When you have a card with an RFID chip, it means that the card can transmit information wirelessly to a reader. This technology uses radio waves to communicate between the card and the reader, allowing for contactless applications.
But what does this mean for everyday usage? You may have encountered RFID technology in the form of tap-to-pay credit cards or key cards for hotel rooms. These cards make transactions and access control more convenient and efficient.
In this article, we’ll dive deeper into RFID technology, its uses and benefits, and potential security concerns. Read on:
What is RFID?
RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. It uses radio waves to communicate between a tag attached to an object and a reader device. This allows the transmission of information without physical contact or direct line of sight between the tag and the reader.
This technology has increasingly become more popular and widespread, particularly in retail and supply chain management. RFID tags contain information such as the item’s product number, manufacturer details, and price.
It is then used for various tasks such as inventory tracking and payment processing. RFID technology has also been used in many industries, including healthcare, transportation, and livestock management.
What is an RFID Card?
An RFID card is a type of RFID tag in the form of a card or badge that can be carried by a person. It usually contains information such as a unique identifier, making it useful for access control and identification purposes.
RFID cards have different components, including:
- An RFID Chip. This is the smallest component of the tag. It is centrally located on the card and contains information that can be transmitted to the reader.
- An RFID Antennae. This component is responsible for transmitting the information from the chip to the reader. It can either be a small coil or wire embedded within the card, or it can be around the edges of the card.
- An RFID Substrate. This is the bulk material that holds the chip and antennae together, typically plastic printing cards. However, you can get NFC RFID wood cards, RFID paper ticket cards, JAVA CPU cards, or Epoxy RFID cards depending on the application and use case.
During the manufacturing process, the chip and antennae are embedded into the substrate material. This creates a durable and long-lasting RFID card that can withstand daily use. It is difficult to tamper with or damage the chip without causing visible damage to the card itself.
How do RFID Cards Work?
The card’s working rationale is similar to other RFID tags. They depend on the availability of a reader device to capture information.
The tag can be excited with electromagnetic waves from the reader, causing it to transmit its unique identifier or stored information. The reader captures this information and sends it to a computer for processing.
The process takes place without physical contact or direct line of sight, making it a convenient and efficient method for various applications. It is the best replacement for traditional barcode scanning, as RFID can hold more information and has a longer reading range.
Types of RFID Cards
RFID cards can be classified based on frequency and data storage capabilities.
- 125kHz LF RFID cards operate at 125 kHz or 134 kHz, making them suitable for short-range communication within a few inches. They are commonly used in access control systems, such as door entry badges.
- 13.56MHz HF RFID cards have frequencies between 13.56 MHz and operate at a longer range of up to 3 feet. They can also contain more storage capacity, making them suitable for retail and supply chain management.
- 860-960MHz UHF RFID cards have frequencies between 860 MHz to 960 MHz, operating at a longer range of up to 16 feet. They are commonly used in vehicle access and toll payment systems.
Additionally, you can have dual frequency RFID cards, giving you the leeway to use different frequencies, based on your needs and preferences.
Source of Power
The source of power for RFID cards affects their working range and durability. There are three types:
- Passive Cards. These cards lack batteries and rely on the reader’s electromagnetic waves for power. They have a limited range and are more suitable for short-term or low-traffic applications. Their lack of battery makes them smaller and more durable.
- Active Cards. These cards contain an internal battery, allowing them to transmit information at a longer range and for a longer duration. They are suitable for high-traffic and long-term use but require periodic battery replacement.
- Semi-Passive (Battery Assisted Passive or BAP) Cards. These cards contain a battery to enhance their transmission range and duration but still rely on the reader’s electromagnetic waves for power. They offer a longer range and durability without the need for battery replacement.
Data Storage Capacity
The storage memory of RFID cards can range from a few bytes to several kilobytes. They can also have re-writeable or read-only capabilities. The storage capacity and re-writeability determine the card’s suitability for various applications.
For example, simple access control systems may only require a small amount of storage with read-only capability. On the other hand, retail and supply chain management may require a larger storage capacity with re-writeable capability to track item information.
If you require a card that you can delete and rewrite information on, opt for a re-writeable RFID card. This will enable you to update the card’s information as needed. For example, a membership or loyalty card with re-writeable capability can have its points balance updated each time it is used.
Cards can also be classified based on the material used for their construction. Here are common materials used for RFID cards:
- Plastic or PVC. These are the most common and affordable options, making them suitable for a wide range of applications. They can also be easily imprinted for branding and visual identification. This way, they can serve a dual purpose as both a functional RFID card and a branded membership or loyalty card.
- Polyester or PET. These cards are more durable and resistant to bending and breaking, making them suitable for long-term use in harsh environments. They also have a smaller form factor, allowing for easier carrying.
- Wooden RFID Cards. These cards have a unique and eco-friendly appearance, making them suitable for certain branding or marketing campaigns. They are also durable and suitable for long-term use. You can customize them to add unique finishes or engravings.
- Epoxy RFID Cards. These cards have a glossy finish and can be customized with full-color graphics, making them suitable for branding. They are also durable and resistant to wear and tear. Its hardy construction also allows for use with chemicals, temperature, and water. They are best suited for industrial and harsh environments.
Uses of RFID Cards
RFID cards can be used for a wide range of applications, including but not limited to:
- Access Control. High-security areas can use RFID cards for restricted entry. This can include offices, warehouses, and buildings. Authorized individuals are issued RFID cards containing their unique identification, allowing them to easily access restricted areas.
- Attendance Tracking. RFID cards can be used for attendance tracking in schools and businesses. This allows for more efficient and accurate record-keeping compared to traditional sign-in sheets.
- Transportation Systems. RFID cards can be used as fare cards for public transportation systems, such as bus or train systems. They can also be used in toll payment systems for cars. This allows for a convenient and efficient payment system without the need to stop and physically pay at each toll booth.
- Customer Loyalty Programs. Retail stores can use RFID cards for loyalty programs, where customers can earn and accumulate points with each purchase. These RFID cards can also be used as payment methods at the store.
Generally, RFID cards provide a convenient way to store and access information, making them suitable for various industries and applications. They are affordable and easy to use, ensuring seamless integration into existing systems.
Selecting the right RFID card will depend on your specific needs and requirements. Consider factors such as:
- Read/Write Capabilities. If you make the mistake to buy one-time use RFID card, you will not be able to update the information stored on it. Consider opting for a re-writeable option if updating information is necessary.
- Materials Used. The material used can impact the card’s durability and suitability for certain environments. Choose a material that can withstand wear and tear and meet any special requirements, such as resistance to chemicals or temperatures.
- Customization Options. If you want a tag that can be personalized with your branding or graphics, look for options that offer full-color printing and special finishes. This way, the RFID card can serve as both a functional tool and a marketing tool.
- Read Distance. The read distance refers to how far away an RFID reader can scan and still accurately detect the card’s information. Consider the necessary range for your specific application. For example, tracking stationary assets may require active RFID tags with longer read distances, while access control may only require a shorter read distance.
Overall, carefully evaluating your needs and requirements will help you choose the best RFID card for your specific application. Ensure that the card meets all necessary specifications and can withstand any potential challenges in its environment.