To people not familiar with radio frequency identification (RFID), the vocabulary of RFID solutions can sound like a completely different world with a language of its own.
Whether you’re just visiting or have been speaking RFID for some time now, you probably have at least a passing familiarity with the lingo. There is a big difference, however, between speaking just enough of a language to get by, and truly understanding all of the nuances of vocabulary. RFID technology itself is versatile and can be configured, adjusted and combined in many different ways to create cost-effective solutions with just the right read range and minimal interference.
As you're exploring all of the possibilities RFD solutions can offer, it can be hard to keep up with someone who speaks fluent RFID. Here is a quick overview of some key RFID vocabulary and what these terms mean, so you can speak RFID like a pro.
You can’t have RFID without frequency. As one of the components of the acronym, the word comes up ... well, frequently. It represents the number of times an electromagnetic wave cycle is completed in one second.
Frequency is measured in hertz. When used to describe radio frequency, it is more often measured in kilohertz (one thousand cycles), megahertz (one million cycles), and gigahertz (200 billion cycles). While exploring RFID solutions, you’ll find options that work on the following wavelengths:
Each frequency range has advantages and disadvantages, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.
For applications that require data to be read from greater distances, up to 25 feet or more,ultra-high frequency (UHF) can be an efficient and cost-effective RFID solution. This includes situations where the goal is to track a large number of assets as they move through a particular area. UHF RFID is ideal for inventory or asset tracking (retail clothing for example) and is often used to improve supply chain processes.
Whether your need is in a warehouse, retail store, or healthcare organization, you’ll most likely find yourself discussing the benefits of ultra-high frequency RFID solutions with your solutions provider.
High-frequency RFID, on the other hand, might be a good solution when security is paramount, such as with access point restriction or when tracking sensitive information such as payment and personal health details. In these instances, high-frequency (HF) solutions are ideal because they usually require readers and tags to be in very close contact with one another--often even touching -- to communicate, limiting the potential for information to be intercepted.
High-frequency RFID systems can be found in all kinds of applications where personnel must touch a tag to a reader. Examples include:
- office buildings
- amusement parks
Sometimes, signals from other radio frequency or electronic systems cross paths with signals from RFID systems, creating noise that gets in the way of the information you’re trying to collect. This is known as interference. There are a few ways that interference can occur.
RFID tag interference occurs when a reader picks up on the signals of multiple RFID chips, making it unable to read any of them effectively. Interference can also occur when multiple readers pick up on the signal of a single tag at the same time. When this happens, results are unreliable and inconsistent.
Another way interference can occur is if multiple readers pick up on each other’s signals; this negatively impacts the function of each reader. There’s no way around it: Interference happens. But when systems are properly configured and installed, an experienced RFID solutions provider can ensure that equipment is adjusted and positioned optimally. This minimizes and controls interference.
Passive and Active RFID Solutions
In many cases, interference and frequency limitations can be overcome with a little bump in power. This is one of the many elements that an RFID solutions provider will take into consideration when determining what kind of RFID system is best suited to accomplishing your goals. RFID systems can be divided into two general categories--passive and active--and are classified by the way their tags receive power and transmit data.
Active tags have their own power sources, usually a battery, and can broadcast their own signals, which send the data stored on their microchips to the reader. Active tags can have a read-range of up to 300 feet, and are ideal for wide-scale operations that are designed to track large assets, such as shipping containers and other large cargo items. These systems can require a lot of maintenance and can be among the more expensive RFID solution options.
Passive transponders, on the other hand, tend to be much less expensive and have capabilities that make them incredibly versatile, including the ability to work across ultra-high, low, and high frequencies. Passive transponders come in a wide variety of forms, including tags, labels, cards, and fobs, and usually do not contain their own sources of power or transmit information. Instead, passive transponders have an RFID chip connected to an antenna that draws energy from a reader and reflects it back to transmit its data. Your solutions provider can help you determine the best system for your needs.
RFID Solutions Provider
This brings us to the last, but certainly not least important, term: solutions provider. Okay, so maybe that isn’t a vocabulary term that you will find in our RFID glossary. However, your solutions provider is absolutely critical to the success of your RFID solution.
RFID systems have a broad range of technical limitations, capabilities, and combinations that must be carefully installed and configured to provide you with the most cost-effective, efficient solution for your asset tracking needs. Your RFID-fluent solutions provider should bring their expert knowledge to help you make decisions about what’s best for your company. You will soon find that being able to speak RFID will take you one step closer to your perfect RFID solution.
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