What is RFID technology?
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a wireless technology that uses radio waves to identify objects without a direct line of sight and store small amounts of data on RFID transponders or RFID tags.
RFID is a versatile technology with a wide range of applications. It is commonly used in logistics, supply chain management, and retail. RFID tags can also be used to identify assets, animals, and people. Thanks to the low cost and small size, RFID can be employed in many industries and is one of the building blocks of the Internet of Things.
How is an RFID system built?
Three main parts make up an RFID system: RFID transponders (commonly also known as RFID tags or smart labels), RFID readers/writers, and RFID software or RFID middleware.
- A small antenna and a microprocessor make up the electronic components of an RFID tag (transponder). Single items, pallets, shipping units, etc. can all have tags attached to them. RFID tags can be scanned without direct line of sight and they are more durable than barcodes and can withstand harsh environments which is especially important in industrial applications.
- The tags (transponders) are given energy by the readers. Every RFID transponder that is within the reader’s read range is automatically enabled and starts sending data to the device, such as its serial number or Electronic Product Code (EPC).
- Subsequently, the RFID middleware gathers all of this data, combines it, and handles the interaction with any ERP, warehouse management system, or other software backend.
What different types of RFID are there?
Technically there are three different types of RFID available: passive RFID, semi-passive RFID, and active RFID but in 90% of the cases, people mean the passive kind when talking about RFID.
In passive RFID the transponder has no own power source but is powered via the field from the RFID reader. This has the advantage that the RFID transponder can be cheap, small, and will last a long time. These RFID tags are attached to objects or people that contain a unique identifier or electronic product code (EPC) that can be read by an RFID reader over a distance of typically 1 – 10 meters. The reader then sends this information to a linked computer, which can then be used to get more information about the object like a price or manufacturer name, or track the object’s last location.
In the 2000s people were also using semi-passive (or battery-assisted) RFID tags. These tags are made up of a passive tag configuration and a power source, often a thin battery or some kind of energy harvesting component. Since these semi-passive tags don’t have to receive their energy from the reader, the read range is greater than that of the passive tags. When compared to passive tags, they are more costly and have a shorter lifespan. However since modern passive RFID readers and transponders have become much more performant and energy efficient over the years, the read range of a passive RFID system is usually far enough for most applications. The importance of semi-passive transponders has therefore decreased a lot over the years. Today they are mainly used in combination with sensor transponders (that measure temperature, pressure, etc.) where additional power is required for the sensor.
The last type of RFID uses active RFID tags. Here, an energy source, primarily a battery, plus a transmitter make up an active tag. While these systems could be classified as RFID, it is usually a full real-time localization system and it makes more sense to classify them as such. Examples are active tracking systems for indoor localization
What are the benefits of RFID?
RFID has several benefits over other identification technologies, such as barcodes. RFID tags can be read over a longer distance without visual contact, which makes them ideal for applications where objects need to be tracked without human intervention. This allows RFID to fully automate the process of data transmission. The resulting read events form the basis of the Internet of Things and are the raw data from which knowledge about the underlying processes is gained.
What does Metratec offer?
Being part of the industry for 18 years and our aim to simplify manual work through process optimization with the positive effect of digitization by providing our customers with updated and latest RFID technology, has led us to research & develop a wide range of products for our clients to meet their technological requirements. Metratec’s portfolio includes:
- Embedded RFID Modules – Integrate RFID into your machine or product in the shortest time possible.
- RFID Readers – The central component of every RFID system available as packaged products or embedded modules.
- RFID Antennas – Simple but crucial components in RFID to send data and power.
- RFID Multiplexers – For connecting multiple antennas to one reader.
- RFID Middleware – The software component to connect your RFID hardware with your ERP, WMS, or other software backend.
- Complete RFID Systems – Integration of all necessary components in one finished product.
- RFID Starter Kits – All necessary components to start the RFID journey for the first time.
On a technical level, Metratec offers products for two types of RFID technologies:
HF RFID (at 13.56 MHz): Short-range and mid-range high-frequency RFID technology for access control, tracking consumable and replacement parts, and factory automation. More background information on HF RFID can be found here.
UHF RFID (at 868/920 MHz): Mid-range and long-range ultra high-frequency RFID technology for retail, logistics, and process optimization applications. More background information on UHF RFID can be found here.
To learn even more about the technical background of each type, click on the logo below.