Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is the use of a wireless non-contact system that uses radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data from a tag attached to an object, for the purposes of automatic identification and tracking. Some tags require no battery and are powered by the electromagnetic fields used to read them. Others use a local power source and emit radio waves (electromagnetic radiation at radio frequencies). The tag contains electronically stored information which can be read from up to several metres (yards) away. Unlike a bar code, the tag does not need to be within line of sight of the reader and may be embedded in the tracked object.
RFID tags are used in many industries. An RFID attached to an automobile during production can be used to track its progress through the assembly line. Pharmaceuticals can be tracked through warehouses. Livestock and pets may have tags injected, allowing positive identification of the animal. RFID identity cards can give employees access to locked areas of a building, and RF transponders mounted in automobiles can be used to bill motorists for access to toll roads or parking.

Since RFID tags can be attached to clothing, possessions, or even implanted within people, the possibility of reading personally-linked information without consent has raised privacy concerns.


An RFID tag can be affixed to an object and used to track and manage inventory, assets, people, etc. For example, it can be affixed to cars, computer equipment, books, mobile phones, etc.
In social media, RFID is being used to tie the physical world with the virtual world. RFID in Social Media first came to light in 2010 with Facebook's annual conference.

RFID offers advantages over manual systems or use of bar codes. The tag can be read if passed near a reader, even if it is covered by the object or not visible. The tag can be read inside a case, carton, box or other container, and unlike barcodes RFID tags can be read hundreds at a time. Bar codes can only be read one at a time.

In 2011, the cost of passive tags started at US$0.05 each; special tags, meant to be mounted on metal or withstand gamma sterilization, can go up to US$5. Active tags for tracking containers, medical assets, or monitoring environmental conditions in data centers start at US$50 and can go up over US$100 each. Battery Assisted Passive (BAP) tags are in the US$3–10 range and also have sensor capability like temperature and humidity.
RFID can be used in a variety of applications, such as:


A radio-frequency identification system uses tags, or labels attached to the objects to be identified. Two-way radio transmitter-receivers called interrogators or readers send a signal to the tag and read its response. The readers generally transmit their observations to a computer system running RFID software or RFID middleware.

The tag's information is stored electronically in a non-volatile memory. The RFID tag includes a small RF transmitter and receiver. An RFID reader transmits an encoded radio signal to interrogate the tag. The tag receives the message and responds with its identification information. This may be only a unique tag serial number, or may be product-related information such as a stock number, lot or batch number, production date, or other specific information.

RFID tags can be either passive, active or battery assisted passive. An active tag has an on-board battery that periodically transmits its ID signal. A battery assisted passive (BAP) has a small battery on board that is activated when in the presence of a RFID reader. A passive tag is cheaper and smaller because it has no battery. Instead, the tag uses the radio energy transmitted by the reader as its energy source. The interrogator must be close for RF field to be high enough to transfer enough power to the tag. Since tags have individual serial numbers, the RFID system design can discriminate several tags that might be within the range of the RFID reader and read them simultaneously.

Tags may either be read-only, having a factory-assigned serial number that is used as a key into a database, or may be read/write, where object-specific data can be written into the tag by the system user. Field programmable tags may be write-once, read-multiple; "blank" tags may be written with an electronic product code by the user.
RFID tags contain at least two parts: an integrated circuit for storing and processing information, modulating and demodulating a radio-frequency (RF) signal, collecting DC power from the incident reader signal, and other specialized functions; and an antenna for receiving and transmitting the signal.

Fixed readers are set up to create a specific interrogation zone which can be tightly controlled. This allows a highly defined reading area for when tags go in and out of the interrogation zone. Mobile readers may be hand-held or mounted on carts or vehicles.

RFID frequency bands




Data speed


120-150 kHz (LF)


10 cm


Animal identification, factory data collectionW

13.56 MHz (HF)

ISM band worldwide

1 m

Low to moderate

Smart cards

433 MHZ (UHF)

Short Range Devices

1-100 m


Defence applications, with active tags

868-870 MHz (Europe)
902-928 MHz (North America)UHF

ISM band

1-2 m

Moderate to high

EAN, various standards

2450 MHz.5800 MHz (microwave)

ISM band

1-2 m


802.11 WLAN, Bluetooth standards

3.1 Ghz-10 GHz (microwave)

Ultra wide band

to 200 M


requires semi-active or active tags

Signalling between the reader and the tag is done in several different incompatible ways, depending on the frequency band used by the tag. Tags operating on LF and HF frequencies are, in terms of radio wavelength, very close to the reader antenna, less than one wavelength away. In this near field region, the tag is closely coupled electrically with the transmitter in the reader. The tag can modulate the field produced by the reader by changing the electrical loading the tag represents. By switching between lower and higher relative loads, the tag produces a change that the reader can detect. At UHF and higher frequencies, the tag is more than one radio wavelength from the reader. The tag can backscatter a signal. Active tags may contain functionally separated transmitters and receivers, and the tag need not respond on a frequency related to the reader's interrogation signal.

An Electronic Product Code (EPC) is one common type of data stored in a tag. When written into the tag by an RFID printer, the tag contains a 96-bit string of data. The first eight bits are a header which identifies the version of the protocol. The next 28 bits identify the organization that manages the data for this tag; the organization number is assigned by the EPCGlobal consortium. The next 24 bits are an object class, identifying the kind of product; the last 36 bits are a unique serial number for a particular tag. These last two fields are set by the organization that issued the tag. Rather like a URL, the total electronic product code number can be used as a key into a global database to uniquely identify a particular product.

Often more than one tag will respond to a tag reader, for example, many individual products with tags may be shipped in a common box or on a common pallet. Collision detection is important to allow reading of data. Two different types of protocols are used to "singulate" a particular tag, allowing its data to be read in the midst of many similar tags. In a slotted Aloha system, the reader broadcasts an initialization command and a parameter that the tags individually use to pseudo-randomly delay their responses. When using an "adaptive binary tree" protocol, the reader sends an intialization symbol and then transmits one bit of ID data at a time; only tags with matching bits respond, and eventually only one tag matches the complete ID string.

*An example of a binary tree method of idenfiying an RFID tag

Both methods have drawbacks when used with many tags or with multiple overlapping readers.

Barcode VS RFID



Read Rate

Many Simultaneously

Once a time


RF (Radio Frequency)

Optical (Laser)






Read Only


Most "fixed" readers don't require human involvement to collect data (automated)

Most barcode scanners require a human to operate (labor intensive)




Read Range

Moving & Long

Constraint & Inches





Water & Metal


*All RFID technology & implementation information are quoted from website of
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