TechDogs-"The What, Why And How Of Radio Frequency Identification"


The What, Why And How Of Radio Frequency Identification

By TechDogs

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Do you remember Chucky, the eerie red-haired doll from the Child's Play horror movie franchise? The hair on the back of our necks stands up just thinking about the serial-killing doll that terrified an entire generation of audiences. Add to that the innocent look of the "Good Guy" doll's face and you have a perfect recipe for Chucky’s reign of terror!

Well, imagine yourself in the shoes of Karen Barclay, the poor mother who gifted Chucky to her son as a birthday gift. After you realize the mistake you've made, how would you take on this malicious, hide-and-seek-loving doll? Yes, changing homes did cross our mind as well. However, being tech-heads, our collective minds went to technology that could defeat the evil doll.

So, imagine this: instead of waiting to be jump-scared in your living room by a creepy, knife-wielding doll at 3 am, what if you could track every movement it made? No matter where Chucky hid to “surprise” you, a popular technology could come to your rescue by giving you real-time updates of Chucky's location and movements. So, are you interested in learning more?

Well, then dim the lights and settle into your blankets, as we uncover everything about Radio Frequency Identification!
TechDogs-"The What, Why And How Of Radio Frequency Identification"-"The Real Horror Is Not Using RFID!"
We bet you must have come across the term “RFID” in your workplace or when you were buying a Good Guy doll at the local retail store. If that’s not relatable, if you own a smart card or a wristband that enables contactless identity verification at checkpoints in the workplace, then you’re already interacting with Radio Frequency Identification aka RFID technology!

You see, Radio Frequency Identification technology encodes digital data into RFID tags, sometimes also called smart labels. These smart labels can then be embedded into devices (such as cards or wearables) such that they can be read by a receiver using radio waves. Think of RFID as barcode scanning on steroids!

Just as each item in a supermarket aisle has a unique barcode, RFID tags/smart labels are unique. However, unlike barcode scanning which must be aligned to the optical scanner, RFID tags do not need to be in line-of-sight to be read. Wait, this is just one interesting fact about RFID technology – there’s more to come!

So, read on to understand the what, why, and how of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology!

Basics Of Radio Frequency Identification

At its core, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a wireless technology that leverages radio waves to identify objects tagged with RFID smart labels. Radio Frequency Identification uses radio frequencies to search, identify, track or locate items and/or people with an RFID tag. The receiver uses radio transmissions to read the data digitally encoded into an RFID tag and identifies it from the unique properties of the tag stored on the business database.

Since it eliminates the need to be within the line of sight, this method has several commercial and industrial applications, such as supply chain management, logistics, object tracking, warehouse management, etc. It’s also how an RFID tag would help you locate Chucky within the house – assuming you can first embed an RFID tag on Chucky’s body!

While we won’t blame you for thinking RFID is a modern invention, it has existed since before the first Child’s Play movie was released in 1988. On that surprising note, let’s read on to understand how and why RFID was developed.

How Did Radio Frequency Identification Evolve?

Well, Radio Frequency Identification was originally developed for military applications during the Second World War. Yet, since then, it has transformed into a popular object tracking and logistics solution. Here’s how it all happened:
  • 1945

    The British government used radio frequencies to track and identify enemy aircraft, making it the first known application of an RFID system. In the same year, boys from the Young Pioneer Organisation of the Soviet Union presented a hand-carved ceremonial seal of the US ambassador. However, an antenna activated by radio waves was embedded into the seal, acting as a microphone that allowed the Soviets to listen to private conversations in Wahington. Hence, using radio frequencies was initially limited to military and espionage applications.

  • 1970s

    During this era, RFID tags were used to monitor the location of railway carriages. Mario W. Cardullo also received the first patent for an active Radio Frequency Identification tag in 1973.

  • 1983

    The technology was officially invented by Charles Walton when he submitted the first patent with the term ‘RFID’ in it. This was the beginning of the acceptance of RFID for non-military commercial applications.

  • 1990s

    By the mid-90s, the ultra-high frequency RFID tag was developed, allowing digital to be transmitted instantly through radio waves. This was a breakthrough in making wireless tracking possible across longer distances.

  • 2004

    Walmart, the retail giant, spent almost $500 million to deploy Radio Frequency Identification technologies with more than 100 suppliers tagging their products with RFID labels.

  • 2007

    The first IEEE RFID Conference was held in Grapevine, Texas and later merged with the largest RFID tradeshow in North America, RFID Journal LIVE! as the IEEE Technical Committee (TC) on RFID to serve the emerging community of multi-disciplinary professionals working with Radio Frequency Identification technology.

  • 2010s

    By the mid-2010s, the price of RFID tags had dropped significantly to less than a dollar, which led to an increase in its adoption. More businesses started investing in wireless technology and the rest is history!

By that we mean the future of RFID technology is bright – but before we head there, let’s look at how it works.

How Does Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Work?

RFID technology uses radio waves to perform the AIDC or Automatic Identification and Data Capture function. While it is a mouthful, the function essentially identifies the RFID-tagged object and maps it to the database to understand what/who the object is. To do this, the RFID hardware setup consists of three components: an antenna, a transceiver and a transponder.
TechDogs-"How Does Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Work?"-"A Diagram of Explaining Radio Frequency Identification"

When the antenna and transceiver are combined, they are called an RFID reader or interrogator. This component uses radio waves to transmit signals to the tag. Once the tag receives this activation signal, it sends a signal back to the antenna. This signal is then translated into data that helps in identifying the unique tag. The transponder in this scenario is the smart label/RFID tag itself. This same procedure is repeated each time, yet as the tag is unique, the signal it sends back to the transceiver is decoded to represent a unique object or person.

Now that we understand how RFID technology works, let’s look at its types!

Types Of Radio Frequency Identification

The types of Radio Frequency Identification depend on the frequency being used and as such, it can be classified into the following types:
  • Low-frequency (LF)

    These RFID systems range from 30 KHz to 500 KHz, although the typical frequency is 125 KHz. Low-frequency RFID tags have a short transmission range, often between a few inches to less than six feet.

  • High-frequency (HF)

    These RFID systems range from 3 MHz to 30 MHz, with the typical high-frequency frequency being 13.56 MHz. The range for HF RFID is generally a few feet.

  • Ultra-high-frequency (UHF)

    These RFID systems can range from 300 MHz to 960 MHz, with the typical frequency being 433 MHz. UHF RFID tags can be read from 15 to 25 feet away.

  • Microwave

    These RFID systems operate at 2.45 GHz and can be read from 30+ feet away.

We would definitely recommend using the last one for Chucky – a 30-foot heads-up would be amazing when taking on a murderous doll!
Yet, the classification of Radio Frequency Identification systems also extends to the type of RFID tag:
  • Active RFID Tags

    An active RFID tag contains its own power source to broadcast their signal to receivers and transmit the unique information stored on their microchips.

  • Passive RFID Tags

    A passive RFID tag receives its power from the antenna, whose electromagnetic wave induces a current in the RFID tag. As passive tags do not require a power source, they’re often cheaper, smaller and easier to manufacture.

Now that you know about the diverse types of RFID systems and tags, let’s look at how they can help you – apart from tracking a malevolent bloodthirsty doll you accidentally brought inside your house!

Benefits Of Radio Frequency Identification

Today, RFID technology has diverse applications, including inventory control, equipment tracking and personnel tracking. This is because Radio Frequency Identification offers a plethora of benefits such as:
  • Increases Operational Efficiency

    One of the most significant benefits of RFID technology is that it requires little monitoring, freeing employees to handle more productive tasks. Since it doesn’t require a direct line of sight to read tags, multiple tags can be read simultaneously using RFID readers.

  • Access To Real-Time Data

    RFID offers reliable, real-time track-and-trace abilities as smart tags can provide data about a product’s location in an automated fashion – whether you are tracking a large asset inventory or individual products. Moreover, RFID tags can withstand conditions that standard barcode labels cannot, such as high humidity, temperature fluctuations, exposure to sunlight, etc.

  • In-depth Management Information

    As RFID allows data to be captured in real-time at different stages of an asset’s migration or lifecycle, it can provide in-depth insights for planning, management and operational tasks that may drive further efficiency in the process.

  • Enhanced Security

    RFID technology can enhance security as it can be used to control access to secure areas, identify and track valuable assets on the move as well as prevent unauthorized movements of cargo. Further, RFID tags can be used to prevent counterfeiting by verifying the authenticity of products from point-of-sale, in transit and on delivery.

Don’t worry, even Chucky is surprised at these benefits. Yet, what’s even more surprising is the future of Radio Frequency Identification – read on!

Future Trends For Radio Frequency Identification

Just like sequels of the Child’s Play franchise are inevitable, so is the evolution and increased adoption of Radio Frequency Identification technology. If you’re interested in integrating RFID into your business, one of the most significant trends you need to know is the rise of portable RFID readers.

Essentially, these handheld devices are compact, lightweight and equipped with advanced RFID reading capabilities, making them a game-changer for warehouses, shop floors and storerooms across various sectors. They will empower the future workforce to track RFID-tagged inventory on the go.

For instance, warehouse employees will be able to quickly scan items, track assets and conduct inventory checks using portable RFID readers. Moreover, it will provide immediate access to inventory information, speeding up the decision-making process for various teams. This upgrade in the RFID equipment will also cater to the demand for reading multiple types of RFID tags quickly.

As we said, the future is bright!

To Sum Up

Yes, we know Chucky – we have Radio Frequency Identification now!

After all, RFID is a cost-effective technology that’s reshaping various industries that need real-time object and personnel tracking. It is leveraging the potential of wireless technology to deliver reliable tracking, identification and updates, allowing us to better understand the movement of goods, people and assets not just within the business premises but beyond. The real horror story is not using RFID in the modern age, folks!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Technology And How Does It Work?

RFID technology is a wireless system that uses radio waves to identify and track objects equipped with RFID tags. These tags store digital data and can be read by RFID readers using radio transmissions. Unlike traditional barcode scanning, RFID tags do not require line-of-sight to be read, making them ideal for various applications.

What Are The Different Types Of RFID Systems And Tags?

RFID systems are classified based on frequency, including low-frequency (LF), high-frequency (HF), ultra-high-frequency (UHF) and microwave. Tags can also be categorized as active or passive, depending on whether they have their own power source or rely on the reader's electromagnetic wave for power.

What Are The Practical Applications And Benefits Of RFID Technology?

RFID technology has diverse applications, such as supply chain management, logistics, inventory control, equipment tracking and personnel tracking. Its benefits include increased operational efficiency, access to real-time data, in-depth management information and enhanced security, among others

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