Radio-frequency identification (RFID) uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects. The tags contain electronically stored information. Passive tags collect energy from a nearby RFID reader's interrogating radio waves. Active tags have a local power source such as a battery and may operate at hundreds of meters from the RFID reader. Unlike a barcode, the tag need not be within the line of sight of the reader, so it may be embedded in the tracked object. RFID is one method for Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC).
RFID tags are used in many industries, for example, an RFID tag attached to an automobile during production can be used to track its progress through the assembly line; RFID-tagged pharmaceuticals can be tracked through warehouses; and implanting RFID microchips in livestock and pets allows positive identification of animals.
Since RFID tags can be attached to cash, clothing, and possessions, or implanted in animals and people, the possibility of reading personally-linked information without consent has raised serious privacy concerns.These concerns resulted in standard specifications development addressing privacy and security issues. ISO/IEC 18000 and ISO/IEC 29167 use on-chip cryptography methods for untraceability, tag and reader authentication, and over-the-air privacy. ISO/IEC 20248 specifies a digital signature data structure for RFID and barcodes providing data, source and read method authenticity. This work is done within ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 31 Automatic identification and data capture techniques.
In 2014, the world RFID market is worth US$8.89 billion, up from US$7.77 billion in 2013 and US$6.96 billion in 2012. This includes tags, readers, and software/services for RFID cards, labels, fobs, and all other form factors. The market value is expected to rise to US$18.68 billion by 2026.
In 1945, Léon Theremin invented an espionage tool for the Soviet Union which retransmitted incident radio waves with the audio information. Sound waves vibrated a diaphragm which slightly altered the shape of the resonator, which modulated the reflected radio frequency. Even though this device was a covert listening device, not an identification tag, it is considered to be a predecessor of RFID, because it was likewise passive, being energized and activated by waves from an outside source.
Similar technology, such as the IFF transponder, was routinely used by the allies and Germany in World War II to identify aircraft as friend or foe. Transponders are still used by most powered aircraft to this day. Another early work exploring RFID is the landmark 1948 paper by Harry Stockman.Stockman predicted that "... considerable research and development work has to be done before the remaining basic problems in reflected-power communication are solved, and before the field of useful applications is explored."
Mario Cardullo's device, patented on January 23, 1973, was the first true ancestor of modern RFID, as it was a passive radio transponder with memory. The initial device was passive, powered by the interrogating signal, and was demonstrated in 1971 to the New York Port Authority and other potential users and consisted of a transponder with 16 bit memory for use as a toll device. The basic Cardullo patent covers the use of RF, sound and light as transmission media. The original business plan presented to investors in 1969 showed uses in transportation (automotive vehicle identification, automatic toll system, electronic license plate, electronic manifest, vehicle routing, vehicle performance monitoring), banking (electronic check book, electronic credit card), security (personnel identification, automatic gates, surveillance) and medical (identification, patient history).
An early demonstration of reflected power (modulated backscatter) RFID tags, both passive and semi-passive, was performed by Steven Depp, Alfred Koelle, and Robert Frayman at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1973.The portable system operated at 915 MHz and used 12-bit tags. This technique is used by the majority of today's UHFID and microwave RFID tags.
The first patent to be associated with the abbreviation RFID was granted to Charles Walton in 1983.
A radio-frequency identification system uses tags, or labels attached to the objects to be identified. Two-way radio transmitter-receivers called interrogators or readers send a signal to the tag and read its response.
RFID tags can be either passive, active or battery-assisted passive. An active tag has an on-board battery and periodically transmits its ID signal. A battery-assisted passive (BAP) has a small battery on board and is activated when in the presence of an RFID reader. A passive tag is cheaper and smaller because it has no battery; instead, the tag uses the radio energy transmitted by the reader. However, to operate a passive tag, it must be illuminated with a power level roughly a thousand times stronger than for signal transmission. That makes a difference in interference and in exposure to radiation.
Tags may either be read-only, having a factory-assigned serial number that is used as a key into a database, or may be read/write, where object-specific data can be written into the tag by the system user. Field programmable tags may be write-once, read-multiple; "blank" tags may be written with an electronic product code by the user.
RFID tags contain at least two parts: an integrated circuit for storing and processing information, modulating and demodulating a radio-frequency (RF) signal, collecting DC power from the incident reader signal, and other specialized functions; and an antenna for receiving and transmitting the signal. The tag information is stored in a non-volatile memory. The RFID tag includes either fixed or programmable logic for processing the transmission and sensor data, respectively.
An RFID reader transmits an encoded radio signal to interrogate the tag. The RFID tag receives the message and then responds with its identification and other information. This may be only a unique tag serial number, or may be product-related information such as a stock number, lot or batch number, production date, or other specific information. Since tags have individual serial numbers, the RFID system design can discriminate among several tags that might be within the range of the RFID reader and read them simultaneously.
RFID systems can be classified by the type of tag and reader. A Passive Reader Active Tag (PRAT) system has a passive reader which only receives radio signals from active tags (battery operated, transmit only). The reception range of a PRAT system reader can be adjusted from 1–2,000 feet (0–600 m), allowing flexibility in applications such as asset protection and supervision.
An Active Reader Passive Tag (ARPT) system has an active reader, which transmits interrogator signals and also receives authentication replies from passive tags.
An Active Reader Active Tag (ARAT) system uses active tags awoken with an interrogator signal from the active reader. A variation of this system could also use a Battery-Assisted Passive (BAP) tag which acts like a passive tag but has a small battery to power the tag's return reporting signal.
Fixed readers are set up to create a specific interrogation zone which can be tightly controlled. This allows a highly defined reading area for when tags go in and out of the interrogation zone. Mobile readers may be hand-held or mounted on carts or vehicles.
Smart cards (ISO/IEC 15693, ISO/IEC 14443 A,B). Non fully ISO compatible memory cards (iCLASS, Legic, Felica ...). Micro processor ISO compatible cards (Desfire EV1, Seos)
Signaling between the reader and the tag is done in several different incompatible ways, depending on the frequency band used by the tag. Tags operating on LF and HF bands are, in terms of radio wavelength, very close to the reader antenna because they are only a small percentage of a wavelength away. In this near field region, the tag is closely coupled electrically with the transmitter in the reader. The tag can modulate the field produced by the reader by changing the electrical loading the tag represents. By switching between lower and higher relative loads, the tag produces a change that the reader can detect. At UHF and higher frequencies, the tag is more than one radio wavelength away from the reader, requiring a different approach. The tag can backscatter a signal. Active tags may contain functionally separated transmitters and receivers, and the tag need not respond on a frequency related to the reader's interrogation signal.
An Electronic Product Code (EPC) is one common type of data stored in a tag. When written into the tag by an RFID printer, the tag contains a 96-bit string of data. The first eight bits are a header which identifies the version of the protocol. The next 28 bits identify the organization that manages the data for this tag; the organization number is assigned by the EPCGlobal consortium. The next 24 bits are an object class, identifying the kind of product; the last 36 bits are a unique serial number for a particular tag. These last two fields are set by the organization that issued the tag. Rather like a URL, the total electronic product code number can be used as a key into a global database to uniquely identify a particular product.
Often more than one tag will respond to a tag reader, for example, many individual products with tags may be shipped in a common box or on a common pallet. Collision detection is important to allow reading of data. Two different types of protocols are used to "singulate" a particular tag, allowing its data to be read in the midst of many similar tags. In a slotted Aloha system, the reader broadcasts an initialization command and a parameter that the tags individually use to pseudo-randomly delay their responses. When using an "adaptive binary tree" protocol, the reader sends an initialization symbol and then transmits one bit of ID data at a time; only tags with matching bits respond, and eventually only one tag matches the complete ID string.
An example of a binary tree method of identifying an RFID tag
Both methods have drawbacks when used with many tags or with multiple overlapping readers. Bulk reading is a strategy for interrogating multiple tags at the same time, but lacks sufficient precision for inventory control.
RFIDs are easy to conceal or incorporate in other items. For example, in 2009 researchers at Bristol University successfully glued RFID micro-transponders to live ants in order to study their behavior. This trend towards increasingly miniaturized RFIDs is likely to continue as technology advances.
Hitachi holds the record for the smallest RFID chip, at 0.05 mm × 0.05 mm. This is 1/64th the size of the previous record holder, the mu-chip. Manufacture is enabled by using the silicon-on-insulator (SOI) process. These dust-sized chips can store 38-digit numbers using 128-bit Read Only Memory (ROM). A major challenge is the attachment of antennas, thus limiting read range to only millimeters.
The RFID tag can be affixed to an object and used to track and manage inventory, assets, people, etc. For example, it can be affixed to cars, computer equipment, books, mobile phones, etc.
RFID offers advantages over manual systems or use of bar codes. The tag can be read if passed near a reader, even if it is covered by the object or not visible. The tag can be read inside a case, carton, box or other container, and unlike barcodes, RFID tags can be read hundreds at a time. Bar codes can only be read one at a time using current devices.
In 2011, the cost of passive tags started at US$0.09 each; special tags, meant to be mounted on metal or withstand gamma sterilization, can go up to US$5. Active tags for tracking containers, medical assets, or monitoring environmental conditions in data centers start at US$50 and can go up over US$100 each. Battery-Assisted Passive (BAP) tags are in the US$3–10 range and also have sensor capability like temperature and humidity.
RFID can be used in a variety of applications, such as:
• Access management
• Tracking of goods
• Tracking of persons and animals
• Toll collection and contactless payment
• Machine readable travel documents
• Smartdust (for massively distributed sensor networks)
• Tracking sports memorabilia to verify authenticity
• Airport baggage tracking logistics
• Timing sporting events
Electronic Lock with RFID Card System, ANSI
Electronic key for RFID based lock system
In 2010 three factors drove a significant increase in RFID usage: decreased cost of equipment and tags, increased performance to a reliability of 99.9% and a stable international standard around UHF passive RFID. The adoption of these standards were driven by EPCglobal, a joint venture between GS1 and GS1 US, which were responsible for driving global adoption of the barcode in the 1970s and 1980s. The EPCglobal Network was developed by the Auto-ID Center.
RFID provides a way for organizations to identify and manage tools and equipment (asset tracking) , without manual data entry.
RFID is being adopted for item level tagging in retail stores. This provides electronic article surveillance (EAS), and a self checkout process for consumers. Automatic identification with RFID can be used for inventory systems. Manufactured products such as automobiles or garments can be tracked through the factory and through shipping to the customer.
Casinos can use RFID to authenticate poker chips, and can selectively invalidate any chips known to be stolen.
An EPC RFID tag used by Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart and the United States Department of Defense have published requirements that their vendors place RFID tags on all shipments to improve supply chain management.
RFID tags are widely used in identification badges, replacing earlier magnetic stripe cards. These badges need only be held within a certain distance of the reader to authenticate the holder. Tags can also be placed on vehicles, which can be read at a distance, to allow entrance to controlled areas without having to stop the vehicle and present a card or enter an access code.
In 2010 Vail Resorts began using UHF Passive RFID tags in ski passes. Facebook is using RFID cards at most of their live events to allow guests to automatically capture and post photos. The automotive brands have adopted RFID for social media product placement more quickly than other industries. Mercedes was an early adopter in 2011 at the PGA Golf Championships,and by the 2013 Geneva Motor Show many of the larger brands were using RFID for social media marketing.
To prevent retailers diverting products, manufacturers are exploring the use of RFID tags on promoted merchandise so that they can track exactly which product has sold through the supply chain at fully discounted prices.
Transportation and logistics
Yard management, shipping and freight and distribution centers use RFID tracking. In the railroad industry, RFID tags mounted on locomotives and rolling stock identify the owner, identification number and type of equipment and its characteristics. This can be used with a database to identify the lading, origin, destination, etc. of the commodities being carried.
In commercial aviation, RFID is used to support maintenance on commercial aircraft. RFID tags are used to identify baggage and cargo at several airports and airlines.
Some countries are using RFID for vehicle registration and enforcement.RFID can help detect and retrieve stolen cars.
Intelligent transportation systems
RFID is used in intelligent transportation systems. In New York City, RFID readers are deployed at intersections to track E-ZPass tags as a means for monitoring the traffic flow. The data is fed through the broadband wireless infrastructure to the traffic management center to be used in adaptive traffic control of the traffic lights.
Hose stations and conveyance of fluids
The RFID antenna in a permanently installed coupling half (fixed part) unmistakably identifies the RFID transponder placed in the other coupling half (free part) after completed coupling. When connected the transponder of the free part transmits all important information contactless to the fixed part. The coupling’s location can be clearly identified by the RFID transponder coding. The control is enabled to automatically start subsequent process steps.
Track & Trace test vehicles and prototype parts
In the automotive industry RFID is used to Track & Trace test vehicles and prototype parts (project Transparent Prototype).
RFID cards are used for access control to public transport.
In London travelers use Oyster Cards on the tube, buses and ferries. It identifies the traveller at each turnstile and so the system can calculate the fare.
In the Chicago area, riders use the open standard Ventra card to board CTA buses and trains, along with PACE buses.
In Ontario, Canada, riders in the GTA and Ottawa Area use the Presto card to board trains, buses and street cars across multiple different transit companies.
In Melbourne Australia, Public Transport Victoria uses RFID-based Myki tickets across the train, tram and bus networks.
Infrastructure management and protection
At least one company has introduced RFID to identify and locate underground infrastructure assets such as gas pipelines, sewer lines, electrical cables, communication cables, etc.
See also: Biometric passport
The first RFID passports ("E-passport") were issued by Malaysia in 1998. In addition to information also contained on the visual data page of the passport, Malaysian e-passports record the travel history (time, date, and place) of entries and exits from the country.
Other countries that insert RFID in passports include Norway (2005), Japan (March 1, 2006), most EU countries (around 2006), Australia, Hong Kong, the United States (2007), India (June 2008), Serbia (July 2008), Republic of Korea (August 2008), Taiwan (December 2008), Albania (January 2009), The Philippines (August 2009), Republic of Macedonia (2010), and Canada (2013).
Standards for RFID passports are determined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and are contained in ICAO Document 9303, Part 1, Volumes 1 and 2 (6th edition, 2006). ICAO refers to the ISO/IEC 14443 RFID chips in e-passports as "contactless integrated circuits". ICAO standards provide for e-passports to be identifiable by a standard e-passport logo on the front cover.
Since 2006, RFID tags included in new United States passports will store the same information that is printed within the passport, and include a digital picture of the owner. The United States Department of State initially stated the chips could only be read from a distance of 10 centimetres (3.9 in), but after widespread criticism and a clear demonstration that special equipment can read the test passports from 10 metres (33 ft) away, the passports were designed to incorporate a thin metal lining to make it more difficult for unauthorized readers to "skim" information when the passport is closed. The department will also implement Basic Access Control (BAC), which functions as a Personal Identification Number (PIN) in the form of characters printed on the passport data page. Before a passport's tag can be read, this PIN must be entered into an RFID reader. The BAC also enables the encryption of any communication between the chip and interrogator. As noted in the section below on security, there are many situations in which these protections have been shown to be insufficient, and passports have been cloned based on scans of them while they were being delivered in the mail.
In many countries, RFID tags can be used to pay for mass transit fares on bus, trains, or subways, or to collect tolls on highways.
Some bike lockers are operated with RFID cards assigned to individual users. A prepaid card is required to open or enter a facility or locker and is used to track and charge based on how long the bike is parked.
The Zipcar car-sharing service uses RFID cards for locking and unlocking cars and for member identification.
In Singapore, RFID replaces paper Season Parking Ticket (SPT).
RFID tags for animals represent one of the oldest uses of RFID. Originally meant for large ranches and rough terrain, since the outbreak of mad-cow disease, RFID has become crucial in animal identification management. An implantable RFID tag or transponder can also be used for animal identification. The transponders are better known as PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tags, passive RFID, or "chips" on animals.The Canadian Cattle Identification Agency began using RFID tags as a replacement for barcode tags. Currently CCIA tags are used in Wisconsin and by United States farmers on a voluntary basis. The USDA is currently developing its own program.
RFID tags are required for all cattle, sheep and goats sold in Australia.
Implantable RFID chips designed for animal tagging are now being used in humans. An early experiment with RFID implants was conducted by British professor of cybernetics Kevin Warwick, who implanted a chip in his arm in 1998. In 2004 Conrad Chase offered implanted chips in his night clubs in Barcelona and Rotterdam to identify their VIP customers, who in turn use it to pay for drinks.
The Food and Drug Administration in the United States has approved the use of RFID chips in humans. Some business establishments give customers the option of using an RFID-based tab to pay for service, such as the Baja Beach nightclub in Barcelona. This has provoked concerns into privacy of individuals as they can potentially be tracked wherever they go by an identifier unique to them. Some are concerned this could lead to abuse by an authoritarian government, to removal of freedoms, and to the emergence of an "ultimate panopticon", a society where all citizens behave in a socially accepted manner because others might be watching.
On July 22, 2006, Reuters reported that two hackers, Newitz and Westhues, at a conference in New York City showed that they could clone the RFID signal from a human implanted RFID chip, showing that the chip is not hack-proof as was previously claimed. Privacy advocates have protested against implantable RFID chips, warning of potential abuse. There is much controversy regarding human applications of this technology, and many conspiracy theories abound in relation to human applications, especially one of which is referred to as "The Mark of the Beast" in some religious circles.
Hospitals and healthcare
In Healthcare, there is a need for increased visibility, efficiency, and gathering of data around relevant interactions. RFID tracking solutions are able to help healthcare facilities manage mobile medical equipment, improve patient workflow, monitor environmental conditions, and protect patients, staff and visitors from infection or other hazards.
Adoption of RFID in the medical industry has been widespread and very effective. Hospitals are among the first users to combine both active and passive RFID. Many successful deployments in the healthcare industry have been cited where active technology tracks high-value, or frequently moved items, where passive technology tracks smaller, lower cost items that only need room-level identification. For example, medical facility rooms can collect data from transmissions of RFID badges worn by patients and employees, as well as from tags assigned to facility assets, such as mobile medical devices. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced plans to deploy RFID in hospitals across America to improve care and reduce costs.
A physical RFID tag may be incorporated with browser-based software to increase its efficacy. This software allows for different groups or specific hospital staff, nurses, and patients to see real-time data relevant to each piece of tracked equipment or personnel. Real-time data is stored and archived to make use of historical reporting functionality and to prove compliance with various industry regulations. This combination of RFID real-time locating system hardware and software provides a powerful data collection tool for facilities seeking to improve operational efficiency and reduce costs.
The trend is toward using ISO 18000-6c as the tag of choice and combining an active tagging system that relies on existing 802.11X wireless infrastructure for active tags.
Since 2004 a number of U.S. hospitals have begun implanting patients with RFID tags and using RFID systems, usually for workflow and inventory management.The use of RFID to prevent mixups between sperm and ova in IVF clinics is also being considered.
In October 2004, the FDA approved USA's first RFID chips that can be implanted in humans. The 134 kHz RFID chips, from VeriChip Corp. can incorporate personal medical information and could save lives and limit injuries from errors in medical treatments, according to the company. Anti-RFID activists Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre discovered an FDA Warning Letter that spelled out health risks.According to the FDA, these include "adverse tissue reaction", "migration of the implanted transponder", "failure of implanted transponder", "electrical hazards" and "magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] incompatibility."
Libraries have used RFID to replace the barcodes on library items. The tag can contain identifying information or may just be a key into a database. An RFID system may replace or supplement bar codes and may offer another method of inventory management and self-service checkout by patrons. It can also act as a security device, taking the place of the more traditional electromagnetic security strip.
It is estimated that over 30 million library items worldwide now contain RFID tags, including some in the Vatican Library in Rome.
Since RFID tags can be read through an item, there is no need to open a book cover or DVD case to scan an item, and a stack of books can be read simultaneously. Book tags can be read while books are in motion on a conveyor belt, which reduces staff time. This can all be done by the borrowers themselves, reducing the need for library staff assistance. With portable readers, inventories could be done on a whole shelf of materials within seconds.However, as of 2008 this technology remains too costly for many smaller libraries, and the conversion period has been estimated at 11 months for an average-size library. A 2004 Dutch estimate was that a library which lends 100,000 books per year should plan on a cost of €50,000 (borrow- and return-stations: 12,500 each, detection porches 10,000 each; tags 0.36 each). RFID taking a large burden off staff could also mean that fewer staff will be needed, resulting in some of them getting laid off,but that has so far not happened in North America where recent surveys have not returned a single library that cut staff because of adding RFID. In fact, library budgets are being reduced for personnel and increased for infrastructure, making it necessary for libraries to add automation to compensate for the reduced staff size. Also, the tasks that RFID takes over are largely not the primary tasks of librarians. A finding in the Netherlands is that borrowers are pleased with the fact that staff are now more available for answering questions.
Privacy concerns have been raised surrounding library use of RFID. Because some RFID tags can be read from up to 100 metres (330 ft), there is some concern over whether sensitive information could be collected from an unwilling source. However, library RFID tags do not contain any patron information,and the tags used in the majority of libraries use a frequency only readable from approximately 10 feet (3.0 m). Further, another non-library agency could potentially record the RFID tags of every person leaving the library without the library administrator's knowledge or consent. One simple option is to let the book transmit a code that has meaning only in conjunction with the library's database. Another possible enhancement would be to give each book a new code every time it is returned. In future, should readers become ubiquitous (and possibly networked), then stolen books could be traced even outside the library. Tag removal could be made difficult if t