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About RFID

RFID Products - Frequently Asked RFID Questions

1. What is RFID?

RFID, (Radio frequency identification) is a generic term for technologies that utilize radio waves to automatically identify people or objects. Although there are several methods of identification, the most common is to store a serial number that identifies a person or object on a microchip that is connected to an antenna (the chip and the antenna together are referred to as an RFID tag).

 

2. How does RFID Work?

RFID utilizes the RFID tag. (the chip and the antenna together) The antenna enables the chip to transmit the identification information to a reader. The reader then converts the radio waves reflected back from the RFID tag into digital information that can then be passed on to computers that we can then make use of.

 

3. I currently use Barcodes, is RFID replacing barcodes is it a better technology?

First, let’s break this down:

  1. There is no reason right now that RFID technology will be replacing barcodes. Barcodes are an inexpensive and effective way of tracking data, it is most likely that barcodes and RFID will both remain in place for quite some time. 
     
  2. RFID is not technically "better" than barcodes. They are two different technologies and have different applications, which sometimes overlay qualities. The biggest difference between the two is barcodes are line-of-sight technology. This means that a scanner has to "see" the barcode in able to read it. Radio frequency identification doesn’t require line of sight. RFID tags can be read as long as they are within range of a reader.
     
  3. As mentioned RFID is not technically "better" however, barcodes do have 1 major shortcoming over RFID technology for example; if the material where the barcode is ripped, soiled or falls off, there is no way to scan the person/object. 

 

4. Is RFID new technology?

Some of the first recorded uses of RFID technology date back to World War II. Until now it's been too expensive and too limited to be practical for many commercial applications, but as technology advances tags can be made more cost effectively and can assist with solving many of the problems associated with barcodes. Radio waves travel through most non-metallic materials, so they can be embedded in packaging or encased in protective plastic for weather-proofing and greater durability.

 

5. What is the difference between passive & active tags?

Active RFID tags- have a battery, which 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 reader, which sends out electromagnetic waves that induce a current in the tag's antenna.
Semi-passive tags- use a battery to run the chip's circuitry, but communicate by drawing power from the reader.

 

6. How much information can a tag store?

The amount of information that can be stored varies, but typically a tag would carry no more than 2KB of data. This is enough to store some basic information about the item it is on.

 

7. What is the difference between low, high and ultra-high frequencies?

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- (around 125 KHz)
high- (13.56 MHz)
ultra-high frequency (UHF)- (850-900 MHz)

Low-frequency tags are much cheaper than ultra-high frequency (UHF) tags and use less power, they are also better able to penetrate non-metallic substances. UHF frequencies typically offer better range and can transfer data much faster, but they also use more power and are less likely to pass through materials. Similar to how your radio tunes into different frequencies, Radio waves behave differently at different frequencies, so you have to choose the right frequency for the right application.

 

8. Read-only & Read-Write tags-How are they different?

Microchips in RFID tags can be read-write or read-only.
Read-write tags- you can add information to the tag or write over existing information when the tag is within a range of a reader, or interrogator. Read-write tags typically have a serial number that can't be written over. Additional blocks of data can be used to store additional information about the items the tag is attached to.
Read-only tags- Are produced by the manufacturer with information on the chips that can never be changed.

 

9. Reader & Tag collision- what is this and how do I prevent it?

Reader collision occurs when the RFID signal from one reader interferes with the signal from another where coverage overlaps. The easiest way to prevent this from happening is to use a technique called time division multiple access (TDMA).What is this? This is when the readers are instructed to read at different times, rather than both trying to read at the same time. This helps to ensure that they don't interfere with each other. It's important to remember that the system has to be set up so that if one reader reads a tag another reader does not read it again.

 

10. What is the read range for RFID?

Low-frequency tags are read from a foot or less.
High-frequency tags are read from about three feet.
UHF tags are read from 10 to 20 feet.

 

11. Is RFID waterproof?

Yes, the RFID tags used in our wristbands are testing to ensure that they are waterproof.

 

12. What is the difference between a “wet” and a “dry” tag?

Wet tag- Inlays that have an adhesive backing with a clear or colored top surface of PVC, PET or paper. The PVC or PET wet inlays are commonly used to make "RFID Labels" where the inlay is placed on the back of the label with the adhesive side away from the label side so that the label has continuous adhesive.
Dry tag- Inlays that are attached to the substrate backing material commonly called the web.

 

13. Am I going to expect 100% read rates every time?

While nothing in life is 100% (wouldn’t that be nice) read rates are pretty close, averaging between 95-99%. There are many factors that affect RFID tag read rates: a) the distance the tag is from the reader b) the substance the tag is placed on c) the tag orientation and design

 

14. I don’t have a huge IT department. I heard that using RFID is complicated.

The best thing about RFID is that it can be as simple or complex as you’d like. You can start simple and grow your RFID deployment as your budget grows. Try building on a single successful one-on-one case such as an Execution project, then add equipment as you expand and gain experience.

 

15. Is it true that you have to have a huge festival in order to implement RFID?

Recent studies proved ROI can be achieved within 1-2 years. In the last five years, costs have dramatically dropped for equipment and labels—allowing benefits on even the smallest festivals.

 

16. Speaking of budgets… mine is very small. Can I still utilize RFID?

This is the best part!!! RFID solutions can be as simple as a single standalone handheld reader, or as complex as a fully integrated system with fixed infrastructure. The solution delivers both direct and indirect ROI.

 

17. What is the biggest benefit from implementing RFID?

Implementing RFID across several lines of business is a great tool for reporting great success and then leveraging the data to your trading partners, and sponsors. Festivals for example are now able to more closely collaborate and allow for a plethora of possible interactions with their fans!

 

18. Is it harmful for my patrons, fans, guests, or myself to being wearing RFID technology?

Readers/scanners for RFID chips transmit normal radio waves, similar to that of a radio or television, just at shorter wavelengths. The tags respond to the magnetic field of the readers. In short, wearing RFID tags is generally not harmful for individuals to wear.

 

19. I love the environment and I’m afraid using RFID will add to electronic waste.

The volume of electronic waste from RFID chips is very manageable: Silicone tags are becoming ever smaller, the antenna loop consists of a wafer-thin copper or an aluminum layer and all of this makes up just a millionth of a gram (microgram). Most material is encased within a plastic body that can be recycled in the same way as plastic.

 

20. What information is stored on RFID tags?

It depends on the vendor and the application, but a typical tag carries no more than 2KB of data, just enough to store some basic information about the item it is on. Many festivals are using RFID to help build better festival experiences for their fans. Finally, customers get a true say in what they want without having to write long emails, and blogs to the festival organizers.

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