RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) – A Brief Guide

Charles John April 10, 2018 No Comments

Among the most irritating experiences in shopping, standing long queues to get the items you have purchased run through a scanner into the system is on top of the list. However, this can be cut short by the application of RFID technology in the sector.

What is RFID?

RFID (radio frequency identification) refers to the technology in which data is encoded in unique tags and tracked by electromagnetic fields that interrogate radio waves from the labels and feed them into the system. Similar to UPC (universal product code), RFID can be used to track sales at a faster rate and within larger radii. With the application of this technology, shopping will be as easy as filling your basket with items and walking out of the mall. Electronic, magnetic fields will interrogate the codes on your products and fed into the system. After the system determines the amount that you should pay for the goods, the bill is then transmitted to your electronic bank and the amount charged.

This technology will not only allow shopping centres to serve more people as queues will be a thing of the past. Additionally, companies will have an easier time tracking their products thus ensuring that no product goes out of stock.

Working of RFID

For an RFID system to operate, two major components are required; the key and the reader. The key is a label that is embedded with a transmitter and a receiver used to relay various information. The tag consists of a microchip and an antenna used for transmitting signals that contain serial numbers for particular products. When passed via an RFID reader, the system emits a signal that activates the tags in the products that in turn send encoded information which in most cases is a serial number to the system. The information is transmitted to a network through a communications interface. The host computer system uses this information to determine the amount of products purchased and their worth before transferring them to a billing system.

However, two types of tags can be used in the procedure: an active tag that is fitted with a battery activated in the presence of an RFID reader and thus relaying information independently. A passive tag, on the other hand, has no power source of its own and therefore depends on the power of the frequency transmitted to relay encoded information to the reader. To avoid collision of data from different tags, collision detection is applied in the RFID system. This enables the system to read each code amidst similar tags thus allowing the order to determine the number of similar products.

History of RFID

RFID technology was first applied by Leon Theremin in 1945 when he designed a listening device for the Soviet Union. In Leon’s model, radio waves were transmitted with additional audio information. The sound waves vibrated the diaphragm of the model thus altering the resonator’s shape, therefore, modulating the reflected radio frequency. Later in 1948, Harry stockman conducted more research on the field and concluded that extra research needed to be carried to solve power problems that were reflected in the model.

Twenty-five years later, the predecessor of modern RFID was brought into life by Mario Cardullo. Mario’s model consisted of a passive radio transponder with memory. This operated under sound and light media transmission. The technology was seen to apply to some fields that included the banking and the medical sectors. Later in 1973, the technology got a significant advancement after Stephen Depp, Robert Frayman and Alfred Koelle created a 915 MHz portable system that applied the use of 12-bit tags. As years went by, the field experienced several rapid changes and got integrated into some areas where it proves to be fruitful.

Applications of RFID

Inventory management- among the sectors that will rip the most from RFID is inventory management. This because manufacturers will be able to access the sales made from different stores with ease thus restocking items in time. Additionally, the companies will quickly count inventory in a short duration of time with the use of handheld RFID readers.

Asset tracking:

Among the sectors that fancy RFID is asset tracking. RFID allows you to gain access to your assets in real-time and automatically update the location of the assets. Mostly, RFID is used in tracking cattle thus easy pinpointing of the location of each animal. With the help of RFID, you will not lose any cow in the grazing field or to robbers as you will readily track them to where their location. Additionally, this technology is used in tracking of vehicles and some cases people suffering a specific disease.

Id badging:

The safety of enterprises and offices is among the critical security issues every company upholds. This is achieved by regulating the people who gain access to specific rules mostly enabled by assignment of badges with a unique serial figure. With the use of RFID tags, companies will be able to authorize particular individuals to specific rooms and prevent unauthorized access. This will be safer than other methods of approval as it will be less prone to hacking and other shortcomings.

Supply chain management:

Another field that will rip the most benefits from RFID is the supply chain management and logistics. As a result of RFID, stores will be able to achieve efficiency which is the crucial factor to optimum supply. This will be accomplished by real-time data relayed through RFID thus giving the companies an upper hand in decision making.

Counterfeit prevention:

Among the major problems facing the market, counterfeiting ranks on top of the list. With the application of RFID, one will be able to tell fakes from originals as you will quickly know the source of commodities. This will do away with counterfeit products in the market thus ensuring that only genuine products are ferried in the market.

Attendee tracking:

RFID will enable people to track the number of people that show up in conferences. This will be a faster deal than manual registration, and one will be able to tell the number of people that attended a meeting until it was over.

Challenges facing RFID

Like any other new technologies, RFID also faces resistance from people. This because it will gain access to confidential documents and thus put one at risk of privacy intrusion. Additionally, RFID encounters anomalies that include reading of data that is not intended to be read, duplicate readings that arise with the second interpretation of codes and not understanding of codes. These anomalies may lead to false observations and also lead to smaller profit margins in supply companies. Additionally, the application of RFID will be an expensive endeavour as it requires sophisticated levels of technology to be put into use.

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