Benefits of RFID Technology
Why use RFID when barcodes are cheaper and easier to use? Barcodes have certain
drawbacks. They can get torn off or ruined by water; and a person must find the barcode
on the item before it can be scanned. --anyone who has stood in a long checkout line
knows how annoying that can be.
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With RFID technology, the radio waves can pass through objects, so you don’t need to
see the tag to read it. This makes it possible for a fixed reader to automatically read tags
as the object passes through a warehouse door, for example. That way, you need less
human intervention, which reduces costs.
Also, because the tags are embedded in plastic or even inside the object itself, they are
much less susceptible to water damage or tearing.
One benefit of using a specific EPC code for each individual item is that it makes it easier
to recall specific items, such a group of tires that may malfunction, or a group of toys
made with unsafe paint.
How Will RFID Technology Change Our Lives?
Some people worry that RFID technology will reduce our privacy, because the tags can
be tracked almost anywhere, even after the goods leave the store. Others say that the tags
are not completely secure, and can be read by hackers for unauthorized uses.
But many companies and governments are counting on RFID technology to make life
cheaper, safer and more convenient.
RFID tags are already used for SmartCards, which make it easier to travel on toll roads.
They are keeping track of cattle in France, and household pets here in the U.S. For
humans, RFID tags implanted under the skin or carried in ID cards could provide
important medical information, in case of emergency.
Wal-Mart and the Department of Defense, two of the largest buyers in the U.S., have
begun requiring their suppliers to use RFID tags on the pallets and cartons they ship.
They hope to save millions of dollars, while increasing the convenience and availability
of products for their customers.
The "Smart" Store of the Future?
Each item labeled with an RFID tag would be scanned as you put it into your “smart
cart.” Meanwhile, “smart shelves” will signal the store what needs to be restocked. When
you are finished shopping you merely walk out of the store, your total cost calculated
automatically and your bank charged the correct amount.
At home, you load the perishables into your “smart refrigerator,” which reads each
product’s rfid tag, and makes note of expiration dates. Later that week, an item you
bought is recalled by the manufacturer, due to food poisoning found in that specific batch
and connected to you through the 's EPC code. You are immediately notified by e-mail.
This is a vision of the future than many proponents of RFID technology share.
The copyright of the article An Introduction to RFID Technology in Engineering is
owned by Holly Martin. Permission to republish An Introduction to RFID Technology
in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.
How RFID Works
by Kevin Bonsor and Candace Keener
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Please copy/paste the following text to properly cite this HowStuffWorks article:
Bonsor, Kevin, and Candace Keener. "How RFID Works." 05 November 2007.
gadgets/rfid.htm> 06 September 2009.
Inside this Article
1. Introduction to How RFID Works
2. Reinventing the Bar Code
3. RFID Tags Past and Present
4. Active, Semi-passive and Passive RFID Tags
5. Talking Tags
6. Government-issued RFIDs
7. See more »
7. Animal and Human Chipping
8. RFID Criticism
9. Lots More Information
10. See all High-Tech Gadgets articles
How UPS Smart Labels Work
• More Electronics Videos »
Photo courtesy Getty Images
An RFID tag
Long checkout lines at the grocery store are one of the biggest complaints about the
shopping experience. Soon, these lines could disappear when the ubiquitous Universal
Product Code (UPC) bar code is replaced by smart labels, also called radio frequency
identification (RFID) tags. RFID tags are intelligent bar codes that can talk to a
networked system to track every product that you put in your shopping cart.
Imagine going to the grocery store, filling up your cart and walking right out the door. No
longer will you have to wait as someone rings up each item in your cart one at a time.
Instead, these RFID tags will communicate with an electronic reader that will detect
every item in the cart and ring each up almost instantly. The reader will be connected to a
large network that will send information on your products to the retailer and product
manufacturers. Your bank will then be notified and the amount of the bill will be
deducted from your account. No lines, no waiting.
RFID tags, a technology once limited to tracking cattle, are tracking consumer products
worldwide. Many manufacturers use the tags to track the location of each product they
make from the time it's made until it's pulled off the shelf and tossed in a shopping cart.
Outside the realm of retail merchandise, RFID tags are tracking vehicles, airline
passengers, Alzheimer's patients and pets. Soon, they may even track your preference for
chunky or creamy peanut butter. Some critics say RFID technology is becoming too
much a part of our lives -- that is, if we're even aware of all the parts of our lives that it
In this article, you'll learn about the types of RFID tags and how these tags can be tracked
through the entire supply chain. We'll also look at the non-commercial uses of RFID tags
and how the Departments of State and Homeland Security are using them. Lastly, we'll
examine what some critics consider an Orwellian application of RFID tags in animals,
humans and our society.