RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification and allows for automatic identification of an item. Its capabilities are huge and surpass the more traditional forms of identification, such as barcodes.

So what is an RFID tag? A tag is an ariel with a small microchip. This microchip can store heaps of data about an item such as; it’s location, seriel number, manufacturer, photo, use history and even a maintenance schedule.
As an enabling technology, RFID is now being implemented across a wide range of industries, from the construction industry to library services. Its advantages in real-time tracking, logistics management, data capture, inventory and distribution, are understandably beneficial to almost every business.
It’s safe to say that RFID systems do work. But how RFID works is the big question! Lets delve a little deeper and talk about the different types of RFID systems available and how they work. The two most widely used RFID types are Active and Passive. Active RFID tags are self-powered, allowing the tag to have a larger communication distance and more memory capabilities. Passive RFID tags are powered by an electromagnet signal that is transmitted from the reader, making them a slightly cheaper option than active RFID. Passive RFID works by using the signal from the reader to charge the tags capacitor, supplying the power needed to communicate.

The simplest way to break RFID down however is by the frequency in which they operate. These are low frequency, high frequency and ultra-high frequency. The RFID tags radio waves act differently depending on these frequencies. Let’s take a look at the benefits of each.

how rfid works frequency graph

Low Frequency

Low Frequency RFID penetrates most materials, from water to body tissue, making it ideal for animal identification. Tags can also be easily applied to any non-metallic items and will provide a short read range of around 10cm. LF RFID does mean a relatively low data transfer rate, so slower communication and it can be affected by electrical noise in an industrial environment.

High Frequency

High frequency RFID is not as effective as low frequency in the presence of water and body tissue but should not be affected by electrical noise in an industrial environment. Making this type of RFID system more popular in ticketing and data transfer applications.
HF RFID has a higher data transfer rate and this increase in speed allows for the reader to communicate with multiple tags at one time. A HF reader can read more than 50 tags per second with read range of between 10cm and 1m.

Ultra-High Frequency

Ultra-high frequency is perfect for supply chain markets where a longer read range is required. UHF RFID has a read range as long as 12m, a faster data rate than LF and HF RFID and it’s performance remains high even in difficult environments.

On paper RFID is really quite simple, but its capabilities are huge and it’s becoming a powerful tool for all industries. Before implementing RFID a good understanding of the technology is advised in order to find a process that has the most benefit and return on investment (ROI) for you. This article gave you a basic understanding of what RFID is and how RFID works but please get in touch if you want to further discuss the benefits of RFID for your business.


The Tagging Team RFID Blog is featured in the Top 25 RFID Blogs