If you’re an RFID user, you know there are many different types of RFID tags, each with a unique set of features and strengths. This diversity can be confusing, especially when you need to find the best RFID tag for a specific application.
We help you understand the differences between the major types of RFID tags. This way, you can identify the tag that will fit your needs.
What is an RFID Tag?
An RFID tag is a transponder that receives and responds to radio-frequency signals from an RFID reader. It has a memory chip that stores information, and an antenna that uses electromagnetic waves to communicate with the reader.
Every RFID tag must have these parts to perform optimally:
- Integrated Circuit. This is the “brain” of the RFID tag, where information is stored. Different types of RFID tags have different types of ICs and memory sizes.
- Antenna. The antenna is used to receive radio-frequency wave signals and transmit the data to the reader. It also captures energy from the reader’s signal so that it can power its circuitry (for passive tags).
- Casing/ Substrate. This protects all of the internal parts of the RFID tag, including the antenna and IC. It can be plastic, paper, fabric, or other materials.
RFID tags are categorized based on different features, including their operating frequency, read distance, and data storage capacity. Here are some of the most common types:
Based on Operating Frequency
- Low-Frequency (LF) RFID Tags
These tags operate at frequencies between 30 kHz and 300 kHz, but only 134.2 kHz is used for RFID. They have the slowest data transfer rates of all RFID tags, making them suitable for only simple applications.
These tags have a short read distance of fewer than 10 centimeters, another disadvantage that limits their usefulness.
However, the tags have a major advantage in that they are the only type of tag that works optimally in environments with significant electromagnetic interference. It is also difficult to intercept their signals, which gives them an advantage in some security applications.
Additionally, these tags are not affected by the presence of water & metallic objects, making them ideal for tracking livestock and other wet objects. Other of its applications include:
Overall, you can use these tags in virtually any type of application, as long as you know their limitations.
- High-Frequency (HF) RFID Tags
These tags operate at frequencies between 3 MHz and 30 MHz, but 13.56 MHz is the most commonly used frequency. HF tags have much faster data transfer rates than LF tags, making them suitable for more complex applications.
They also have a longer read range than LF tags, typically between 10 centimeters and 3 meters, depending on whether they are active or passive types. They can operate in environments with high levels of electromagnetic interference, but not as well as LF tags. They also work well in moist and metallic environments.
Within the HF, there is a protocol known as NFC. This protocol operates at 13.56 MHz and is regulated by the ISO/IEC 18092 standard. NFC-enabled devices can read and write data to an NFC tag and exchange information between two devices.
Some applications for HF tags include:
- Contactless payments
- Smartphone applications
- Access control
NFC technology has been integrated into many devices, such as smartphones and smart watches. This makes it convenient for users to access information and perform transactions with a simple tap of their device.
- Ultra-High-Frequency (UHF) RFID Tags
These tags operate at frequencies between 300 MHz and 3 GHz, but the most common frequencies are 433 MHz (active tags) and 860 MHz- 960 MHz (passive tags). They have the fastest data transfer rates of all RFID tags, making them suitable for complex applications.
They also have a long read range of up to 15 meters, which makes them ideal for asset tracking and supply chain management. In addition, many UHF tags can be scanned by readers in motion, allowing high-speed scanning of pallets or containers of items.
However, these tags are prone to interference from metallic objects and moisture, making it difficult to read them in wet environments. Fortunately, some manufacturers have developed special UHF tags that can be read in wet & metallic environments.
Some applications for UHF tags include asset tracking, inventory management, and supply chain management.
- Microwave RFID Tags
These tags operate at frequencies between 1 GHz and 10 GHz, but the most common frequencies are 2.45 GHz & 5.8 GHz. You can find them in different variations, including active, passive, and semi-passive variations.
The passive & semi-passive microwave RFID tags use backscatter coupling while the active ones use in-built transmitters to communicate.
Based On Battery Life
- Active RFID Tags
These tags have an in-built power source, typically a battery, which allows them to transmit signals over long distances. They consistently emit a signal to communicate with readers, making them suitable for complex applications that require real-time tracking.
They have a long read range (up to 100 meters). However, the battery life of these tags is limited and requires regular maintenance or replacement. Some applications for active RFID tags include tracking vehicles and assets in real-time.
- Passive RFID Tags
These tags do not have a power source and rely on the energy emitted by readers to power their communications. They have a shorter read range than active tags, typically between 1 meter and 10 meters.
However, they have a much longer lifespan since they do not require a battery change.Some applications for passive RFID tags include inventory management and supply chain tracking.
- Semi-Passive RFID Tags
These tags have an in-built power source, but it is only used to power the tag’s circuitry. The tag itself is powered by the energy emitted by readers.
This allows them to have a longer lifespan than active tags while still being able to transmit signals over long distances.Some applications for semi-passive RFID tags include inventory management and supply chain tracking.
Based on Casing
RFID tags can also be classified based on their physical casing. They include:
The type you choose depends on your budget, the environment where the tags will be deployed, and your operational requirements. For example, a sticker tag is cheaper than an embedded tag but may not be durable enough for outdoor applications.
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