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  • 1. An Introduction to RFID Technology How it Works and How It's Used to Track Animals, Products and People © Holly Martin Aug 14, 2007 RFID is not a new technology but it is being used in new ways. RFID tags keep track of things using tiny electronic circuits that can be "read" by a special receiver. What is RFID Technology? RFID stands for radio frequency identification. Radio frequency waves are the invisible signals that travel through the air and the walls of our homes to bring us music and news. Radio waves can be sent at different frequencies, like the different stations on the radio. In the U.S., the FCC has reserved some radio frequencies for uses other than commercial radio broadcasts. RFID technology is one of those uses. What Is an RFID System? • An individual Electronic Product Code (EPC) that identifies not only the type of object, but tells which specific object it is. • An RFID tag, which is a tiny electronic circuit that holds the EPC code and other information about the object. • A miniature antenna, made from a flat coil of wire, attached to the RFID tag. The tag and antenna are usually covered in plastic or glass. • An RFID reader that sends radio frequency signals out to the tags and reads the signals that come back from the tags. Readers can be attached to the door frame of a warehouse, next to a conveyor belt, or incorporated into a hand-held scanner. • Software, sometimes called "Middleware,” which takes the data coming in from several RFID readers, filters it, sorts it, and sends the important information on to the main business software. Active vs. Passive Tags There are two basic types of RFID tags: Active tags and passive tags. Active tags contain miniature batteries that power the electronic circuit contained in the chip. Passive tags carry no power of their own. Instead, they “capture” radio-frequency signals coming from the RFID reader, convert the signals into power, and then transmit the EPC code back to the reader.
  • 2. 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. Ads by Google RFID reader & printer RFID products, RFID handheld reader Mobile and Network Business www.intsys.co.kr Track Concrete with RFID Precast and Prestress Concrete TrackCon Software and Cast-A-Code www.IctRfid.com 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.
  • 3. 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 • Print • Cite • Feedback • o E-mail This o Facebook o Digg This o Yahoo! Buzz o StumbleUpon o TwitThis o Reddit Share • Recommend
  • 4. Cite This! Close Please copy/paste the following text to properly cite this HowStuffWorks article: Bonsor, Kevin, and Candace Keener. "How RFID Works." 05 November 2007. HowStuffWorks.com. <http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/high-tech- 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 »
  • 5. 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 affects. 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.