RFID is a relatively new technology to many Auto-ID solutions providers. At Cross-Check, our engineers have been working with RFID systems for over 16 years.

As more and more companies adopt RFID technology, Cross-Check has expanded to meet customer needs and offers a wide range of RFID systems using low frequency (LF), high frequency (HF) and ultra-high frequency (UHF) products. RFID technology is finding more and more uses in a wide selection of industries from manufacturing to logistics, distribution and supply chain and even in office environments.

In many cases customers look to Cross-Check’s industry expertise to advise them on which frequency is most suitable for their application.

So what is RFID?

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)

Radio Frequency Identification is an automatic identification method, relying on storage and remotely retrieving data using devices called tags.

RFID is similar to barcode technology but uses radio waves to capture data from tags, rather than optically scanning the barcodes on a label. The key benefit of this is that the tag or label does not need to be in line of sight, allowing for flexibility and safety in harsh industrial environments.

How does it work?

RFID systems are reliant on three key components:

  • Tag (Passive, semi-passive or active)
  • Reader (also known as antenna or integrator)
  • Software (also known as middleware)

Information is sent to and read from RFID tags by a reader using radio waves. In passive systems, which are the most common type of tag, an RFID reader transmits just enough energy to power the tag and allow it to respond. In active systems, the tag has an internal battery. This allows for greater operating range and allows extra complexity in the tag through features such as temperature sensing. The data that is collected by the reader is then passed through cable or wirelessly to computer hosts for interpretation, storage, and further use.

What is an RFID tag?

Although appearances may vary from buttons to sticky labels or encased units, RFID tags come in two main categories: passive, where the tag has no power source and is ‘woken up’ by the RFID Reader, or active, where the tag has a battery and powers itself.
RFID Tags can also be either read-only, read/write or a combination of the two where some data is permanently stored and other memory is left accessible for later encoding and updates.

Passive Tags

Passive RFID tags lack a traditional power supply, instead receiving a micro-charge from incoming radio signals to power their circuits and transmit a response to the reader. Though the aerial or antenna has to be designed specifically to accomplish this, their lack of internal power source means that passive tags have an unlimited lifespan and can be reduced to extremely small sizes.

Active Tags

Active tags have their own power source. Although they can’t be as minute as passive tags, they are typically more reliable as they can initiate a ‘session’ with a reader rather than relying on being ‘woken up’ by a radio signal. They also transmit at higher power levels than passive tags, allowing them to be more effective in environments that pose challenges to radio frequencies, such as water (and cattle or humans, which are also mostly water) or metal environments like shipping containers or vehicles, or across longer distances.

Active RFID tags also allow for extra sensors to detect more information than passive tags. Examples of sensors that have been implemented into active tags include:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Shock/vibration
  • Light
  • Radiation

What is an RFID Reader?

An RFID Reader is a radio frequency (RF) transmitter and receiver, or transceiver, controlled by a microprocessor or digital signal processor (DSP). RFID readers send and receive signals from RFID tags, passing the info transferred to a computer for processing and further use.

What is RFID Software?

RFID software is the digital software that deciphers the radio waves from RFID tags and translates it into usable data. This can either be programmed into the RFID Reader itself, or separately on a PC or laptop.

So that’s RFID, an extremely useful technology with an enormous range of uses. Not quite convinced? Give us a call on +44 (0) 1789 761 340 and we’ll be happy to help you find out how your business could benefit from RFID or one of our other bespoke Auto-ID solutions.