Although barcode technologies help in improving identification, traceability and productivity of an item, it has certain limitations as well. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is another well-established technology that could emit a coded signal in response to remote radio frequencies. Today, it is utilized as a powerful identification tool for an array of industries. It helps to keep the records of  medications, inventory and supply chain tracking, and also helps to allow authorized personnel in secure areas. You might have encountered this kind of technology in your daily life:

  • Speeding through checkouts with your tap-to-pay chip
  • Stepping through scanners on your way out of the store
  • Scanning your toll pass on the way to work.

How does RFID technology transmit information?

Information can be passed remotely through waves. A wave is a created disturbance that travels through a medium such as air or water. Energy is transmitted through the medium that travels in the form of regular vibrations. The distance between these vibrations is the wavelength, while the time between vibrations determines the wave frequency.

Active RFID systems work on battery, wherein the ID chip emits signal on its own. Passive RFID systems have an additional step. It requires a scanner to transmit a radio signal so that the ID chip can emit a signal back. In this article, we’ll cover passive RFID systems. They are more prominent due to their convenience, robustness, and capacity to be made in much smaller sizes. The three main components of a passive RFID system include:

  1. A tag: Attached to a remote object, has antenna and an integrated circuit chip that captures the data used to identify the item.
  2. A scanner/reader: This device transmits a signal to the tag and receives a signal in return.
  3. A data processing system (i.e. computer): This system, use the scanner’s signal and match it to associated information stored in the database.

How does the tag store and send out data?

An electromagnetic induction made by RF signals from the scanner helps to control passive RFID tags. Energy is gathered from the incoming RF waves by the antenna and the power is sent to the chip. As the power runs through the circuit of the chip, the current is obstructed in a pattern that is unique to that chip, which helps in modulating the signal that is reflected back towards the scanner. This is accomplished through a shift in amplitude, where the signal strength of the reflected wave is changed comparative with the approaching waveform. This adjusted signal is explicit to one chip and, subsequently, one item in a database.

Benefits of RFID technology

RFID technology does not require line of sight: Barcodes need complete visibility and high image quality to be scanned, whereas RFID tags can be scanned easily when covered or embedded within an item. Furthermore, RFID tags can withstand Weather conditions whereas barcode can get scratched or smudged, making it unscannable.

Stores more data: RFID Chips’ data is stored in the form of Electronic Product Code (EPC) and User Memory. Then, EPC Memory is utilized to store a particular EPC number associated with the chip and contains 96-128 Bits. For this EPC Number to disclose anything about the Item, it should first look into a corresponding entry in a database. Some chips have no memory, while others can have a number of pieces of storage. Information put away in user memory can be changed, which is particularly valuable when the Item is engaged in an ongoing cycle that requires updates.

Ability to scan multiple items simultaneously: RFID technology enhances the order fulfilment process by providing the ability to scan various products at the same time. With this technology, the workers will be able to control the way they scan items for specific orders, which can significantly speed up the process. This can then lead directly to business growth in revenue and profits.

Better data protection and privacy: RFID tags are very complicated for replication. Although they emit signals in response to any scanner of the correct output signal, advancements have been made and encryptions are used to shield his data, ensuring that sensitive information is kept well-guarded.

How can this help us?

Suppose you’re looking for a particular item in your storage room. You might have gone through a lot of similar looking racks and boxes. Without a detailed inventory of the item’s exact location, you might need to open each box one by one. By implementing RFID labels, it’s easy to locate your item inside each box without even opening the lid. This helps to save time while also protecting the samples from recurring opening.