RFID technology has seen some dramatic advances recently, with RFID tags becoming smaller and smaller and therefore creating new opportunities for using this technology.
In fact, microscopic radio frequency identification tags have been developed that are only 22 microns wide (approximately one fifth of the diameter of a human hair) and have the potential to be implanted in human cells*. Although these RFID tags are still larger than many cells in the body, some cancer cells including human melanoma cells, human breast cancer cells and human colorectal cancer cells are large enough to carry them. This technology could allow scientists to track cancer and healthy cells, monitor their behaviour and potentially manipulate them in the future. A ground-breaking and inspiring use of RFID technology.
The RFID tags that are more widely used today are not as small. Typically they measure in millimetres or centimetres. They usually consist of a microchip and an antenna, and work when a nearby transceiver emits electromagnetic signals at the tag. The tag responds by transmitting data back to the transceiver, such as its’ identity and location. Essentially an RFID tag is very similar to a barcode, although it doesn’t require alignment with the transceiver to be read – a transceiver can locate the tag even when out of the line of sight and at a distance.
RFID tags can either be passive or active. A passive tag is powered up by the transceiver before it can transmit data (it gets its power from the electromagnetic signal from the transceiver). These are smaller, cheaper and more widely used.
Active RFID tags are ‘always on’, transmitting data all the time. For this they require a power supply or battery and therefore are larger, limiting the applications they can be used for.
RFID Tag Applications
As the technology has got smaller and prices have also come down, we are getting more interest from technology start-ups who wish to explore the opportunity. There are numerous applications for RFID technology, below are just a few examples:
- Asset and inventory tracking – potentially replacing barcodes for tracking goods at the pallet, case or even item level, and for supply chain management or for tracking business assets. We have worked with clients on RFID technology to track keys, for example for casino slot machines and even prison keys.
Personnel tracking – using RFID tags to track personnel can improve safety and security, as well as introducing more accountability into the work environment. It can be used to track and pinpoint an employee’s location if they operate in a challenging environment, and enable a faster response if an incident occurs. RFID technology can also be used for workforce management in time and attendance systems.
- Access control – employees, visitors and contractors can be provided with RFID passes allowing access to specific areas of a site, depending on security levels.
ID badging – as well as controlling, restricting and tracking the movements of personnel, RFID tags in ID badges have many applications in areas such as event management. Organisations are using them to collate data on attendance at conferences or trade fairs, or monitoring engagement at keynote speeches or interest in a particular area of the event.
- Counterfeit prevention – in some industries with high levels of counterfeit products flooding the market, such as in the pharmaceutical industry, RFID tags offer a solution for tracking and identifying products (and their components), making it easier to verify their authenticity and harder to copy or tamper with.
These are just a few of the ways that RFID technology is being used today, however we think it presents huge opportunities for entrepreneurs, inventors and technology companies to innovate and develop really exciting products and solutions.
EC Electronics are interested in working anyone with innovative ideas about how to use this technology, and can provide the hardware and electronics required to bring new products to market. Contact us if you have an application for RFID that you would like to take it to the next level. Call +44 (0)1256 461894 or email email@example.com