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What is RFID?

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a generic term that is used to describe a system that transmits the identity (in the form of a unique serial number) of an object or person wirelessly, using radio waves. It's grouped under the broad category of automatic identification technologies.

RFID is in use all around us. If you have ever chipped your pet with an ID tag, used EZPass through a toll booth, or paid for gas using SpeedPass, you've used RFID. In addition, RFID is increasingly used with biometric technologies for security.

Unlike ubiquitous UPC bar-code technology, RFID technology does not require contact or line of sight for communication. RFID data can be read through the human body, clothing and non-metallic materials.

A basic RFID system consists of three components:

    * An antenna or coil
    * A transceiver (with decoder)
    * A transponder (RF tag) electronically programmed with unique information
    * The antenna emits radio signals to activate the tag and to read and write data to it.
    * The reader emits radio waves in ranges of anywhere from one inch to 100 feet or more, depending upon its power output and the radio frequency used. When an RFID tag passes through the electromagnetic zone, it detects the reader's activation signal.
    * The reader decodes the data encoded in the tag's integrated circuit (silicon chip) and the data is passed to the host computer for processing.

The purpose of an RFID system is to enable data to be transmitted by a portable device, called a tag, which is read by an RFID reader and processed according to the needs of a particular application. The data transmitted by the tag may provide identification or location information, or specifics about the product tagged, such as price, color, date of purchase, etc. RFID technology has been used by thousands of companies for a decade or more. . RFID quickly gained attention because of its ability to track moving objects. As the technology is refined, more pervasive - and invasive - uses for RFID tags are in the works.

A typical RFID tag consists of a microchip attached to a radio antenna mounted on a substrate. The chip can store as much as 2 kilobytes of data.

To retrieve the data stored on an RFID tag, you need a reader. A typical reader is a device that has one or more antennas that emit radio waves and receive signals back from the tag. The reader then passes the information in digital form to a computer system.

Current and Potential Uses of RFID

    • Asset Tracking
    • Manufacturing
    • Supply Chain Management
    • Retailing
    • Payment Systems
    • Security and Access Control

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