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What is RFID?
The term RFID is becoming fairly common
place, but what is it? How is it going to help me in my
Radio Frequency Identification is a means
of capturing data about an object without using a human to read
But isn’t that what bar codes do?
Yes, and bar codes and RFID both belong
to a group of technologies called Automatic Identification
and Data Capture. Along with Smart cards, and Magnetic
Stripe technology and a host of others, this is a method of
automating our need for data.
We have all become very aware of bar codes as they have
permeated our existence in the last 25 years. In fact, it is
tough to buy something in a store that does not use bar
codes these days. But bar codes have four disadvantages that
it would be nice to eliminate:
You have to be able to see them
The bar code cannot be written on or defaced
You cannot change the data once they are printed
They take up space on the object they are printed on
So what can we do about this things? The
answer is RFID.
what is RFID and what is all this hoopla about? For those of
you who are coming to Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
for the first time, a brief introduction is called for. This
technology has been around for many years, but it is only in
the past few years that we have seen a surge in its
acceptance and a massive growth in its use. AIM has
published a history of RFID and you can get more information
from the web site at
Shrouds of Time - A History of RFID.
From its first uses back in the 1940s, RFID suffered a very
slow start and it is only since 1997 that we have seen the
massive growth in the industry as technology caught up with
the desires and the possibility of low cost tags was
realized. Now we have the capability to make tags at a
reasonable cost and the opportunities are beginning to
really show themselves. As I look at my database, there are
338 companies that have identified themselves as being
involved in RFID around the world. When you consider than
maybe only five years ago, you could count the suppliers on
your fingers, this is a massive increase.
The technology uses a very simple idea that has many
complications involved in its execution. A
reader/interrogator/scanner transmits an RF wave to a tag.
The tag "hears" the RF wave, and responds with some data.
Tags come in many flavors: passive, battery assisted,
active, backscatter, different frequencies, tag talks first,
reader talks first, various anti-collision techniques or
not, printed antennas, wire wound antennas, hard case,
label, etc. So many variations that it can be very
confusing, but there is good news. Your application will
define many of these for you, and working with your
supplier/integrator you will rapidly choose the solution
that is best for you.
So lets learn about the technology.