RFID chips are tiny computer chips that store and transmit information using radio waves. They are used in a variety of ways, such as to track inventory in stores or to identify lost pets.
RFID chips can also be implanted in humans for various purposes, including storing medical information. We look at the different types of RFID chips and how they are used.
RFID Chips – An In-Depth Analysis
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips are a central component of any RFID system. They store information in a digital format that can be read by an RFID reader. This information can be used for diverse purposes such as identification, tracking, and inventory management.
However, these chips are fragile and require proper handling to avoid damage. In this regard, most manufacturers use hardy substrates such as ceramic or PVC to protect them.
RFID chips are dependent on two other RFID system components for their proper functioning. They include:
- Antenna. This part receives and transmits radio waves that carry information to and from the chip. It protrudes from the surface of the tag and is usually larger than the chip.
- Substrate. This is the base material on which the chip and antenna are mounted. It provides mechanical support and protection for delicate electronic components.
Overall RFID chips are tiny devices with a wide range of potential applications. With the right RFID system in place, these chips can help you achieve greater efficiency and accuracy in your business operations.
Types of RFID Chips
There are three main types of RFID chips, including:
- Low-Frequency RFID Chips
Low-Frequency RFID chips are the most common type of RFID chip. They operate at a frequency of 125-134.2 kHz and have a read range of up to 10 cm. They are not affected by water or other materials, making them ideal for use in harsh environments.
Their low frequency cannot also be affected by interference from other devices, making them more reliable. Here are other characteristics of these chips:
- Immune to Interference. These chips are not affected by interference from other devices, making them more reliable.
- Slow Data Transfer Rate. Low-Frequency RFID chips have a slow data transfer rate. They are not ideal for large-scale operations.
- Relatively Expensive. These tag types are the most expensive of the three. Their versatility endears them to many users, making them the ultimate option for users.
Due to their affordability and reliability, Low-Frequency RFID chips are commonly used in:
- Animal Tracking. This is the most common application of LF RFID chips. They can either be implanted in animals or attached to their collars. Farmers will then be able to track their location and monitor their health.
- Inventory Management. These chips are also used in inventory management to track goods in warehouses and stores.
- Access Control. LF RFID chips are sometimes used in access control systems to grant or deny entry to buildings or other areas.
High-Frequency RFID Chips
High-Frequency RFID chips operate at a frequency of 13.56 MHz and have a read range of up to 1 meter. They are more expensive than Low-Frequency RFID chips but offer several advantages, such as:
- Fast Data Transfer Rate. HF RFID chips have a fast data transfer rate. You can read multiple HF RFID tags within a short time, making them the best suited for inventory management, especially if you’re dealing with large volumes.
- Increased Memory Capacity. HF RFID chips can store more information than LF RFID chips, making them better suited for storing complex data.
Due to their fast data transfer rate and increased memory capacity, HF RFID chips are commonly used in:
- Contactless Payment. These chips are often used in contactless payment systems such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.
- Smart Cards. Smart cards are credit card-sized devices that contain HF RFID chips. They can be used for diverse purposes such as identification, authentication, and security.
- Asset Tracking. HF RFID chips are sometimes used to track high-value assets such as equipment and machinery.
Additionally, this frequency has a subset known as NFC, meaning that HF RFID chips can be used for Near Field Communication (NFC). This is a short-range wireless communication technology that allows two devices to exchange data. In this regard, NFC can be used in:
- Digital Wallets. NFC-enabled devices can be used as digital wallets to make contactless payments.
- Smartphones. Smartphones with NFC capabilities can be used for a variety of purposes such as mobile payment, ticketing, and access control.
Ultra-High Frequency RFID Chips
Ultra-High Frequency RFID chips operate at a frequency of 860-960 MHz and have a read range of up to 12 meters. Its use is regulated by EPCglobal Gen2 (ISO 18000-63) UHF procedures/standards.
They are the least expensive type of RFID chip but offer the longest read range and fastest data transfer rate. Here are its other features:
- Low Interference Tolerance. UHF RFID chips are more susceptible to interference from other devices than LF and HF RFID chips.
- Large Memory Capacity. UHF RFID chips can store more information than LF and HF RFID chips, making them better suited for storing complex data.
- Poor Functionality in Metals & Liquid. UHF RFID chips do not function well in liquids and metals, making them less suitable for certain applications.
Due to their long read range and fast data transfer rate, UHF RFID chips are commonly used in:
- Supply Chain Management. These chips are often used to track goods in the supply chain from production to delivery.
- Inventory Management. UHF RFID chips are also used in inventory management to track goods in warehouses and stores.
- Asset Tracking. UHF RFID chips are sometimes used to track high-value assets such as equipment and machinery.
Active vs. Passive RFID Chips
Besides the frequency, RFID chips can also be categorized based on their power source. There are two types of RFID chips: active and passive.
Active RFID Chips
Active RFID chips are powered by a battery and have a read range of up to 100 meters. They are more expensive than passive RFID chips but offer several advantages, such as:
- Longer Read Range. Active RFID chips have a longer read range than passive RFID chips, making them better suited for tracking large objects or objects at a distance.
- Increased Memory Capacity. Active RFID chips can store more information than passive RFID chips, making them better suited for storing complex data.
Passive RFID Chips
Passive RFID chips are not powered by a battery and have a read range of up to 30 meters. They are less expensive than active RFID chips but offer several advantages, such as:
- No Battery Is Required. Passive RFID chips do not require a battery, making them more cost-effective in the long run.
- Longer Lifespan. Passive RFID chips have a longer lifespan than active RFID chips, as they are not reliant on a battery.
- Low Maintenance Cost. Passive RFID chips have a lower maintenance cost than active RFID chips, as they do not require a battery replacement.
- Easier to Implement. Passive RFID chips are easier to implement than active RFID chips, as they do not require a power source.
Choosing the Best Frequency for Your Application
When choosing the best RFID chip for your application, you need to consider the frequency the following:
As earlier mentioned, installing RFID systems can be expensive. The cost of RFID chips varies depending on the frequency. As such, you must choose the tags based on your budget.
Contrary to what you’d expect, the UHF tags are the cheapest options in the market. The price of UHF tags has been dropping steadily over the years due to low demand.
On the other hand, LF tags are the most expensive option. This is because they have more applications. They are also more versatile and you can use them with metallic & liquid-based products.
- Your Needs
You also need to consider your specific needs when choosing an RFID chip. If you need long read ranges, then UHF tags are the best option. However, if you’re looking for accuracy, HF tags are a better choice.
The frequency you choose will also be determined by the kind of data you want to store. UHF tags have large memory capacities and can store complex data. HF tags, on the other hand, are better suited for storing simple data.
- The Application
You need to consider the application when choosing an RFID chip. This is because different frequencies are better suited for different applications. For instance, UHF RFID chips are better suited for supply chain management while LF RFID chips are better suited for animal tracking.
- The Environment
You also need to consider the environment when choosing an RFID chip. This is because different frequencies work better in different environments. For instance, UHF RFID chips do not work well in liquids and metals. If you’re looking for tags that can be used in these environments, then HF or LF tags are a better choice.
Now that you know the different types of RFID chips available, it’s time to choose the best one for your application. Keep in mind the factors we’ve discussed, and you’ll be able to find the right tag for your needs.