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What is RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and How Does It Work?

Resources, Technology
RFID in use in a warehouse

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is in everything from amusement park passes to payment solutions. This wireless technology allows businesses to automatically identify and track objects, tools, equipment, vehicles, and more.

In recent years, RFID technology has become increasingly popular and has found numerous applications in various industries, including retail, logistics, healthcare, and manufacturing. But how does RFID work, and how can businesses leverage it? Check out this guide to learn what RFID is, how it works, how it differs from other tagging technologies, and the potential benefits of RFID.

What is RFID and How Does It Work?

RFID is a technology that uses radio waves to transmit data from an RFID tag to a reader that logs the data. The system consists of three main components: an RFID tag, an RFID reader, and a computer system.

A business places an RFID tag on or inside an object, such as a retail product or a piece of industrial machinery. The tag contains a microchip that stores data, as well as an antenna that receives and transmits radio signals.

When an RFID reader emits a radio frequency signal, the tag detects it and responds with the data stored in its memory. The reader then captures the data and sends it to a computer system for processing.

RFID systems can use different frequencies, but the most common include:

  • Low-frequency (LF): LF RFID systems operate at frequencies between 125 kHz and 134 kHz and have a short read range of up to 10 cm.
  • High-frequency (HF): HF RFID systems operate at frequencies between 13.56 MHz and have a read range of up to 1 meter.
  • Ultra-high frequency (UHF): UHF RFID systems operate at frequencies between 860 MHz and 960 MHz and have a read range of up to several meters or even tens of meters, depending on the application.

RFID tags can be either passive or active. Passive RFID tags don’t have a built-in power source and rely on energy provided by an RFID reader. Active RFID tags, on the other hand, have a built-in power source, such as a battery, and can transmit data on their own without relying on an external power source.

How is RFID Different From Other Tagging Technologies?

Whether you’re a retailer, a healthcare provider, or a manufacturer, you likely use a mix of different tagging solutions throughout your organization. Barcodes and QR codes are some of the most common options for businesses, but RFID works differently.

Barcodes are a visual tagging technology that uses a series of bars and spaces to represent data. Barcodes are inexpensive and easy to produce, but they require a direct line of sight to a reader and have a limited storage capacity. In contrast, you can read RFID tags from a distance. They also have a much larger storage capacity than barcodes.

QR codes are a two-dimensional visual tagging technology that uses a matrix of dots to represent data. QR codes can store more data than barcodes and can be read using a smartphone camera, but they still require a direct line of sight and aren’t as versatile as RFID tags.

Person scanning a QR code on a box

Why is RFID Beneficial for Tagging?

RFID technology has been widely adopted for asset tracking in various industries, including retail, healthcare, logistics, and manufacturing. For example, retailers use RFID tags to track inventory and prevent theft, healthcare providers use RFID wristbands to track patients and medication, logistics companies use RFID to track shipments and optimize supply chain operations, and manufacturers use RFID to track products throughout the production process.

If you’re trying to embrace digital transformation in your business, RFID tags make it much easier to transmit information automatically. RFID technology has numerous benefits, including:

  • Increased efficiency: RFID systems can quickly and automatically identify and track objects or people, reducing the need for manual data entry and improving accuracy and speed.
  • Improved visibility: RFID systems can provide real-time visibility into the location and status of objects or equipment, enabling better decision-making and resource allocation.
  • Enhanced security: RFID tags can be used to authenticate objects or people, which prevents counterfeiting and unauthorized access.
  • Reduced costs: RFID systems can help reduce costs associated with manual data entry, inventory management, and supply chain operations.
  • Increased customer satisfaction: RFID systems can help retailers and other businesses provide faster and more accurate services, which improves customer satisfaction and loyalty.

However, keep in mind that durable barcode labels are often a better choice for certain applications. For example, the U.S. military also uses RFID tags for some applications, although for military asset tracking, unique identification (UID) labels are more suitable for security, compliance, and durability requirements.

RFID Solutions Made Easy

RFID technology might sound complex, but it’s a simple and easy way for organizations to manage the movement of equipment, products, and other objects. With the right RFID system, organizations can streamline their operations, cut costs, and increase compliance.

It all starts with choosing the right RFID labels for the job, and that’s where we come in. Camcode’s white paper face stock RFID labels are an easy way to implement RFID tracking and identification. Check out our RFID specifications now and learn how RFID can play a role in your asset tracking system.

Questions about the article? Let us help!

Our sales engineers are experts in automatic asset tracking, tagging and identification,a nd can answer all your questions. Get in touch now.

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