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RFID: A Quick Guide to Radio Frequency Identification

Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, represents the latest technology in the barcode industry. The RFID operates in a similar manner to traditional barcodes and scanners, except that information is transmitted via radio frequency. This means that the RFID does not have to be visibly accessible for the reader to interpret its signal. The technology has slowly gained popularity, and although it will probably never replace traditional barcode labels entirely, RFID offers new functionality for a wide variety of industries and applications.

How an RFID Works

Each RFID contains an integrated circuit (IC) and an antenna. These two devices work together to transmit data. The size of each part is relatively small, so RFID’s can be created in a variety of sizes and shapes. When the RFID tag comes close to a reader, the reader decodes the radio signal and reads the data. Because the RFID needs power to work, active tags actually contain a battery to power the transmission. Meanwhile, passive tags are powered by the signal from the reader.

Data that is stored on an RFID may be protected. Much like a blank CD, RFID tags may be read-only, or they may allow for rewriting. However RFIDs offer the additional capability of restricting certain pieces of data, and allowing others to be overwritten.

Applications for RFID Tags

Organizations that handle mass shipments, such as the US Department of Defense and Wal-Mart, already require suppliers and vendors to use RFID for tracking purposes. Since RFID tags can hold much more data than traditional barcodes, they have many novel applications beyond those of traditional barcodes:

Although RFID adoption has been slower than originally predicted, the technology continues to find new uses and niche applications. Undoubtedly the RFID will come to coexist with traditional barcodes, giving businesses additional choices for labeling and tracking their products.