What is automatic identification?
Automatic identification is a term given to a group of technologies that are used to help machines identify objects. Automatic identification is often linked with automatic data capture as companies want to identify items and capture information about them, but they also want it to capture the data on their computer systems without having their employees recording it. The aim of most auto-ID systems is to increase work place efficiency, reduce data entry errors and to allow staff readjustment for more value-added function such as customer service. There is a branch of technologies that register under the Automatic identification label which include bar codes, smart cards, optical character recognition, voice recognition and radio frequency identification.
What is RFID?
Radio frequency identification or RFID is a term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify people or objects. There are numerous methods of identification for RFID’s with the most common being to store a serial number into a microchip that can identify a person or object by attaching an antenna which allows it to transmit data to the RFID Reader. The microchip and antenna is called an RFID tag and the reader converts the radio waves sent from the RFID tag into information and can be passed on for further use.
How does an RFID system work?
RFID system consists of a tag, which is made up of a microchip with an antenna, and interrogator or reader with an antenna. The reader sends out electromagnetic waves and the tag antenna programed to receive these waves. While a passive RFID tag gets it power from the field developed by the reader and use its power the tag. The chip then modulates the waves and sends it back to the reader where it can be made into digital data.
Are there any health risks associated with RFID and radio waves?
RFID use the low-end electromagnetic spectrum making their waves being no more dangerous that car radio waves.
Why is RFID better than using bar codes?
RFID is not better than bar codes as they are both different technologies that have different applications but they can overlap. The main difference between the two products is that bar codes are line of sight technology making the scanner have to see the bar code to be able to read it. While RFID by contrast doesn’t require line of sight as RFID tags can be read as long as they are in range of a reader.
Will RFID replace bar codes?
Unlikely as bar codes are cheap and effective for certain tasks making it a stable competitor to RFIDs
Is RFID new?
RFID is a technology that has been around since the 1970’s and to this day it been too costly and too limited to be practical for many commercial applications.
If RFID has been around so long and is so great, why aren’t all companies using it?
Many different companies have invested in RFID systems in order to get the benefits they offer. These investments are made on closed looped systems in order to let that company remain in full control of that system, so that one company products can’t read the other. However most companies don’t have closed loped system allowing them to have the benefit of tracking them as they go from one company to another.
Is the lack of standards the only thing that has prevented RFID from being more widely used?
It comes down to another factor of cost as RFID reader typically cost up to $1,000 or more. To make use of RFID technology companies would need thousands of readers to covers all their facilities. Also RFID tags cost up to 20 cent and more making it impractical for item that cost only a few dollars.
What is the difference between low, high, and ultra-high frequencies?
RFID tags and readers have to be set to the same frequency in order for the devices to communicate with each other. RFID systems use many different frequencies such as low being around (125Khz), High being (13.56 MHz) and UHF (Ultra High Frequency) being (850- 900 MHz). Radio waves work differently at different frequencies, so you have to choose the right frequency for the right situation.
How do I know which frequency is right for my application?
Different frequencies have different factors that makes them more useful depending on the situation. As low-frequency tags are cheaper than the other tags, use less power and can penetrate through non-metallic substances. Making them the ideal frequency for scanning through objects with high content of water such as fruit at close range. While UHF frequencies typically offer better range can transfer data faster but they use more power and they are a smaller likelihood of passing through materials as they are more directed. This means that they need a clear path between the tag and the reader, making them the ideal frequency for warehousing application. It best to consider the situation and decide based on how which frequency would benefit for company/business.
Do all countries use the same frequencies?
Most countries have been assigned a standard of 125 kHz or 134 kHz area of the radio spectrum for low-frequency systems and 13.56 is the standard used around the world for high-frequency systems. However since UHF RFID system was released in the 1990’s there has been an established standard for use with many countries government deciding on which frequency is best for use. Examples being Europe using 868 MHz and U.S. using 915MHz.
I’ve heard that RFID doesn’t work around metal and water. Does that mean I can’t use it to track cans or liquid products?
Well that incorrect as radio waves bounce off metal and are absorbed by water at UHF. That makes tracking metal products or those with high water contents a haste but with a good system design and application can counter this situation. Low and high- frequency tags work better with metal and water.
What’s the difference between passive and active tags?
The difference between passive and active tags are passive RFID tags has no batteries using the field created by the reader to power the tag while active tags uses a battery to power the device. Passive tags only have a read range between less than 20 feet to 100 feet but are cheaper and more disposable while active has a read range of up to 300 feet but are more expensive.
What is an Electronic Product Code?
An Electronic Product Code or RFID was developed by the Auto- ID Centre as a successor to the bar code. It a numbering scheme that can be used to identify products as they move through global supply chains.
How much information can the tag store?
It depends on the model, vendor and application but typically it would carry no more than 2KB of data which is enough to store the basic information of the item on it.
What’s the difference between read-only and read-write tags?
Microchips in RFID can be read-only or read-write. Read-write chips can have information added to the tag as well as writing over existing information when the tag within range of a reader. Read-only chips generally have a serial number that can’t be written over however can have additional blocks of data which can store additional items to the tag.
What is reader collision?
A reader collision with RFID is the signal from one reader can interfere with the signal from another where the coverage overlaps.
What is tag collision?
A tag collision is a problem reader have when reading a lot of chips in the same field. It occurs when more than one chip reflects back a signal at the same time, confusing the reader
What is the read range for a typical RFID tag?
The read range of an passive tag depend on certain factors such as the frequency of operation, the power of the reader and interference. In general, low-frequency are read from a foot or less. While HF tags are read from 10 to 20 feet and UHF tags are read from 10 to 20 feet. When longer read ranges are needed for activities such as tracking railway cars, active tags can be used as there batteries can boost read ranges to 300 feet or more.
Are there any standards for RFID?
Yes, as there are organizations such as the international organization for standardization (ISO) is working on standards for tracking goods in the supply chain using high-frequency tags and ultra-high frequency tags. Another include EPCglobal who is a joint venture set up to commercialese the Electronic Product Code technologies whose standard process have become bar code standards.
Who are the leading RFID vendors?
There are many different RFID vendors with different areas of expertise. Some vendors include Primo1D, Alien Technology, GlobeRanger Corp, Omni-ID and Tageos are some examples.
What are some of the most common applications for RFID?
RFID is can be used for everyone from tracking animals to triggering equipment. The most common applications are for tracking goods in the supply chain, reusable containers, tools and other assets and parts moving towards a manufacturing product line. It can be also used in security and payment system that also customers to pay without cash.
Are any companies using RFID today?
Yes are there many companies around the world who use RFID today to improve efficiencies. Some companies include Qantas, RioTinto, Patrick and Woodside to name a few.
I’ve heard RFID can be used with sensors. Is that true?
Yes. Some companies are combining RFID sensors that detect and record temperature, movement and radiation. Allowing in the future tags in the future to detect if items have not stored at the right temperature, if food gone bad etc.
What are intelligent software agents and how do they fit into RFID?
Software agents are basically autonomous applications that automate decision making process by establishing a set of rules. They are important to RFID because humans can be overwhelmed by the quantity of data coming from RFID tags and the speed which the data travels. So agents automate routine decision and alter employees when a situation requires their notice.
What is “energy harvesting”?
In passive RFID tags reflect back waves from the reader. Energy harvesting is a technique in which energy from the reader in collected by the tags, it is stored momentarily and transmitted back in a different frequency. This may improve the performance of passive RFID tags.
Will RFID lead to massive layoffs of workers?
RFID technology is an labour-saving technology so it is very likely that some workers would be laid off. Due to fewer workers would be needed to scan bar codes. But the transition from bar codes to RFID could take many years so it is very unlikely that RFID will lead to wide-scale displacement of workers.