Understanding the Different Types of RFID Systems

Different Types of RFID Systems

Understanding the Different Types of RFID Systems

When you have recently opened a business, you are busy tackling many things simultaneously. During your busy schedule, you are losing track of things and scratching your head with inventory management. But is it really that tough? Is there any system that can track and magically track your processes? Yes! An RFID reader.  

RFID, or radio frequency identification, offers almost magic-like visibility into assets and inventory flow using wireless tags and sensors. Unlike manual barcode scanning or GPS (global positioning system) tracking, RFID infrastructure tracks tagged objects automatically, requiring no human intervention.  

In this blog, we’ll explore the main components of an RFID system and the different types available. 

What are RFID Tags? 

The foundation of any RFID system is the RFID tag or transponder. RFID tags contain a tiny RFID chip and antenna, which transmit data to RFID readers. Tags may be active (battery-powered), passive (no battery), or battery-assisted passive (BAP).  

Passive tags activate only when they enter an RFID reader’s field. Active and BAP RFID tags contain a battery to extend their read range.  

RFID readers generate low- and high-frequency radio waves to activate passive RFID tags and pick up signals from active tags to form an electromagnetic field. When an RFID tag enters this field, it transmits its data, which is picked up by the reader’s antenna. Two types of RFID readers are: 

Handheld RFID Readers 

Efficient for on-the-go inventory management, handheld RFID readers combine mobility with advanced capabilities. With handheld RFID readers, workers can perform standalone inventory checks, cycle counts, and asset tracking throughout facilities. Most connect to WiFi and host user-friendly interfaces. 

Fixed RFID Readers 

Offering 24/7 automated tracking, fixed RFID readers continuously monitor set areas via Ethernet connections. They allow centralised data monitoring from a desktop interface versus handheld local operation. Their stationary antenna placements also avoid line-of-sight requirements, offering more reliable scans. Leading RFID systems can process a large number of tags across wide inventories. 

Different Types of RFID Systems 

Let’s explore the four common RFID frequency types: 

Low-Frequency RFID Systems 

Low-frequency, or LF, systems operate around 125-134 kHz. LF waves leverage magnetic induction, allowing tags to be read even right on top of liquids or metals. This grants LF RFID extensive usage for tracking metal products through production lines and asset management. 

LF RFID tags only require small antenna loops, thus enabling very compact transponders. LF waves, however, only transmit over shorter distances—usually under 1 foot—unless amplified by additional batteries. 

High-Frequency RFID Systems 

The next tier up, high-frequency or HF RFID, utilises 13.56 MHz radio waves, or frequencies very close by. HF strikes an excellent balance between detection range and transmission power cost in electromagnetically noisy environments. HF RFID readers can pick up tags from 1-2 feet away passively to over 20 feet actively using battery-assisted tags. 

Leveraging greater distances than LF RFID, high-frequency systems work well for securing valuable assets, inventory management, and more industries. 

UHF RFID Systems 

Ultra-high-frequency RFID systems transmit between 860-960 MHz radio waves for longer reading distances across wider areas. UHF RFID tags ride the greater signal strength, offering faster simultaneous batch scans compared to LF or HF, allowing warehouses to read entire pallets simultaneously. UHF RFID tags can be read reliably at 7-20+ meters.  

Microwave RFID 

At the far end of RFID frequency spectrums, microwave RFID systems utilise GHz frequencies to read tags over distances of 100+ meters. Fewer microscopic tag antennas mean fewer microwave RFID tags see embedded usage; they become too bulky at smaller sizes.  

Bottom Line 

Determining optimal RFID frequencies constitutes a vital first step in deploying radio frequency identification infrastructure. Forward-thinking companies even integrated RFID and related technologies into complete software solutions catered to specific sectors. 

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