What Are RFID Tags and How Are They Used?

what are rfid tags

RFID technology has evolved rapidly in recent years, with new applications and tag types being developed all the time. However, many people are unfamiliar with RFID tags and how they work. In this article, we explain what RFID tags are and some of the most common uses.

What are RFID Tags?

RFID tags are tiny devices that emit a signal that can be read by an RFID reader. RFID tags are used in many industries, including retail, manufacturing, and logistics. They contain the following components:

  • RFID chip
  • Antennae
  • Substrate

The RFID chip stores information about the item to which it is attached. The antennae emit a signal that can be picked up by an RFID reader. The substrate provides strength and support for the other components.

The tags usually contain a unique identifier used to track the tag. When an RFID tag is read by an RFID reader, the reader can use the identifier to look up information about the tag on the database.

RFID tags are used in conjunction with sophisticated software. This allows the RFID reader to automatically update a database with information about the tags it reads. This can be used to track inventory or assets in real-time, which can be very useful for businesses.

What are the Components of RFID Tags?

The functionality of an RFID tag is determined by its components, which can vary depending on the application. At a basic level, however, most tags consist of three key elements:

An RFID Chip/Microchip

This is the computer chip that stores and processes data. It can be either active or passive, depending on its power requirements. For example, a passive tag requires an external source of energy to transmit information back to the reader, while an active tag includes a built-in battery and transmits on its own.

Antenna

An RFID tag needs an antenna to receive signals from the reader and respond with stored data. The size and shape of the antenna will depend on the type of RFID system being used, ranging from simple dipole antennas to more complex printed coils or patch antennas. 

Enclosure/Casing

To protect the chip and antenna, most RFID tags are encased in hard plastic or any other form of substrate. Depending on the application, some tags may also include additional layers of protection, such as RF-blocking film or temperature-sensitive material.

Types of RFID Tags

RFID tags are classified according to the type of RFID chip they contain. There are three main types of RFID tags:

  • Passive RFID tags
  • Active RFID tags
  • Battery-assisted passive (BAP) RFID tags

Passive tags are the most commonly used type of RFID tag. They are powered by the electromagnetic field emitted by the RFID reader. Passive tags are much cheaper than active tags, but they have a shorter range.

Active RFID tags contain a battery that powers the RFID chip and antennae. This allows them to have a much longer range than passive tags. Active tags are more expensive than passive tags but worth the extra cost for applications where long range is necessary.

Battery-assisted passive (BAP) RFID tags contain a battery used to power the RFID chip when the tag is outside of the range of the RFID reader. This allows the tag to be read at a longer range than a regular passive tag. BAP tags are more expensive than passive tags, but they offer the best of both worlds by combining the long range of active tags with the low cost of passive tags.

Besides this classification, RFID tags can be further categorized according to the frequency they use. There are three main frequencies used by RFID tags:

LF RFID tags use frequencies between 30 kHz and 300 kHz. They work optimally in any environment, including metallic and wet environments. However, these tags have a short read range of up to 10 cm. They are ideal for livestock tracking, security, and access control applications.

HF/NFC RFID inlays/tags use frequencies between 3 MHz and 30 MHz They have anti-collision features that allow multiple tags to be read simultaneously. HF RFID tags also have a longer read range than LF RFID tags, of up to 1 m. HF tags are often used in diverse applications, including access control, contactless payments, and event management.

UHF RFID inlays/ tags use frequencies between 300 MHz and 3 GHz. They have the longest read range of all RFID tags, up to 10 m or 100m (active). However, their efficiency is affected by obstacles such as metal and water. UHF RFID tags are used in applications such as warehouse management and asset tracking.

How are RFID Tags Used?

Using RFID tags in your business is facile. The installation is uncomplicated, and the procedure does not require you to change your current work methods. The whole process of setting up an RFID tagging system is as follows:

  • Choose Ideal RFID Tag. This involves selecting the appropriate tag for your needs. Its application will affect the choice. If you want to track assets in a warehouse, you will need an RFID tag with a long read range. If you need to track livestock, you will need a tag that can withstand harsh conditions, preferably low frequency.
  • Write the Tags. This is the process of encoding information on the RFID tag. This can be done using an RFID programmer. If you have a large number of tags to write, you can use an RFID printer. This will allow you to print and encode the tags at the same time.
  • Install the Tags. This is the process of attaching the RFID tag to the asset or location you want to track. For example, if you want to track inventory in a warehouse, you would attach an RFID tag to each item.
  • Install RFID Readers. RFID readers are used to read the information on the RFID tags. They come in a variety of form factors, including handheld RFID readers, desktop RFID readers, and fixed RFID readers. Choose the reader that best suits your needs.
  • Configure the Software. This is the process of setting up the software that will be used to manage the data collected by the RFID system. This includes configuring the software to read the data from the RFID tags and write it to a database.
  • Test the System. Once the system is up and running, it is critical to test it to ensure it is working as expected. This can be done by checking the data collected by the system against the data in the database.
  • Track Your Items. After the system is up and running, you can start tracking your assets. This can be done in real-time or at regular intervals, depending on your needs.

You can get an expert to help you with the installation and configuration of your RFID tagging system. This will ensure that the system is installed correctly and is working as expected.

Additionally, ensure you train your employees on how to use the system. This will help them understand how the system works and how they can use it to track assets in your business.

How to Attach RFID Tags to Objects?

RFID tags can be attached to objects in many ways. The most common method is to use an adhesive. Adhesives are available in a variety of formulations, including permanent and removable.

Permanent adhesives are best suited for objects that will not be moved frequently. On the other hand, removable adhesives are best suited for objects that will be moved frequently.

Another common method for attaching RFID tags is to sew them onto objects. This is mostly used with RFID clothing tags and RFID laundry tags.

RFID tags can also be attached to objects using other methods, such as rivets, screws, and bolts. Choose the method that best suits your needs.

It is important to note that RFID tags can be attached to almost any object, regardless of its size, shape, or material. Just ensure that the tag is properly secured to the object to prevent it from being lost or damaged.

Benefits of Using RFID Tags

RFID tags offer many benefits over traditional barcodes, including the following:

  • No Need for Line of Sight. This means that RFID tags can be read without having to be in the line of sight of the reader. This is critical for tracking assets in a warehouse, as it allows you to track items on shelves.
  • Long Read Range. RFID tags have a long read range, meaning they can be read from a distance (up to 100 meters) depending on the tag type and reader. This way, you can track assets spread out over a large area, such as a construction site.
  • Fast Read Rate. RFID tags can be read quickly, meaning you can track a large number of assets in a short period. This feature makes it ideal for businesses that have a high turnover of inventory, such as retail stores.
  • High Capacity. RFID tags can store more information than barcodes, meaning you can track more data about your assets. As such, you can use it in businesses that need to track a lot of data about their assets, such as the serial number, model number, and date of purchase.
  • Reusable. Read/write RFID tags can be reused, meaning you do not have to replace them every time you need to track a new asset. This is important for businesses that track a large number of assets, as it saves money in the long run.

While the advantages of using RFID tags are clear, there are also some disadvantages that you should be aware of.

For example, the initial cost of RFID tags is higher than that of barcodes. This is because RFID tags and RFID readers are complex & more expensive. Additionally, the entire RFID system needs to be installed and configured, which can also add to the cost.

Additionally, security concerns are rife with RFID technology. This is because RFID tags can be read without the owner’s knowledge or permission. As such, it is important to take measures to protect the data stored on RFID tags.

Despite these disadvantages, RFID tag is a popular technology that offers many benefits over traditional barcoding systems. If you are looking to track assets in your business, RFID tags are worth considering.

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