Anymore, the question isn't: Where is RFID technology? The question is: Where isn't RFID?
Radio-frequency identification is virtually all around us. Before we make it to our workstation in the morning, we might start our cars with an RFID-enabled key fob, use a chip for contactless payment for our lattes, or enter our offices with a wearable RFID badge.
Remember the clunky security tags we dealt with when shopping for clothes? They’re an example of legacy RFID tags. Today’s RFID tags are more discrete, come in smaller stick-on or label form, and continue to be essential to manufacturers for point-of-sale, tracing, and inventory purposes.
RFID technology consists mostly of a tiny radio transponder, a radio receiver, and a transmitter. RFID uses electromagnetic fields to search, identify, track, and communicate with tags attached to things.
RFID is a flexible technology that varies with frequency, protocol, and antenna design. The three main frequencies are low frequency (LF, 125kHz to 135kHz), high frequency (HF, 13.56MHz), and ultra-high frequency (UHF, 890MHz to 960MHz, and 2.4GHz). The higher the frequency or the more power generated by the reader, the longer the reading range.
LF can be used for animal identification, industrial production, automation, vehicle immobilizers, and access control. HF works well for asset tracking, ticketing, e-documents, library management, and pharmaceuticals. UHF is more for industrial use cases like pallet or box identification, item-level tagging (such as clothing), and industrial production control. The tags are more effective than manual systems or barcodes because the RFID tag can be read if passed near a reader whether exposed or covered.
Designers have plenty of tags, controllers, and antennas choices for complete RFID solutions. In this week's New Tech Tuesdays, we'll look at the latest RFID products from STMicroelectronics, Murata Electronics, and NXP Semiconductors.
NXP Semiconductors' PN7150 Radio-Frequency Identification Transponder is a plug-and-play NFC controller solution with integrated firmware and NFC Controller Interface (NCI) designed for contactless communication at 13.56MHz. It can rapidly integrate NFC technology into any application, especially those running on operating system environments such as Linux and Android, leading to a reduced bill of material size and costs. The contactless front-end design enables the capability to work in active load modulation communication, which allows the support of smaller antenna form factors.
STMicroelectronics' family of ST25DV04KC, ST25DV16KC, and ST25DV64KC NFC/RFID Tags are dynamic tags with an I2C interface. The tags can be used in numerous applications, including lighting and metering, industrial and medical equipment, smart home, smart banking, healthcare and wellness, consumer electronics, electronic shelf labels, and asset tracking and logistics. They're categorized in 4kbit, 16kbit, and 64kbit electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM) that can be accessed via the I2C interface or a radio frequency link interface.
Murata Electronics LX MAGICSTRAP® UHF Band RFID Modules are board-mounted product traceability solutions. The devices are used in telecom, automotive, and computer applications, including other designs in which an onboard RFID transponder is needed. The modules also use the PCB traces as an antenna for the transponder. Once the module is mounted, information can be stored and retrieved on MAGICSTRAP devices using any EPCglobal Gen2/ISO 18000-6C compatible UHF reader/writer.
RFID growth is being accelerated by the technology's use in the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). RFID tags help track and trace things and assets serving to enhance automation and logistics, something we encounter daily, almost hourly, in everyday life. So, that answers the question we first asked: Where isn't RFID?
Tommy Cummings is a freelance writer/editor based in Texas. He's had a journalism career that has spanned more than 40 years. He contributes to Texas Monthly and Oklahoma Today magazines. He's also worked at The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. Tommy covered the dot-com boom in Silicon Valley and has been a digital content and audience engagement editor at news outlets. Tommy worked at Mouser Electronics from 2018 to 2021 as a technical content and product content specialist.
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