It is an automatic identification technology which uses radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to identify objects carrying tags when they come close to a reader. The RFID device provides the same purpose as a bar code or a magnetic strip on the back of a credit card or ATM card; it provides a unique identifier for that object.

rfid-rev-3.jpgIt had probably seen RFID tags like these inserted into the packaging of DVDs and other consumer products.

How Does It Work?

RFID uses several radio frequencies and many types of tag exist with different communication methods and power supply sources.RFID tags generally feature an electronic chip with an antenna in order to pass information onto the interrogator (also known as a base station or more generally, reader). The assembly is called an inlay and is then packaged to be able to withstand the conditions in which it will operate. This finished product is known as a tag, label or transponder.
The information contained within an RFID tag’s electronic chip depends on its application. It may be a unique identifier (UII, Unique Item Identifier or EPC code, Electronic Product Code, etc.). Once this identifier has been written into the electronic circuit, it can no longer be modified, only read. (This principle is called WORM Write Once Read Multiple). Some electronic chips have another memory in which users can write, modify and erase their own data.

Advantages & Disadvantages

A rfid-25x-faster.png1000-tags-second.pngremarkable advantage of RFID devices from the other systems is that the RFID device does not need to be positioned precisely relative to the scanner. For example, store checkout workers sometimes have difficulties being sure that a barcode can be read. Besides, credit cards and ATM cards must be swiped through a special reader. On the contrary, RFID devices can work within a few feet (up to 20 feet for high-frequency devices) of the scanner.
For instance, you can just put all of your groceries or purchases in a bag, and set the bag on the scanner. It would be able to read all of the
RFID devices and analyse  your total purchase immediately.

In brief, RFID tags can be read in a wide variety of circumstances, where barcodes or other optically read technologies are useless. Besides,

  • The tag need not be on the surface of the object (and is therefore not subject to wear)

  • The read time is typically less than 100 milliseconds

  • Large numbers of tags can be read at once rather than item by item

However, there are also some common problems with RFID. These are reader collision and tag collision. Reader collision occurs when the signals from two or more readers overlap. The tag is unable to respond to simultaneous queries. Systems must be carefully set up to avoid this problem. Tag collision occurs when many tags are present in a small area; but since the read time is very fast, it is easier for vendors to develop systems that ensure that tags respond one at a time.

RFID’s History 

RFID was first used during World War II to identify aeroplanes (IFF: Identify Friendly Foe). The objective was to use the aeroplane’s radar signal to read an identification number in order to identify whether they were allies or enemies.
During the 1960-70s, RFID systems were still considered a secret technology used by the army to control access into sensitive areas (nuclear plants etc.).

Technological developments lead to the creation of passive tags.
This technology meant we no longer needed the energy to be embedded into the tag. Therefore the price of the tag and its maintenance could be significantly reduced.
Standardization for the interoperability of RFID equipment began.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created the Auto-ID center – a research center specialized in automatic identification (including RFID).
The MIT Auto-ID center became the global EPC, an organism in charge of promoting the EPC (Electronic Product Code) standard.

From 2005
RFID technologies are now widely used in almost all industrial sectors (aerospace, automotive, logistics, transport, health, life, etc.).. ISO (International Standard Organization) took part in establishing technical and applicative standards that let to have a high degree of interoperability or interchangeability.

An Interesting Fact About RFID


An RFID microchip implant for human identification.
Small RFID chips, here compared to a grain of rice, are incorporated in consumer products, and  implanted in pets,   for identification purposes.
Implantable RFID chips designed for animal tagging are now being used in humans. An early experiment with RFID implants was conducted by British professor of cybernetics Kevin Warwick, who implanted a chip in his arm in 1998.
In 2004 Conrad Chase offered implanted chips in his night clubs in Barcelona and Rotterdam to identify their VIP customers, who in turn use it to pay for drinks.
This has provoked concerns into privacy of individuals as they can potentially be tracked wherever they go by an identifier unique to them. Some are concerned this could lead to abuse by an authoritarian government, to removal of freedoms,and to the emergence of an “ultimate panopticon”, a society where all citizens behave in a socially accepted manner because others might be watching.




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