RFID tags for inventory tracking, asset monitoring, and other purposes have changed how many industries operate today. These tags help businesses save time and money through automation, enhance the quality and traceability of products, improve data availability and accuracy, and increase revenues, among others. As such, it comes as no surprise that RFID in retail and other essential industries has been widely used over recent years.
RFID systems are basically divided into two main classifications: passive and active RFIDs. The principal difference between them is that an active RFID uses tags with an internal battery, while a passive RFID does not. Active RFID systems usually vary in terms of device types and complexity. Nonetheless, all active RFIDs have at least three similar hardware components: readers, tags, and antennas. Read on to learn more about these essential components of an active RFID system.
1. RFID Readers
The reader is considered the brain of an RFID’s operation because it conveys and receives radio waves to communicate with the RFID tag. In doing so, the RFID reader ordinarily uses one or more antennas as well as a software application that transmits information from the reader to the RFID system, where such data is processed. Generally, active RFID readers come in either a fixed or mobile form.
As its name implies, a fixed RFID reader stays in one location, often mounted into portals, on walls, or on some other structure that is apt for the read zone. Since RFID readers require external antennas to read active tags accurately, fixed readers make use of external ports to connect one or more extra antennas, depending on the necessary coverage area.
On the other hand, a mobile reader is a substantially compact handheld device wherein the antenna is either externally attached or incorporated. Mobile RFID readers are known for being quite flexible, so they can be carried or mounted almost anywhere while still being able to communicate with a smart device or host computer.
2. RFID Tags
If the reader is the brain of an active RFID system, the battery-operated tags are the heart. When attached to an object, active RFID tags continuously transmit their signals – much like the way the heart constantly pumps blood through the body to keep the other organs running. These active tags use the signals to track the location of an asset in real-time while recording data at extremely high speeds.
These days, active tags already come in different shapes and sizes and usually have a battery life of several years. They also now have a longer read range of more than 92 meters and require no line of sight. Moreover, active RFID tags are able to produce data beyond simple positioning, such as humidity and ambient temperature. With their great capabilities, active tags are ideal for tracking valuable assets on the move.
3. RFID Antennas
By analogy, the antenna of an active RFID system is similar to the body’s veins and arteries, which carry blood from and to the heart. In essence, RFID antennas are used for the transmission of the readers’ interrogation signals to alert the tags, which then send distinctive identification signals back to the readers through the antennas.
Active RFID antennas come in various designs and sizes, depending on a few factors. When selecting an RFID antenna, it is important to factor in environmental conditions (i.e., humidity levels and temperature) as well as the location where the antenna will be mounted (i.e., outdoors or indoors). Similarly, the read range should be taken into consideration. Generally, increasing the antenna’s size can lengthen the read range.
As RFID becomes more and more prominent in many industries as an effective solution for enhancing operational efficiency, active RFID systems increasingly vary in type and complexity. That said, although there may now be numerous types of active RFIDs, all of them still have the same major components, namely readers, tags, and antennas. Learning the functions of these hardware components is vital to further understanding how active RFID systems operate.