About RFID As A Solution

How important is the RFID Antenna to the Overall Solution?

The antenna’s importance to solution performance has been overlooked since the inception of RFID. Often RFID solutions refer only to the Reader or the Reader antenna as one unit even though these are two entirely independent hardware components of the RFID solution. Great improvements have been made to readers and tags in the last decade; however, the most common RFID antenna technology was not designed for item level RFID solutions. The common Patch antenna has not progressed to anything close in a similar development speed. This lack of development progress has continued to seriously inhibit the growth of RFID due to sub-optimal tag read rate accuracy resulting in unnecessary system cost or solution failure. NeWave's unique Wave antenna design is specific to item level RFID and provides a new level of accuracy and efficiency for item level RFID applications..

What is RFID?

Radio frequency identification, or RFID, is a generic term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify people or objects. There are several methods of identification, but the most common is to store a serial number that identifies a person or object, and perhaps other information, on a microchip that is attached to an antenna (the chip and the chip's antenna together are called an RFID transponder or an RFID tag). The antenna enables the chip to transmit the identification information to a reader. A second antenna external to the chip illuminates the tag so the reader can read the radio waves from the RFID tag and convert this information into digital information that can then be passed on to computers that can make use of this information. All of these components are critical to the success of the solution.

How does an RFID system work?

A basic RFID Solution includes:

  • RFID tag or label
  • RFID Antenna
  • RFID Reader
  • RFID reader control and application software

In a basic RFID system, tags are attached to all items that are to be tracked. These tags are made from a tiny tag-chip, sometimes called an integrated circuit (IC), that is connected to an antenna that can be built into many different kinds of tags including any asset and apparel, labels, and security tags. The tag chip contains memory that stores the product's electronic product code (EPC) and other variable information so that it can be read and tracked by RFID readers. An RFID reader is a network connected device (fixed or mobile) that communicates with an independent antenna component. . The RFID antenna is cabled to the reader and it is the antenna that emits the radio waves that illuminate the tag to be read. For passive tags, the antenna radio waves enable the tag's embedded antenna to power up its microchip to send and receive RFID data. The type of RFID antenna used is critical since this determines the type of RFID field generated to read tags. The RFID reader acts like an access point for RFID tagged items so that the tags' data can be made available to desired business applications.

What are the benefits of using RFID?

RFID-enabled systems offer companies the opportunity to improve the control of their entire supply chain. RFID solutions can cut costs by improving inventory control at all levels, reduce labor expense and human error by being fully automated, and provide detailed historical sales data for forensic analysis to consistently improve productivity. RFID technology is far superior to the limitations of traditional AIDC technologies such as barcode technology.

Barcode and other visual systems rely on a clear line-of-sight and require a relatively clean and moisture-free environment. RFID’s Radio waves, on the other hand, can go through and around objects to read the tag from close proximity to comparatively large distances. RFID Tags also contain orders of magnitude more data than barcodes can provide,including uniquely identifying each individual item versus simply an SKU type. As RFID consistently improves performance, it is the future of inventory control.

What are the differences between low-, high-, and ultra-high frequencies?

Just as your radio tunes in to different frequencies to hear different channels like AM and FM, RFID tags and readers have to be tuned to the same frequency to communicate. RFID systems use many different frequencies, but generally the most common are low-frequency (LF, around 125 KHz), high-frequency (HF, 13.56 MHz) and ultra-high-frequency (UHF, 860-960 MHz). Microwave (2.45 GHz) is also used in some applications. Radio waves behave differently at different frequencies, so it's important to choose the right frequency for an application.

Key Differences

UHF HF & LF
UHF Frequency HF and LF Frequencies
Labels cost 5-15ȼ Labels, cards, inlays cost 50ȼ - $2
Longer emission range Shorter emission range
Preferred for Item level tagging Used in ticketing, payment systems
20x the range and speed of HF . Much more efficient HF-based NFC for secure payment
Single worldwide Gen 2 standard Multiple competing standards

What's the difference between passive and active tags?

Active RFID tags have a transmitter and their own power source (typically a battery). The power source is used to run the microchip's circuitry and to broadcast a signal to a reader (the way a cell phone transmits signals to a base station). Passive tags have no battery. Instead, they draw power from the antenna that sends out electromagnetic waves that induce a current in the tag's embedded antenna that enables the reader to locate the tag and gather the tags’s data.

Active and semi-passive tags are useful for tracking high-value goods that need to be scanned over long ranges, such as railway cars on a track, but they do cost much more than passive tags limiting their to very high value items Battery life may also be a limitation for an application.

Comparing The Wave and the Patch for RFID Solutions

  Active RFID Tags Passive RFID Tags
Power Battery operated No internal power
Required Signal Strength Low High
Communication Range Long range (100m+) Shorter range (3m) and adjustable
Data Storage Read/write data (128kb) Read/write data (128b)?? Den
Per Tag Cost Generally, $15 to $100 Generally, $0.05 to $2.00
Tag Size Varies depending on application Retail Price Tag to credit card size
Fixed Infrastructure Costs Lower - cheaper interrogators Higher - fixed readers
Total Solution Cost Higher - due to tag cost Lower - due to tag cost
Best Area of Use Very high value assets moving within designated areas ("4 walls") in random and dynamic systems High volume assets of lesser value moving through fixed choke points in definable, uniform systems