What is Radio Frequency Identification?
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What is RFID?

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. RFID is a method of transfering data wirelessly through the use of radio waves. Whether you know it or not, you are likely surrounded by RFID technology... it's in your credit cards, smartphones, key fobs, passports, at most retail stores and more. An RFID system generally consists of three components: RFID tags, RFID readers and RFID antennae. RFID tags act similar to a barcode however RFID tags can be scanned from greater distances, through objects and without a direct line of sight between the reader and the tag. The RFID reader and the connected antennae are able to "see" the tag while it is within an antenna's radio frequency field.



RFID tags typically come in three forms: Ultra-High Frequency, High Frequency and Low Frequency. Each tag consists of its own antenna used to send and receive data and a tiny chip that stores data, the tag's unique "barcode" number. When a tag enters an RFID field, the tag receives the radio frequency in the form of energy. The energy is used to power the RFID chip where its data is retrieved and sent back through the tag's antenna to the RFID antennae and reader. RFID tags can be custom encoded with data and come in all shapes and sizes to accomodate different use cases and applications. Learn more about our custom RFID tag printing & encoding services here and see Snively's own custom RFID tag, the Barette 2600.

Ultra-High Frequency

  • 860 - 960 MHz
  • The most common type of tag when using RFID technologies. UHF tags are either active or passive. Active tags utilize a battery to increase read range and increase storage capacity. Passive tags do not require a battery and rely solely on the power received though the radio frequencies from the reader.

High Frequency

  • 13.56 MHz
  • Most commonly associated with Near Field Communication (NFC). NFC offers a very short read range but with larger storage capacities. Inter-device communication and data transfer is also acheiveable through NFC. Most of today's modern smartphones contain a NFC reader to enable features like Apple Pay and Google Wallet

Low Frequency

  • 30 - 300 kHz
  • Low Frequency RFID tags are generally used in livestock tracking and access control systems. LF tags generally provide short read ranges and a relatively small amount of data storage.

RFID Readers

RFID readers are the brains of an RFID system. They are the devices that generate and receive the radio waves carrying data that bounce between the RFID tags and the reader's antennae. There are different readers for each of the different tag types. For instance, a UHF RFID reader can only read UHF RFID tags. Readers also come in a variety of form factors. Typically, there are Fixed, Gateway and Mobile RFID readers. Depending on the environment, each type of reader can provide their own unique benefits. Shop our RFID readers here.

Fixed Readers

  • Fixed reader configurations can be easily customized to suit a variety of different scenarios and dynamic environments. Fixed readers require peripheral antennae and antenna cables to communicate with nearby RFID tags. Depending on how many antenna ports are on a reader, multiple antennas can be attached.

Gateway Readers

  • Gateway readers are fixed readers housed in an enclosure with its designated antennae. Gateway readers have become more sophisticated over the years and can provide excellent, directional RF coverage. They also come in elegant enclosures, perfect for customer-facing environments.

Mobile Readers

  • Mobile RFID readers usually contain a single antenna and run off battery power. Most mobile RFID readers are integrated into a mobile computer or come in the form of a sled that can attach to smartphones and other mobile devices. Mobile readers are great for rapid inventory and other manufacturing workflows.

RFID Antennae

All RFID readers, and even RFID tags use antennae. RFID antennae convert the reader's signals into radio waves that are picked up by RFID tags. For fixed readers, antennae attach to the reader like speakers attach to a stereo. Depending on how many ports a reader has, they can support up to 32 antennae. Antennae can then be attenuated to various power levels just like the speaker volume can be turned up and down. The higher the attenuation, the more powerful the radio field and read distance. Antennae come in several types and form factors depending on your specific application. Shop our RFID antennae here.

Linear Polarized Antennae

  • Linear Polarized antennae emits radio waves in a linear fashion, on a single, vertical or horizontal plane. Linear antennae tend to have greater read ranges over other antennae types. Linear antennae are sensitive to tag orientation. RFID tags must be properly oriented with the antennna, meaning the tag must on the same plane as the radio waves.

Circular Polarized Antennae

  • Circular Polarized antennae disperse radio waves in a conical pattern covering both horizontal and vertical planes. Because of the horizontal and vertical coverage, circular polarized antennae are not sensitive to tag orientation, meaning the tag can be oriented in any direction within the RF field and still be read. Circular antennae experience great read ranges but usually do not read as far as linear antennas.

Near-Field Antennae

  • Near-field antennae are not polarized as they only use magnetic fields for communication. They provide a short, constant read zone with virtually no "dead zones". Near-field antennae are great for applications where a short, reliable read range is required. Near-field antennae are also more less effected by metals and liquids that can interfere with electromagnetic fields.