Demystifying Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) The Basics
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
Provide basic concepts of RFID technology
including technical considerations, benefits,
Explain the relevance of RFID technology as
a process improvement enabler that can
reduce defects, cycle times, and
maintenance and engineering costs.
What is RFID?
A technology that uses radio-frequency
waves to transfer data between a tag and a
reader to identify, categorize, track and
trace an item.
RFID is a type of AIT
Automated Identification Technologies (AIT)
are a suite of data collection tools for
facilitating dramatic improvements in our
Commonly used AIT
1D Linear bar codes
2D Data Matrix codes
Contact memory buttons
Also: Optical Character Recognition, Speech
Recognition, & Vision Systems
Desirable qualities of AIT
Improved data collection:
Manual data entry is prone to
Reliability error, inconsistent, and slow.
Previously hard/impossible data collection:
Behind bulkheads Line of sight and/or
Inside boxes and pallets physical contact is no
longer a constraint with
Dangerous locations RFID.
Manual data collection
ISOGOZUL? or what?
Consider the cost of errors!
Cost of correcting errors
Waste from wrong orders
Waste from missed opportunities
Manual collection and money)
& typing errors
AIT is a process improvement enabler!
Improved asset utilization
Controlled access to facilities
Assured complement of equipment
Improved fleet management
Many, many others – limited only to your
This is the reason Boeing and Airbus jointly promote this technology
RFID started with aviation
1940 - 1950 - Radar refined and used, major World War II development effort.
RFID invented in 1948.
1950 - 1960 - Early explorations of RFID technology, laboratory experiments.
1960 - 1970 - Development of the theory of RFID.
Start of applications field trials.
1970 - 1980 - Explosion of RFID development.
Tests of RFID accelerate.
Very early adopter implementations of RFID (i.e., animal tagging,
custom proprietary solutions).
1980 - 1990 - Commercial applications of RFID enter mainstream (electronic toll
1990 - 2000 - Emergence of standards.
RFID more widely deployed; gets more press time
RFID becomes a part of everyday life.
2000 – now - AutoID Center, EPCglobal, completion of standards
Wal-Mart, Tesco, DoD mandates, FAA approval, Spec 2000.
RFID follows a progression of inventions that began with WWII
RADAR and made possible today by research, microelectronics
Considerations for an RFID system
How can RFID enable our overall strategic What is the expected return on our RFID
Should we be a leader or a “fast follower”? What specific RFID applications can drive
Which trading partners should I pilot with value for us?
and when? What is a realistic adoption pattern/rate of
How will we operate in a world of dual RFID and how will that impact my business
processes? And for how long? case?
What are the change management What are our technology requirements for
implications? an RFID implementation?
What are the risks involved in an RFID What is the architecture that best delivers
implementation? on my strategic technology plan?
Impact on people in the process How will an RFID implementation impact
our current applications?
Walking your process
How far? (away do you need to read the tags)
How fast? (do you need to read the tags)
How many? (tags do you need to read at once)
How much? (data do you need to read)
Where? (will the data be used)
To What? (will the tags be attached)
Elements of an RFID system
One or more RF tags
Two or more antennas
One or more readers
One or more host computers Software
Appropriate software Interface
RFID Software Application
RFID Tags Reader Computer/
How the RFID system communicates
Is anyone there?
retrieves data on the Passive
chip, and modulates Backscatter
the signal. RFID Tag
Yes! Here is my identification and
all of the data on my memory chip.
Substrate & Antenna
The material into which the RFID integrated
circuit and antenna are embedded.
Antenna design is critical in determining
range and performance
Integrated Circuit and Antenna mounted on a
Tag (aka Transponder)
An inlay is placed into a package appropriate
for its intended use
Integrated smart label
Labels with RFID inlays embedded inside the
label material. The label also contains human
readable and bar coded information.
Surface insensitive mounting
A technique to package an inlay so that it will
operate effectively whether mounted to a
conductive or non-conductive surface.
Water absorbs (attenuates) RF
Metal absorbs and/or reflects RF
Categories of tags
Passive Tags – used by EPCglobal and Spec 2000
Tag powered by radio signal from reader
No active components, therefore little maintenance
Good read range (4 inches - 30 feet)
Battery-Assisted Passive Tags
Tag triggered by radio signal from reader
Battery allows environmental monitoring
Battery may also assist transmission
Good read range (4 inches - 300 feet)
Contains an active transmitter
Battery powered memory, radio & circuitry
Faster data transfer rate
High read range (300 feet +)
Layers of Logistic Units : RFID
Passive e.g. Life Vest
Tag memory types
Read-only: Programmed during manufacture and
subsequently can only be read.
Write once, read many (WORM): Information can be
user-programmed onto the tag once, but read
Read-write: Information can be read from and
written to an RFID tag with an appropriate reader.
Memory space can be written to over 100,000 times
Commercial aviation has an interest in all of these
Commonly used tag sizes
Physical dimensions ≈1
1”x 1” ≈1
2”x 2” 4
Price range (approx)
US$ 0.25 to US$ 100
With proper design, tags can be
attached to almost any item or
Pallets and cases
Vehicles – airplanes, trucks, cars
People, livestock, or pets
In aviation - Line Replaceable
Units (LRUs), time-controlled and
Readers can be at a fixed point:
Point of sale
Readers can also be mobile:
Ability to communicate with several tags
Important in longer range readers
Must be implemented in the integrated circuit of the
The radio frequency (RF) spectrum is a scarce and
shared resource, used nationally and internationally,
and subject to a wide range of regulatory oversight.
In the U.S., the Federal Communications
Commission is a key regulatory body that allocates
spectrum use and resolves spectrum conflicts. The
International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is a
specialized agency of the United Nations which
plays the same role internationally.
Electric Radio Infra-red Visible Ultra- X-Rays Gamma Cosmic
Waves Waves Light Violet Rays Rays
9kHz 30kHz 300kHz 3000kHz 30MHz 300MHz 3000MHz 30GHz 300GHz 3000GHz
VLF LF MF HF VHF UHF SHF EHF Not
Long Medium Short
Wave Wave Wave
VLF Very Low Frequency VHF Very High Frequency
The RFID LF
Ultra High Frequency
Super High Frequency
HF High Frequency EHF Extremely High Frequency
125-134 kHz 13.56 MHz 860-960 MHz 2.45 and 5.8 GHz
Comparison of common RFID frequencies
Frequency Regulation Range Data Speed Comments
120 – 150 kHz Basically unregulated < 1m Low Animal identification and
18000-2 factory data collection
13.56 MHz ISM band, differing power < 1m Low to moderate Popular frequency for I.C.
18000-3 levels and duty cycle Cards (Smart Cards),
433 MHz Non-specific Short Range 1 – 100 m Moderate Container Security and
18000-7 Devices (SRD), Location Tracking. Asset tracking
(active) Systems for U.S. DoD (Pallets) –
860 – 960 MHz ISM band, increasing use 2–5m Moderate to high MH 10.8.4 (RTI), AIAG B-11
18000-6 in other regions, differing (tires), EPC (18000-6C), DoD
(passive) power levels and duty Passive
2450 MHz ISM band, differing power 1–2m High IEEE 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth,
18000-4 Mode 1 levels and duty cycle cordless telephones
Advantages of UHF (860 – 960 MHz)
Best available frequency for distances of >1m
Effective around metals
Good non-line-of-sight communication
High data rate; large amounts of data
Controlled read zone through antenna direction
Disadvantages of UHF (860 – 960 MHz)
Does not penetrate water
Regulatory issues in different parts of world
(differences in frequency, channels, power, and duty
A global view of UHF RFID frequencies
Europe: Middle East:
862–870 MHz Potential for
US and Canada: (869 MHz) 862–870 MHz
Mexico: Singapore 866-869, 920-925
Typically 915MHz, MHz, Taiwan 915MHz
Case by case basis
Undefined but 915 Northern Africa:
MHz is typically 862–870 MHz Australia: 862-928 MHz with
accepted (869 MHz) 915MHz Typically FCC power levels
Southern Africa: permit FCC
915MHz Typically permit approved devices
FCC approved devices
Varying power regulations
Effective Isotropic Radiated Power (EIRP):
The measure of the output of an RFID reader’s
antenna expressed in watts.
Frequency Range Region Power
869.4 – 869.65 MHz Europe 0.5W EIRP
865.5 – 867.6 MHz Europe 2.0W EIRP
902.0 – 928.0 MHz America 4.0W EIRP
860.0 – 930.0 MHz Others Varies
2.400 – 2.4835 GHz Europe 0.5W EIRP
2.400 – 2.4835 GHz Europe 4.0W EIRP
2.400 – 2.5835 GHz America 4.0W EIRP
2.400 – 2.5835 GHz Others Varies
Reader geographic mobility challenge
RFID Tags can be designed Readers are constrained by
to respond to all frequencies national regulation to smaller
in this range. segments of the spectrum.
9 M Hz
952 MHz Japan
AIT and data capture standards organizations
International Organization for International Electrotechnical International Telecommunications United Postal Union
Standardization (ISO) Commission (IEC) Union (ITU) (United Nations) (UPU) (United Nations)
EPCglobal ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1
TC 122 Automatic Data Capture SC 17 ITU-T (fka CCITT)
Packaging WG 1 - Symbology IC Cards Telecommunications
WG 2 - Data Content
TC 104 ITU-R (fka CCIR & IFBR)
WG 3 - Conformance Radio-frequency Issues
WG 4 - RFID
TC 8 WG 5 - RTLS ITU-D (fka BDT)
Ships & Marine Tech Telecommunications
Comité Européen Normalisation Comité Européen Normalisation Comité Européen Postal &
(CEN) Electrotechnique (CENELEC) Telegraph (CEPT)
Australia (SAA) British (BSI) French (AFNOR) American (ANSI) German (DIN) Japan (JISC)
MHI AIM UCC EIA IEEE INCITS Other
CompTIA ATA EIA AIA HIBCC AIAG UCC Other SAE VDA
Standards organization: EPCglobal
A non-profit organization chartered to develop
global, interoperable standards for RFID use.
EPCglobal publishes standards about the format and
the content of RFID tags.
Specific industry action groups (IAGs) work on
solving problems unique to their industry; e.g.,
Aerospace & Defense IAG encompasses commercial
Format of an EPCglobal C1G2 UHF RFID tag
Header EPC Manager Object
Assigned by Assigned by EPC
EPCglobal Manager Owner
• Identifies length, type, structure, version, generation of EPC
• EPC Manger Number
• Entity responsible for maintaining the subsequent
• Object Class
• identifies a class of objects 96 bits total
• EPC Serial Number = 12 characters
• identifies the particular item
Format of an EPCglobal Class 2 UHF RFID tag
Header EPC Manager Object
Assigned by Assigned by EPC
EPCglobal Manager Owner
The Class 2 UHF RFID tag specification is being
defined by the EPCglobal UHF Class 2 Working Group.
Additional features may include encryption, read
locking, recycle features, sensor support, and
structured user memory.
64 kilobytes total
= 32 typed pages
Standards organization: Society of Automotive
A non-profit organization chartered to develop
standards for technical and engineering sciences.
SAE published Aerospace Standard AS5678
“Passive RFID Tags Intended for Aircraft Use”
AS5678 establishes the environmental performance
requirements for developing aviation-use passive
Typical environmental performance requirements
include temperature, altitude, humidity, shock,
vibration, fluid susceptibility, magnetic effects, and
Standards organization: Air Transport Association (ATA)
An airline trade association chartered to foster
global air safety, service, and efficiency within
The ATA creates international technical standards
related to commercial aviation engineering and
An ATA task force has defined the mandatory and
conditional data elements to be contained on an
RFID technology will enable dramatic process
improvements by enhancing the accuracy and
availability of information.
An understanding of governing RFID frequency and
power regulations is essential for global business
entities such as airlines.
Boeing and Airbus are working together to establish
common RFID standards and solutions to create
value for our shared suppliers and mixed fleet