Implementing RFID

RFID has been all the buzz these last couple of years. Some say RFID is the “Mark of the Beast.” Others see it as a big brother, government privacy invasion. In the supply chain world and in other aspects of business, there are huge benefits to using RFID.

About three years ago I co-founded with my uncle a company called Sweaty Palms Software, which was a company specializing in software creation for the Palm OS and barcode scanning handhelds. Lots of businesses saw Microsoft as taking the market, which has happened, they decided to move towards Windows CE .NET handheld computers. Before we decided to let the business go, I was able to do a little bit of research into RFID but found that it was very hard to find information for implementing rfid.

Yesterday, I was able to jump back into the RFID technology game and do some research on implementing rfid in various business settings. I think rfid is finally to the point to where more and more people are going to be able to start implementing the technology in their arena of business.

One thing I didn’t understand was that there are so many different types of rfid tags and readers out there. Here is a summary of definitions and technologies that one must understand in deciding what types of devices and tags they want to use to begin implementing rfid.

EPC (Electronic Product Code) –

  • is the standard encoding used on industry RFID tags
  • consists of EPC version, Manufacture Code, SKU, and Serial Number

Active vs. Passive Tags

  • Active Tags – battery powered tags (lasts from 5 to 10 years). Transmits long distances (up to 100 meters). Usually cost $20+ per tag.
  • Passive Tags – powered by reader’s radio waves. Transmits short distances. Cost around $.50 per tag

Read/Write-ability of Tags

  • Type 0: Read-only
  • Type 0+: Read/Write – Can be written to (once) by a reader
  • Type 1: Read/Write – Can be rewritten by a reader

Common Frequencies and Standards

  • Low Frequency – 125 KHz
    • Read range: less than 0.5m (1.5 ft)
    • Used for: Access control, animal tracking, vehicle immobilizers, POS applications
  • High Frequency – 13.56 MHz (ISO 15693)
    • Read range: 1m (3 ft) a.k.a. “Vicinity” reader
    • Used for: Access control, smart cards, smart shelves, item level tracking such as baggage handling, library books, etc.
  • High Frequency – 13.56 MHz (ISO 14443)
    • Read range: couple of inches “Proximity” readers
  • Ultra-High Frequency – 860 MHz – 930 MHz
    • Read range: 3m (10 ft)
    • Used for: Pallet tracking, electronic toll collection, baggage handling
  • Microwave Frequency – 2.45 GHz / 5.8 GHz
    • Read range: 1m (3 ft)
    • Used for: Supply Chain applications & electronic toll collection

Sources: Symbol, Psion TekLogix

Once you determine the application of rfid, you can then begin to purchase the hardware and begin developing software that will allow you to benefit from this amazing new technology.