RFID is the abbreviation for "Radio Frequency Identification", RFID tags are a type of tracking system that uses smart barcodes to identify items. Therefore RFID tags take advantage of radio frequency technology. These radio waves transmit data from the tag to the reader, which then transmits the information to the RFID computer program. RFID tags are often used for merchandise, but they can also be used to track vehicles, pets, and even Alzheimer's patients. RFID tags can also be referred to as RFID chips.
RFID tags work by transmitting and receiving information via an antennas and a microchips - sometimes also called integrated circuits or IC. The microchip on the RFID reader is written with whatever information the user desired.
There are two main types of RFID tags: battery-operated and passive. As the name suggests, battery-powered RFID tags contain an on-board battery as a power source, while passive RFID tags do not contain RFID tags, but use electromagnetic energy delivered by an RFID reader to operate. Battery-powered RFID tags may also be referred to as active RFID tags.
Passive RFID tags use three main frequencies to transmit information: 125 - 134 KHz, also known as low frequency (LF), 13.56 MHz, also known as high frequency (HF) and near field communication (NFC), and 865 - 960 MHz also known as UHF. The frequency of use affects the range of tags. When the reader scans a passive RFID tag, the reader transmits energy to the tag, which provides the chip and antenna with enough energy to pass the information back to the reader. The reader then transmits this information back to the RFID computer program for interpretation. There are two main types of passive RFID tags: inlays and hard tags. Inlays are typically quite thin and can be stuck on various materials, whereas hard tags are just as the name suggests, made of a hard, durable material such as plastic or metal.
Because an RFID tag cannot distinguish between readers, the information can be read by almost anyone once it has left the original supply chain. Because RFID readers are so portable, and the range of some tags so great, scammers can gather information they would otherwise not have access to. This means that anyone can collect potentially sensitive information without a person’s knowledge.
Another safety issue for consumers is that RFID tags may be associated with personal credit cards, creating a potential for financial theft and fraud.
Technology-wise, RFID tags are problematic largely because there are no real global or industry standards. Since they operate on radio frequency, RFID tags and their systems can also easily become jammed or disrupted, reducing their usability. This results in longer wait times and decreased productivity in both retail and warehouse settings.
There are also signal issues that can occur with RFID systems, including collision — when signals from two or more readers overlap, and interference caused by metal, water, or other magnetic fields in the surrounding area.
The RFID system is also time-consuming and labor-intensive to set up. Companies need to test various hardware and tag systems to determine the best fit, which can take months to arrange. In addition to the cost of the RFID system itself, such as RFID tags and scanners, an increase in time and labor also means an increase in cost.
These types of disadvantages are often avoided with the use of barcodes, which is why they are still a popular data collection and inventory control choice for many businesses.