can be attached to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person. There are three types of tags: passive, semi-passive and active. The passive tag uses no internal power. This tag is powered when radio frequency signal sends the electrical current to the internal circuit of the tag to transmit a response and holds an identification number only. Due to the lack of onboard power, the passive tag can be quite small. The size can be as thin as a paper and small as the tip of a human finger.

Passive tags have a distance ranging up to 20 feet. The type of memory is read only. The life of the tag is up to 20 years. The low range cost is from $0.20 cents to several dollars. "The development of these inexpensive tags has created a revolution in RFID adoption and made wide scale use of them a real possibility for government and industry organizations." (United States GAO 2005).

The semi-passive tag is similar to the passive tag with the exception of using a small battery. The battery allows the tag to be constantly powered. The battery remains dormant until a signal is receive from the transceiver. The batteries life ranges from two to five years. The range of the semi-passive tag is up to 100 feet. These tags can read and write information to the tag's memory. "Semi-passive tags can be connected to sensors to store information for container security devices." (United States GAO 2005). These tags can perform functions such as monitoring environmental conditions to include external inputs such as temperature, pressure, chemicals and tamper detectors. The tags size is compared to a quarter. The cost is considered mid-range ranging from two to 10 dollars.

The active tags contains an antenna and a chip and a power source and transmitter which sends a continuous signal. The tags have read and write capabilities, can connect to multiple sensors to monitor inputs such as temperature or pressure, can control outputs such as valves and switches and have built-in decision-making ability; for example, to automatically deactivate a piece of equipment if a temperature threshold is exceeded. Additionally, multiple tags can be read, updated, or actively transmitting information nearly simultaneously, at a rate of about 50 tags per second. They can initiate communication up to 750 feet depending on battery power. The tag's life is five to 10 years. These tags are expensive and are used where high cost is justified. The cost for each tag is $20 plus.

RFID Tag Reader

In order for the RFID system to function, it needs a reader or a scanner device that is capable of reading the tags and communicate the results to database device. Each reader uses an antenna to broadcast radio waves to all tags designated to respond to frequency within that range. A reader has a capability to communicate with the tags without a direct line of sight, dependent

on radio frequency and type of tag used. The tag readers can receive from multiple tags at once allowing for increased processing times. The readers range in a variety of shapes, sizes, portable and not portable.

RFID Database

The database is used to store information received from the reader, tracks and contains information on each item. The database application is provided by several vendors. The database is used to process information-based on industry specific needs and can connect to the internet to share and receive information.

Radio Frequency

The radio frequency is the key for the operating characteristics of the RFID system. The frequency determines the speed of communication and the distance of the tag to be read from. Certain purposes are dependent

upon the different frequencies of the RFID system.

There are four types of radio frequency: low, high, ultra high and microwave.

Low frequency bands range 125 to 134 KHz. This band is suitable for short-range distances such as anti-theft systems, animal identification and automobile key unlock systems. For example, pets can be implanted with small chips used to find information on a lost pet's owner.

High frequency operates at 13.56 MHz and allows greater accuracy within a 3-foot range reduces risk of incorrect tag reading. High frequency is suitable for material tracking, airline baggage tracking, and building access control.

Ultrahigh frequency operates around 900 MHz and can be read at longer distances ranging from 3 to 15 feet. These tags are more sensitive to environmental factors than any other tag at a different frequency. These tags are mainly used for supply-chain applications because of its read rate and range. Ultrahigh frequency tags can from 100 to 1000 tags in just one second and there are efforts to increase this rate to an even faster speed.

Microwave frequency tags operate between 2.45 and 5.8 gigahertz. The main concern of this frequency is that nearby objects can impede the



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