What is RFID?

RFID is a combination of three words. It stands for Radio Frequency IDentification. This technology is based on Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) technology. RFID tags contain an integrated circuit and an antenna. The antenna transmits data to the reader (also called an interrogator). The reader then converts the radio waves into a more useful data readable by computers.

USB RFID reader - Courtesy Amazon
USB RFID reader – Courtesy Amazon

Radio Frequency Identification is a type of wireless communication technology. It uses electromagnetic or electrostatic coupling in the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Thus, it uniquely identifies an object, animal or person.


RFID is simple to use. It is a type of Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) technology. AIDC system automatically identifies objects, and collects data about them. Then, it enters this data directly into computer systems with little or no human intervention. To perform this operation, it uses radio waves.

A basic RFID system consists of three components: a scanning antenna, a transceiver, and a transponder. Commonly, it is an antenna, a reader, and a tag or smart label. The transponder is located in the tag itself. The read range for these tags varies based on factors. They include the type of tag, type of reader, frequency. It also depends on the interference in the surrounding environment or from other RFID tags and readers. Generally speaking, tags that have a stronger power source also have a longer read range.

Furthermore, combining the antenna and transceiver as one unit, they become a reader or interrogator. The reader is connected to a network. It is either portable or has a permanent place. It uses radiofrequency waves to transmit signals to activate the tag. Once the tag gets activated, it sends a wave back to the antenna which translates it into data.

RFID tags contain an integrated circuit and an antenna. The antenna transmits data to the reader (or an interrogator). The reader then converts the radio waves into usable/readable data. Then, a communications interface transfers the information collected from the tags to a host computer system. The computer stores the data in a database and analyses it later.

RFID Tags:

As explained above, an RFID tag consists of an integrated circuit and an antenna. The tag comprises a protective material that holds the pieces together and shields them from deteriorating. However, the type of protective material depends on the application. The best example is employee ID badges containing RFID tags. Normally, these badges are of durable plastic. The tag is embedded between the layers of plastic.

etag - Courtesy Uber
E-tag – Courtesy Uber

Furthermore, RFID tags have different shapes and sizes. However, they are either passive or active. Passive tags are smaller in size and inexpensive to make. Hence, they are most widely used. Passive tags must be “powered up” by the reader before they can transmit data. Unlike passive tags, active tags have an on-board power supply (e.g., a battery). The battery enables active tags to transmit data at all times.

Smart Stickers:

Furthermore, smart labels are different from RFID tags as they incorporate both RFID and barcode technologies. Generally, they come with an adhesive label embedded with the tag inlay. Besides, they may also feature a barcode and/or other printed information. You can encode and print smart labels on-demand using desktop label printers. However, programmed RFID tags take more time to make and need more advanced equipment.

RFID Sticker Fastag
RFID Sticker Fastag

RFID Applications:

Besides, many industries employ radio frequency identification technology to perform tasks such as:

  1. Asset tracking
  2. Inventory management
  3. Controlling access to restricted areas
  4. ID Badging
  5. Supply chain management
  6. Prevention of counterfeiting (e.g. in the pharmaceutical industry)
  7. Access management
  8. Tracking of goods
  9. Tracking of persons and animals
  10. Toll collection and contactless payment
  11.  Machine-readable travel documents (e.g. passports)
  12.  Smart-dust (for massively distributed sensor networks)
  13.  Airport baggage tracking logistics[28]
  14.  Timing sporting events
  15.  Tracking and billing processes

Title image courtesy and for more information, please click here: GS1 Australia

Watch RFID technology in action here:

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