Frequently Asked Questions?
What Is RFID?
What can it do for me?
Need help with some terms?
What is RFID?
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) systems are ideal for keeping track of and managing any asset, from vehicles on an assembly production line; stock in a warehouse; livestock; to books in libraries. They can also be used for access control, with employees carrying RFID identity cards to trigger the opening of entry doors. A basic RFID system consists of both hardware and software components. There are three hardware components of an RFID system: tag, reader and host system..
What components make up and RFID system?
RFID Reader – A RFID reader can be fixed or hand-held and is a device that activates the tag and retrieves the information stored in its Integrated Circuit. A RFID reader sends and receives signals with the help of the reader antenna. The reader which is also known as an interrogator, is essentially a bridge between the RFID host system and the reader antenna.
RFID Tags – RFID Tags are available in many shapes, sizes and frequencies. The tag is also referred to as a transponder and can be attached to or embedded into an item providing a means to track and manage supply-chain and identification details such as attributes, source, destination and route for each tagged item. The tag IC has a basic memory where data like the UID (Unique Identifier) is stored. The basic components of an RFID tag are:
- The integrated circuit (IC): A microchip that commonly stores data. The data stored in the IC can be read several times by the reader.
- The tag antenna: A component that detects the signal from the reader’s antenna. The performance of the tag antenna depends on the distance between the reader antenna and the RFID tag.
The basic types of RFID tags are classified as read / write and read only. When a read / write tag is within the reading range of the reader, you can edit, add or re-write the stored data on the tag. A read-only tag permits you to read the stored data but not edit it.
RFID tags and Inlays consist of three components: a chip, an antenna and a substrate. RFID tags are manufactured in different shapes and sizes depending on the type of application in which they are used.
RFID operates tags can either be Passive (no internal power source), Semi-Passive (passive but includes a battery) and Active which only operate with a battery.
RFID Software – The software components of an RFID system can differ depending on the system and application requirements.
RFID Middleware – Middleware is the software component that links the RFID hardware to the host application software.
Host application: Software that receives and processes data – sent from the tag – through the reader and the RFID middleware software.
What types of tags are available?
Passive Tags: Passive tags have no internal power supply and are instead activated by the reader. Passive tags have read distances ranging from 2mm to 5m depending on the frequency of individual tags as well as the reader and the working environment. Passive tags can operate at low frequency (LF), high frequency (HF) and ultra-high frequency (UHF).
Active Tags: These tags have a longer read range and larger memories than passive tags and usually operate at 455 MHz, 2.45 GHz, or 5.8 GHz frequencies. Typical read range is from 20 to 100m.
Semi-Passive Tags: Semi-passive tags are an intermediate type of tags that lie between the active and passive tags. They are also called battery-assisted passive tags (BAP).
RFID vs Barcode?
- 1. Storage capacity between 128 bytes and 8 kilobytes
- 2. No line of sight or contact required.
3. Enhanced data security (authentication and encrypted data transfer).
4. Can operate in harsh, dirty and humid environments.
5. Several tags can be read simultaneously.
6. Read / write functionality (re programmable).
- 1. Storage capacity of 100 bytes
- 2. Require visual contact between scanner and barcode
- 3. No guarantee of security to data. Any scanner can read any barcode.
- 4. Cannot be read when dirty or heavily scratched.
- 5. Scanner can read only one barcode at a time.
6. Cannot reprogram the contents of a barcode.
How can RFID help me in Asset Management?
Using UHF RFID to manage your business assets streamlines the management of these assets reducing time spent tracking and managing them. Since asset management is improved, asset visibility, maintenance and asset uptime can be improved thereby improving the lifespan of the asset and increasing the return on investment. RFID labels and tags can be affixed to all types of assets including furniture, equipment, IT hardware, infrastructure and machinery.
Asset inventory, tracking and management • Asset inspections, maintenance and repair • Mobile device asset management.
Maximize asset life cycle and improve asset utilization, Minimize asset replacement costs • Increase staff productivity • Ensure quick and cost effective asset audits by eliminating hard to access bar codes and other manual asset audits • Improve utilization and visibility of IT assets • Provide cost-effective ‘cradle-to-grave’ real-time asset management.
How can RFID help me in Asset Tracking?
Every successful business depends on the use of high value IT assets including laptops, servers, hand-held devices and even hard drives. Having this equipment stolen from your business premises can be expensive, inconvenient and extremely frustrating. The loss of critical information contained on these assets can be particularly damaging. It is therefore essential to take every opportunity to protect these valuable assets. UHF or Active RFID can be deployed on your business premises to track hundreds, even thousands of IT assets that are crucial to your business. With Taggit asset tracking solution, you will know where your assets are and who is in possession of the asset as well as a complete audit trail from asset purchase to disposal.
Laptop tracking • critical asset management • hospital asset management • Item locating • Loss detection/prevention • Laundry management
Reduce losses • Ensure critical asset availability • Minimize time lost searching for assets • Improve accuracy • Reduce costs
How can RFID help me in Distribution?
In the distribution and warehousing industries, profits are based on the speed and accuracy at which stock is moved through the process. UHF RFID assists with providing automated, accurate and immediate information to optimize business management.
Stock control and cycle counting • Stock receiving and replenishment • Item locating • Loss detection/prevention • Demand forcasting.
Improved stock accuracy • Near real time stock management • Reduce stock outs • Minimize markdowns • Reduce stock carrying costs • Improve staff efficiency • Improve sales.
Returnable Transport Items (RTI’s) are expensive and a key asset to any supplier that has to move and deliver stock. Using UHF RFID, containers such as wooden and plastic pallets, bins, crates and cages can be tracked into and out of your site or locations within your site. Because the management of these RTI’s is improved, there are less replacements and improved cost recovery for lost and damaged containers.
Applications • Returnable Transport Items
• Reduced overall investment due to improved management • Reduced shrinkage • Recover cost of lost or damaged RTI’s • Reduce the size of the RTI asset pool and associated storage costs.
How can RFID help me in Retail?
Retailers need detailed stock information to ensure the right product is available at the right time. Manual cycle counts can be costly to perform frequently enough to provide current information. Taggit provides UHF RFID solutions to accurately scan and manage stock information providing visibility into individual product levels, allowing retailers to make sure that customers find the products they want to purchase on the store shelves. and since the information is collected automatically, sales staff can spend more time with your customers instead of managing stock.
Stock control and cycle counting • Stock receiving • Stock replenishment • Item locating • loss detection/prevention • Demand forecasting.
Improved stock accuracy • Near real time stock management • Reduce stock outs • Minimize markdowns • Reduce stock carrying costs • Improve staff efficiency • Improve sales.
How can RFID help in Sports Timing?
Many organisations use RFID for the accurate timing of sports events. RFID race timing can be successfully used in road racing, bicycle racing, motor cross and other similar sports events. Discuss your requirements with Taggit, we supply high performance RFID readers, antennas and labels to accurately record your results. In addition, we will customise a software solution that will meet your budget.
Road racing • Cycle racing • Mountain bike racing • Go-karting • Motor cross racing.
What are some popular RFID terms?
Active tag: An RFID tag that is battery powered. These tags are typically larger and more expensive than passive tags but have a longer read ranges
Antenna: Reader systems and tags require antennas to transmit and receive RF energy.
Backscatter: The passive method of RF transmission where the label antenna reflects the RF energy received from the reader antenna back to the reader antenna.
Battery-assisted tag: This is a passive tag that is powered by a battery to provide improved range. Typically, smaller than active RFID tags and work on the passive frequency band.
Circular-polarized antenna: This is a UHF antenna type that emits RF energy in a circular pattern which allows for better tag detections in a variety of orientations.
Contactless smart card: This is a bank card or loyalty card or access control card that uses a near contact RFID frequency like HF / NFC and LF to access a reader to perform a variety of tasks. This eliminates using the magstripe on a card and saves time.
Chip less RFID tag: This is a RF tag that does not include a microchip. Useful in EAS type solutions, the RF tag will reflect RF energy back to an antenna to assist in preventing stock theft but as they do not contain a microchip and unique identity numebr, cannot be used in stock or asset management type applications. An RFID tag without an integrated microchip.
Closed-loop systems: Here, a company would use an internal RFID system to manage stock and assets without sharing data or equipment with outside companies. For example, wooden pallets used by a company to move stock should not be fitted with expensive RFID tags if these pallets are not owned and dedicated to the implementing company. The risk is these pallets will be moved to other companies and the tags lost.
Electronic article surveillance (EAS): This is a simple electronic RF system used by retail companies and shops to protect their stock. Chip less RF tags are fitted to stock and set off alarms if the tags pass door antennas and are not deactivated.
Electronic Product Code (EPC): This is the 24-character, or 96-bit code created by the Auto-ID Centre that contains a unique identification number that would be used to identify an asset or item of stock in the RFID system. The EPC contains digits that typically identifies the manufacturer, product category and the individual item. It is backed by the United Code Council and EAN International which are the two main bodies that oversee bar code standards.
EPC global: This is the global non-profit organization that manages radio frequency standards and numbering schemes associated with EPC and replaced the Auto ID Center. EPC global is a membership driven organization and is subsidiary of the EAN.
European Article Numbering (EAN): This is the bar code standard used throughout Europe, Asia and South America and is administered by EAN International.
Excite: An RFID reader transmitting RF energy “excites” a passive tag when the tag receives the RF energy, “wakes up” and reflects this energy back to the sending RFID reader and antenna.
Frequency: Describes the number of waves that pass a fixed place in a given amount of time. For example, 1 Hz equals one complete waveform in one second, 1 KHz equals 1,000 waves in a second. 1 MHz equals 1,000,000 Hz
Harvesting: This describes how passive RFID tags gather energy from an RFID reader antenna.
High-frequency (HF) tags: HF tags are passive tags and operate at 13.56 MHz and can be read at read at close range to around 3m max depending on the tag and reader. HF tags transmit RF faster than LF tags but consume more power.
Integrated circuit (IC): This is a microelectronic semiconductor chip which contains interconnected transistors and other components. All RFID tags have ICs. Chip less RF tags do not contain IC’s.
Interference: Describes anything that prevents RF energy from traveling between a tag and reader correctly and causes the tag to be read incorrectly. In RFID this could be metals and liquids that either reflect or absorb RF.
Interrogator: Another term for RFID reader.
Linear-polarized antenna: This is a UHF antenna where the RF energy energy is focused in a narrow beam to increase read distance and enable the signal to penetrate dense materials. Unlike circular polarized antennas, the linear-polarized antenna requires tags to be in a consistent orientation and position in relation to the readers antenna.
Low frequency (LF): LF Tags operate in a frequency band between approximately 30 kHz to 300 kHz however most tags are either 125 kHz or 134 kHz. The read range on a LF tag is typically no more than 90cm. LF tags transmit RF slower than HF and UHF but consume less power. LF have the benefit of withstanding more interference than the UHF tags and can be used in challenging applications like livestock management.
Memory: Describes the amount of data that can be stored on a tag. Typically, in bytes.
Microwave tags: These are active RFID tags that operate in the 5.8 GHz frequency band. These tags have a very high transfer rates and can be read at ranges of around 10m. These tags utilise batteries and consume a lot of power making them more expensive than UHF tags.
Middleware: This describes computer software that acts as a bridge between an operating system or database and applications, especially on a network. Middleware can include web servers and application
Nominal range: This describes the read range at which a tag can be read reliably.
Orientation: This describes the position of the tag relative to the reader antenna. Correct orientation will result in better range and read accuracy, incorrect orientation will result in reduced range and inaccurate read accuracy.
Passive tag: This is a RFID tag that does not use a battery to power the tag. The tag is powered by RF energy emitted by the reader antenna in the process referred to as backscatter. This allows the tag to transmit its identification as stored on the IC chip.
Power level: This refers to the amount of RF energy radiated from a reader or an active tag. If the power output is high, the read range will be longer. Governments control and regulate power levels to avoid interference with other RF devices. In South Africa this is controlled by ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa).
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID): Refers to a technology or method of identifying unique items by using radio frequency. A reader transmits RF energy through 1 or more antennae which then wakes up a tag and the tag responds with its unique identifier through the backscatter process (Passive RFID) or alternatively a battery powered transmission (Active RFID).
Read rate: This describes the maximum rate at which data can be read from a RFID tags expressed in either bits or bytes per second.
Reader (also called an interrogator): A RFID reader can come in various forms (fixed, hand-held and desktop) and is used to read tags and identify the tags unique identifier.
Read range: This is the typical distance a tag and reader can communicate within a typical environment. Passive tags have shorter ranges than active tags. Passive tags range is affected by the frequency (HF/LF/UHF), reader output power, antenna design and method by which the tag is powered. Environmental factors could also affect range as well as tag orientation.
RFID Chip: This is the integrated circuit that is mounted on or in the RFID tag and is connected to an antenna which contains the tag unique identifier.
RFID tag: Describes a solid tag, cards or label that contains a microchip or IC which contains the unique identifier which is transmitted when the tag is in range of a reader. RFID tags can be active, passive or semi-passive.
Semi-passive tag: (See Battery-assisted tag above) These are similar to active tags, but the battery is used to only run the microchip’s circuitry and not to communicate with the reader. Most semi-passive tags sleep until they are woken up by a signal from the reader, which allows battery life to be conserved.
Smart label: This is also referred to as an RFID label or inlay and describes a label containing an IC and antenna. The IC allows the label to store a unique identifier which it sends to the reader during the reading process.
Transponder: Describes a radio transmitter-receiver that is activated when it receives a signal. RFID tags are referred to as transponders.
Ultra-high frequency (UHF): Frequency band between 860MHz to 960MHz. UHF tags can transmit information faster and further than high- and low-frequency tags. UHF RF does not pass through any items with a high-water content, such as humans, fruit, bottle of liquid nor does UHF pass through metal cabinets and vehicles. Typically, UHF tags are more expensive than LF and HF tags and they use more power to generate more range.
UHF Generation 2: EPC “Gen2” air interface protocol defines the physical and logical requirements for an RFID system of readers and passive tags, operating in the 860 MHz – 960 MHz UHF range. Over the past decade, EPC Gen2 has been established as the standard for UHF implementations across multiple sectors.
Write Range: This is the distance where a tag can be written by an RFID reader / writer where there are no obstacles between the writer and the tag. Write range is typically 50% of the read range.
Write rate: This describes the rate at which information is transferred to a tag, written into the tag’s memory and verified as being correct.