RFID Tags VS Barcodes

Although RFID tags and barcodes can both be used to carry data, there are important differences between these two technologies which are summarized below:

  • Barcode readers require a direct line of sight to the printed barcode; RFID readers do not require a direct line of sight to RFID tags
  • RFID tags can be read at much greater distances; an RFID reader can pull information from a tag at distances up to 300 feet. The range to read a barcode is much less, typically no more than fifteen feet.
  • RFID readers can read, RFID tags much faster tan barcodes can be scanned. Hunderds of RFID tags can be read per second. Reading barcodes is much more time-consuming; due to the fact that a direct line of sight is required. Barcode readers usually take a half-second or more to successfully complete a read.
  • Line of sight requirements also limit the ruggedness of barcodes as well as the reusability of barcodes. (Since line of sight is required for barcodes, the printed barcode must be exposed on the outside of the product, where it is subject to greater wear and tear.) RFID tags are typically more rugged, since the electronic components are better protected in a plastic cover. RFID tags can also be implanted within the product itself, guaranteeing greater ruggedness and reusability.
  • RFID tags, can be read/write devices; the RFID reader can communicate with the tag, and alter as much of the information as the tag design will allow. Barcodes have no read/write capability. You cannot add to the information written on a printed barcode.
  • RFID tags are currently more expensive than barcodes, however, the prices of these tags are being dropped daily as new technologies and production methods are being developed because of the potential posed by RFID tags.

RFID Tags – Privacy and Data Protection

As with any new technology that has not been scrutinized, there is always a big debate about Privacy and Data protection and RFID tags are no exception. Data protection practitioners, consumer advocates and NGOs are concerned over privacy implications of a wide-spread introduction of RFID tags. IThe concerns voiced by these parties include:

  • RFID could be used to collect personal data. For example, retailers could tie a client’s personal data, such as a credit card number, to an RFID tag embedded in an item they sold. Individuals could then be identified when they revisit a store and their movements could be monitored.
  • Personal data could be stored on RFID tags. This could for example occur with RFID-based ticketing systems for public transport, where itineraries chosen by an individual could, together with exact times, be stored on a card or on computers.
  • RFID could be used to track individuals. Shops could for example hand out tokens with embedded RFID that allow for certain advantages or can be used for activating trolleys. Using readers distributed throughout the shop and more RFID embedded in consumer goods, the shop would be able to track the customer’s purchase habits.
  • When data stored on RFID-enabled items (such as travel documents, credit cards, banknotes, medicines) is not effectively enough encrypted, anyone with a reader and sufficient knowledge could invade the privacy of a person carrying those items.

As a solution for RFID tag enabled consumer goods, it has been suggested that embedded RFID tags should have a deactivation option. The Commission endorsed this line in a recommendation which requires retailers to deactivate RFID tags at the point of sale. Persons must be informed in a clearly understandable manner of the presence of RFID tags in items they may be carrying, and of reading devices where such is the case.

Frequency Management for RFID Tags

ISO standards lay down 5 frequency bands in the Low Frequency (LF), High Frequency (HF), Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) and microwave or Super-High Frequency (SHF) bands for use by RFID tags. Usually, the higher the frequency is, the more data can be transmitted, the longer maximum read-out distances are and, as a consequence, the more functionality can be added to the RFID tag. For LF tags, the technical read-out distance is a few centimetres, for HF and UHF tags a few metres and for RFID tags operating in the microwave band up to hundreds of metres. For supply chain purposes, the two frequency bands (860-960 MHz and 433 MHz) in the UHF spectrum are most important. Active tags can only operate in the UHF and microwave spectrums.

It must be noted that in a time of increasingly prevalent wireless applications, frequency is a scarce commodity. Frequency management and allocation are already controversial issues, because they imply a regulatory choice of one technology over another. In November 2006, the Commission addressed these issues with a Decision on harmonisation of the radio spectrum for radio frequency identification (RFID) devices operating in the ultra high frequency (UHF) band.

Future Trends Of RFID Tags

It is estimated that around 600 million RFID tags were sold in 2005. Research completed by Commission Services predicts that the value of the market, including hardware, systems and services, may increase by a factor of ten between 2006 and 2016. This increase is mainly due to the cost improvements in producing RFID tags cheaper and cheaper which makes them more attractive for vendors. The number of RFID tags sold in 2016 is predicted to be more than 450 times the number sold in 2006.

As mentioned above, the main reason for this wide-spread application is cost reduction, enhanced performance and miniaturisation. The smallest tags are now around two square millimetres in size and are 0.0075mm thick. RFID tags can be embedded in basically any product imaginable including shoes, garments, cardboard wrappers and even sheets of paper. Polymer-based tags being developed could replace current silicone-based chips. They could be produced using printing technologies, which would reduce their additional cost to almost naught.

It is predicted that with these kinds of cost reduction of RFID tags, passive as well as active tags with their associated embedded reading devices, could become an enabling technology of what has been labelled ‘the intelligent home‘, ‘ambient intelligence‘ and ‘ubiquitous computing‘. This is a world where consumer goods and household items would communicate with each other and with computing devices to help ease daily tasks. Your refrigerator with its built in RFID reader could for instance communicate that there is no milk in the refrigerator and automatically place an order to your local grocer who would deliver the item to you.

Three Types of RFID Tags – Passive RFID tags – Semi Passive RFID Tags – Active RFID Tags

Radio Frequency Identification tags or RFID tags are small circuits capable of communicating with a fixed or portable device through an RFID reader. In order to do so the RFID tag antenna must be attached to the silicone chip. RFID tags have multiple uses in a variety of industries and applications. They can be attached to consumer goods, packaging and other items, and they can also be implanted into animals and even humans.

RFID Readers can in tun be linked to middle ware (computing hardware and software). RFID technology is a way to provide the missing link between the material world (commodities, stocks) and its virtual representation in a computing system and across the internet.

There are three kinds of RFID tags:

Passive RFID tags do not need a power supply of their own. They are activated by the minute tension induced from a radio frequency signal emitted by the reader. This activates their circuit and to sends out short digital information streams in response. This information consists of an unique identification number that can be used to identify the tag.

Semi-passive RFID tags have built-in power sources and do not require energy induced from the reader to power the microchip. This allows them to function with much lower signal power levels and over greater distances than passive tags. They are, however, considerably more expensive.

Active RFID tags have an on-board power-supply, usually a battery, of their own. This allows for more complex circuits to be powered and for more functionality.

Each kind of RFID tag has its unique uses: Passive RFID tags are used in stores, where they facilitate supply-chain managementstoragestocktakingtheft protectionencashingrecycling and waste disposal.

Introduction to RFID tags

RFID stands for Radio-Frequency IDentification. This acronym refers to RFID tags which are small electronic devices that consist of a small chip and an antenna. The chip is used to carry small quantities of data which can be read with RFID readers.

The RFID device has multiple uses to speed up everyday events. It for instance has the same purpose as a bar code or a magnetic strip on the back of a credit card or ATM card. It thus has the ability to provide a unique identifier for the object it is used with. The most prominent advantage of an RFID tag is that it is a proximity device. In other words, if the RFID tag comes into close proximity of the RFID reader it sends the data. unlike a  bar code or magnetic strip which needs to be touched by the reader. Devices with RFID tags will work up to 20 feet for high-frequency devices of the scanner. You could for example just put all of your groceries or purchases in a bag, and set the bag on the scanner. It would be able to query all of the RFID devices and total your purchase immediately.

A significant advantage of RFID devices over the others mentioned above is that the RFID device does not need to be positioned precisely relative to the scanner. We’re all familiar with the difficulty that store checkout clerks sometimes have in making sure that a barcode can be read. And obviously, credit cards and ATM cards must be swiped through a special reader.In contrast, RFID devices will work within a few feet (up to 20 feet for high-frequency devices) of the scanner. For example, you could just put all of your groceries or purchases in a bag, and set the bag on the scanner. It would be able to query all of the RFID devices and total your purchase immediately.

RFID technology has been available for more than fifty years. The main problem thus far has been that the manufacture of RFID tags were expensive. You could thus not use the device and then discard the RFID tag as it was too pricy. This is dramatically changing and the cost of producing RFID tags have fallen dramatically in the last couple of years to a point where throwing away these tags have become an option.

One reason that it has taken so long for RFID to come into common use is the lack of standards in the industry. Most companies invested in RFID technology only use the tags to track items within their control; many of the benefits of RFID come when items are tracked from company to company or from country to country.

RFID tag RFID reader and RFID chip Explained

An RFID tag consists of a RFID chip which contains two parts, a integrated circuit and antenna. The RFID tag is used to receive a radio-frequency signal and then in turn transmit a radio-frequency signal. A RFID tag is then incorporated into a product and used to identify or track the product using a RFID reader. 

A RFID chip can be a very small unit less than the size of a pin head. RFID chips are therefor not only incorporated into products but also into animals and people. When implanted into an animal the RFID tag is generally used to identify the animal. RFID implants in humans are experimental and not common, RFID tags are used for timing in races etc but are carried by the human and not implanted.

RFID tags can be divided into two categories, active and passive RFID tags. Active RFID chips contain batteries making it possible to transmit its signal by itself. Passive RFID tags have no batteries and require an RFID reader to initiate signal transmission.

RFID readers are used to read information from RFID chips. The RFID reader reading distance varies from reader to reader and from chip to chip. This is as a direct result of what the RFID tag is used for. In some cases the use for a  RFID tag requires the tag to be read from several meters away while in other cases the RFID tag needs to be in very close proximity.

RFID tags are used for:

  • Animal identification
  • Race Timing
  • Passports of various countries
  • Transportation payments (toll roads)
  • Product tracking
  • Transportation and logistics
  • Inventory systems
  • Promotion tracking
  • Human implants
  • Libraries for tagging books
  • Retail industry 

Many more uses for RFID tags are implemented annually. RFID tags is making our lives easier and more convenient everyday by helping us avoid long queues and delays because of the speed at which things can be identified using RFID tags and RFID readers.