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RFID Tags & RFID Systems

RFID Tags and Systems


What is RFID?

Radio frequency identification, or RFID, is a generic term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify people or objects. There are several methods of identification, but the most common is to store a serial number that identifies a person or object, and perhaps other information, on a microchip that is attached to an antenna (the chip and the antenna together are called an RFID transponder or an RFID tag). The antenna enables the chip to transmit the identification information to a reader. The reader converts the radio waves reflected back from the RFID tag into digital information that can then be passed on to computers that can make use of it.

RFID Internal Diagram

An RFID system consists of a tag, which is made up of a microchip with an antenna, and an interrogator or reader with an antenna. The reader sends out electromagnetic waves. The tag antenna is tuned to receive these waves. A passive RFID tag draws power from the field created by the reader and uses it to power the microchip's circuits. The chip then modulates the waves that the tag sends back to the reader and the reader converts the new waves into digital data for use in the application.

RFID Technical Diagram

What is the purpose of RFID?

RFID allows data to be transmitted by a product containing an RFID tag microchip, which is read by an RFID reader. The data transmitted can provide identification or location info about the product, or specifics such as date of purchase or price.

What is the advantage of using RFID technology?

No contact or even line-of-sight is needed to read data from a product that contains an RFID tag. This means no more checkout scanners at grocery stores, no more unpacking shipping boxes, and no more getting keys out of your pocket to start your car. RFID technology also works in rain, snow and other environments where bar code or optical scan technology would be useless.

What are RFID Tags?

RFID tags are tiny microchips with memory and an antenna coil, thinner than paper and some only 0.3mm across! RFID tags listen for a radio signal sent by a RFID reader. When a RFID tag receives a query, it responds by transmitting its unique ID code and other data back to the reader. There are two types of RFID tags:

  • Passive RFID tags. Passive RFID tags can be as small as 0.3mm and don't require batteries. Rather, they are powered by the radio signal of a RFID reader, which "wakes them up" to request a reply. Passive RFID tags can be read from a distance of about 20 feet. Semi-passive RFID tags contain a small battery that boosts the range. Passive tags are generally read-only; meaning the data they contain cannot be altered or written over.
  • Active RFID tags. Active RFID tags, also called transponders because they contain a transmitter that is always "on", are powered by a battery, about the size of a coin, and are designed for communications up to 100 feet from the RFID reader. They are larger and more expensive than passive RFID tags, but can hold more data about the product and are commonly used for high-value asset tracking. Active RFID tags may be read-write, meaning data they contain can be written over.

What is a rugged RFID Tag?

A rugged RFID tag takes a standard RFID inlay (chip and antenna on a substrate) and encapsulates it in plastic. The encapsulation protects the inlay from harsh environments and rugged environments where the product might be handled in a rough manner. These environments include: material handling, produce, shipping, solid waste etc.

What are RFID Readers?

RFID readers, also called interrogators, first and foremost are used to query RFID tags in order to obtain identification, location, and other information about the device or product the tag is embedded in. The RF energy from the reader antenna is collected by the RFID tag antenna and used to power up the microchip. There are two types of RFID readers:

  • RFID read-only readers. As the name suggests, these devices can only query or read information from a nearby RFID tag. These readers are found in fixed, stationery applications as well as portable, handheld varieties.
  • RFID read-write readers. Also known as encoders, these devices read and also write (change) information in an RFID tag. Such RFID encoders can be used to program information into a "blank" RFID tag. A common application is to combine

What are the advantages over bar codes?

  • Barcode readers require a direct line of sight to the printed barcode; RFID readers do not require a direct line of sight
  • RFID tags can be read at much greater distances; an RFID reader can pull information from a tag at distances up to 300 feet. The range to read a barcode is much less, typically no more than fifteen feet.
  • RFID readers can interrogate, or read, RFID tags much faster; read rates of hundreds tags per second are possible. Reading barcodes is much more time-consuming; due to the fact that a direct line of sight is required, if the items are not properly oriented to the reader it may take seconds to read an individual tag. Barcode readers usually take a half-second or more to successfully complete a read.
  • Line of sight requirements also limit the ruggedness of barcodes as well as the reusability of barcodes. (Since line of sight is required for barcodes, the printed barcode must be exposed on the outside of the product, where it is subject to greater wear and tear.) RFID tags are typically more rugged, since the electronic components are better protected in a plastic cover. RFID tags can also be implanted within the product itself, guaranteeing greater ruggedness and reusability.
  • Barcodes have no read/write capability; that is, you cannot add to the information written on a printed barcode. RFID tags, however, can be read/write devices; the RFID reader can communicate with the tag, and alter as much of the information as the tag design will allow.
  • RFID tags are typically more expensive than barcodes

What is the read accuracy of RFID?

Depending on system configuration and environment, RFID 99.9% accuracy

What information is on the RFID tag?

The tag can hold 96 bits of information. The tags come from the manufacturer with a unique identification number. During our manufacturing process we create a birth certificate for each product. This gives us product traceability identifying when the product was produced, what molding machine it ran on, what lot of resin what used, what lot of RFID tags was used. This is helpful in identifying root cause if there are every any warranty or quality concerns.

How long will RFID tags last in the field?

The RFID tag manufacturers only offer a 90 day warranty on their inlays. Decade's rugged tag comes with a standard one year warranty

How is the RFID tag attached to Decade Bins?

The rugged tag is riveted to the Decade bin. See pictures below

The rugged tag is riveted to the Decade bin

How will RFID help the agricultural industry?

RFID could positively impact the agricultural industry. RFID allows each container to be uniquely identified. This could be used to track:

  1. Your containers to reduce theft
  2. Where your containers are located?
  3. Which grower has which container
  4. A lot code, expiration date or other coding written to he RFID tag
  5. How many times a container has been used
  6. When a container goes through specific key processes such as: Cleaning, storage, customer, farm etc
  7. When a container is taken out of service
  8. Warranty information

What do I need to track my bins?

You need a bin with an RFID tag, an RFID reader and antenna (either handheld or permanently mounted) and software to track data.

  1. RFID Tag see above description of Decade Rugged RFID tags.
    RFID Tag see above description of Decade Rugged RFID tags
  2. RFID Readers

    To enable you to track your containers you must read the RFID tags at certain points through the process so you can see the most recent location. This can be accomplished with either a fixed reader or a hand held reader

    1. Fixed Reader - Door Portal

      Fixed Reader - Door Portal To track the container in and out of facilities you must establish a "choke point". This is one door or passageway that the containers will always pass through as they move through the process. If you don't establish a choke point you would have to purchase enough equipment to outfit every doorway that the containers could potentially travel through. The containers must pass by a reader to allow the RFID tags to be read.

    2. Handheld

      Handheld Reader Another method of tracking your containers is to utilize handheld RFID readers. These readers can be used by shipping personnel, drivers, and supervisors etc to track container movement. As the container are loaded on a truck, unloaded off a truck, moved by hi lo a person would need to be responsible to read the RFID tag with the handheld and identify the new location of the bin.

      This method would eliminate the need to outfit specific choke points with fixed equipment. However, this is a human dependent system/ this will require much training and discipline.

For pricing and availability on RFID Tags, handheld systems, portal systems and installation, please contact your regional sales manager.