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RFID (radio frequency identification) is a technology that incorporates the use of electromagnetic or electrostatic coupling in the radio frequency (RF) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to uniquely identify an object, animal, or person.
  • What is RFID?
  • RFID (radio frequency identification) is a technology that incorporates the use of electromagnetic or electrostatic coupling in the radio frequency (RF) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to uniquely identify an object, animal, or person. RFID is increasingly used in industry as an alternative to the bar code. The advantage of RFID is that it does not require direct contact or line-of-sight scanning.

    In a typical RFID system, an item is given a tag, which will transmit a unique identity code when it is interrogated by a reader. This unique code is then used to look up information about the product on a computer database. RFID technology allows object identification without line of sight, unlike barcode scanning. In addition, RFID tags can transmit and receive data, allowing them to be updated with new information as they move through the supply chain.

  • RFID System Components
  • An RFID system has several components including chips, tags, readers and antennas. In its simplest form, a small silicon chip is attached to a small flexible antenna to create a tag. The chip is used to record and store information. When a tag is being read, the reader (which also uses an antenna) sends it a radio signal. The tag absorbs some of the RF energy from the reader signal and reflects it back as a return signal delivering information from the tag's memory.

  • Performance of RFID
  • An RFID tag may be read at a range of up to several meters. The read range of an RFID tag, however, depends greatly on its operational frequency and environment.

    Low-frequency RFID systems (30 KHz to 500 KHz) have shortest transmission ranges  (generally less than 1 meter).
    High-frequency RFID systems (13.56 MHz) have short transmission ranges (about 1.5 meters)
    Ultra high-frequency RFID systems (850 MHz to 950 MHz) have long transmission ranges (approximate up to 10 meters)
    2.4 GHz to 2.5 GHz offer longer transmission ranges (more than 150 meters).

  • RFID or Bar Codes?
  • One of the key differences between RFID and bar code technology is RFID eliminates the need for line-of-sight reading that bar coding depends on. Also, RFID scanning can be done at greater distances than bar code scanning. Higher frequency RFID systems (850 MHz to 950 MHz and 2.4 GHz to 2.5 GHz) offer transmission ranges of more than 90 feet, although wavelengths in the 2.4 GHz range are absorbed by water (the human body) and therefore has limitations.

    The barcode labels that triggered a revolution in identification systems back in the 1970's are now cheap and commonly used, but have several limitations:

    low storage capacity
    only represent a series of items and not an individual or unique item
    short durability (as mostly printed paper)
    short read range
    line of sight reading
    read one label at a time
    cannot be rewritten or reprogrammed

    RFID does not need line-of-sight to operate. Using radio frequency means that the tag no longer has to be visible on the object to which it is attached; the tag can be hidden inside the item or box that is to be identified and still be read. This minimizes or eliminates the need for a person to have to present the reader to the tag as it can now be fixed to a wall for example. As the item is passed by the reader it will be read automatically, thus giving a potentially large saving in labour costs or substantial increase in throughput of scanned items.

    Another feature of RFID is the ability to read many tags together at once. There is a huge savings potential in not having to manually present the reader to each item to be identified.

    Furthermore, data can also be written to the tag, a feature not possible with barcodes. This feature has tremendous implications for IT systems and the potential benefits of RFID.

  • Common applications for RFID
  • Applications fall into two principal categories: firstly, short range applications where the reader and tag must be in close proximity (such as in access control) and secondly, medium to long range applications, where the distance may be greater (such as reading across a distribution centre dock door).

    RFID technology is already well established in a number of areas such as electronic payment, supply chain management and livestock tracking, as well as previously unforeseen areas, such as data conveying.

    Business applications using RFID such as transport and logistics, access control, real time location, supply chain management, manufacturing and processing, agriculture, medicine and pharmaceuticals, are expected to grow strongly. But RFID devices will also influence Government (e.g. eGovernment, national defense and security), and consumer sectors (e.g. personal safety, sports and leisure, smart homes and smart cities).

To know how RFID technology can be integrated into your business and how you can benefit from it, please contact

E-Business Solutions Limited at (852) 2345 1882 or email us at info@ebsl.hk for details.

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