Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a wireless identification system that uses the radio frequency waves for identity transmission of any object or a person. It is a form of the Automatic Identification technologies. Other Automatic Identification technologies include bar codes, OCR, retinal scanners for security purposes, etc.
RFID is a more superior form of the Automatic Identification technologies because there is neither a need of manual contact with a reader nor is there a necessity to be in the exact line of sight of the reader. RFID enables the user to not only capture images automatically but it also sends it to a computer system connected with the RFID. This information can further be networked to the world through the pervasive Internet. Thus it can prove to be very handy if the information to be transmitted is useful to more than one receiver.
FID consists of a Tag and a reader which is connected to a computer. The Tag on the object or the transponder on the person concerned sends radio frequency waves to a Reader which is connected to a system. Any required information can then be accessed simply from the system where the information is stored in a proper database. The tags for the RFID have been based on the Electronic Product Code (EPC) numbering scheme. The EPC was formed from various research labs of Auto-ID across the world.
RFID has been used for a variety of Applications ranging from securing a safe security system to treating Cows; RFID has come in handy for all kinds of identification and marking related application. One of the earliest uses of RFID in tracking materials was to track for nuclear materials in trucks during the past times of World War 2. It was the time when nuclear threats were critical. RFID was used reliably for detection of nuclear materials in the range of the device.
Major retailers from the likes of Wal-Mart to European giants Metro and future stores-have been using RFID for product management. Anti-theft check of the various portable commodities by scores of industries is a major area where RFID finds genuine scope today. The major application base of RFID here is Delivery management and managing of received products. Thus could include detecting the defected materials. RFID does these things in an arranged way keeping track of all products.
Asset tracking from logistic companies like NYK logistics is yet another area where RFID finds its usage. For example, for a cargo entering a field within the RFID range, the RFID would give specific databases regarding the cargo’s contents. This would lead to fast data generation and storage. It would also enhance the quality control of supplies.
Some of the important applications of RFID today includes its usage in Security and Locks systems without keys, codes identification or retinal scanner. Here the RFID identifies the person carrying the right authentication, i.e., the right codes. It then allows only that particular person to go into the secured area. RFID also has the databases related to the person carrying the codes. Thereby there can be thorough identification of any person in particular.
Nowadays RFID is also used as an Anti-theft check in cars. These cars are stolen by hacking into the codes that trigger the alarm system and also starts the car. There is a reader in the steering column in the cars with anti-theft RFID which detects RF signals from the key of the car which has a plastic covering. When a car is stolen the 40- bit code keeps on changing leading to a variety of possibilities. Also improper keys lead to immobilization of the car due to removal of fuel supply.
Toll payment booths and tunnels across the world have used RFID for some time now. RFID helps in providing the identification of the vehicles passing the booth. This renders the toll collection process useless as the information of the passing vehicles is stored by RFID and the database is recorded and used later for toll collection. This also avoids congestion at toll sites.
Payment systems also use RFID as a more convenient and comfortable method of payment for goods and services used by the customers. It reduces the use of bar codes and plastic money. RFID also makes the payment to be secure, reduces congestion and helps in eliminating false dealings.
It is also used in government libraries in various countries like USA for tracking of books and documents. Tracking prisoners in jails are also an important application of RFID.
Future Applications of RFID
Applications of RFID apart from ones listed above should go beyond its usual uses to being a part of various other trades. Its importance as a wireless device that has the power of computing can prove to be immense.
- In future RFID’s use as a record keeper bases can prove to be of much more importance than bar coding. It would thus replace the currently preferred manual tracking devices.
- RFID tags can be used the future for allowing shoppers to virtually try apparels. The real garments would be having a RFID chip, producing a virtual image of the required garment. This would also boost the sales of the product as it would be a lot easier to select and choose the right attire.
- Similarly various events and programs can be made way more interesting using RFID. It would lead to a more vibrant participation and an effective feedback through RFID.
- RFID cards can also be used in voting processes as the cards would store data efficiently. Also the voting would be live. The reader can be behind a door or a wall having symbol of one of the organization standing in the voting. The results can be declared within no time.
- Another innovative use of RFID may be its use in finding parking spaces in a parking lot. Identifying victims of an accident can also be done effectively by RFID.
Limitations of RFID
Till now the major limitation of RFID has been those of cost and reusability issues.
The cost issue is due to the demand supply problem. Since the numbers of RFIDs being used today are not substantial enough for the technology to be made cheap, Demand increase can lead to cost reductions. But then the main reason for not a wide use of RFID is the fact that it is not cheap, thus this leads to a catch-22 situation. The issue of reusability arises when a tag is to be used for another reader used by a different, probably a partner company.
The cost of RFID is thus based on volumes, illustrating that a bigger demand is helpful in reducing the cost of the RFID device. The cost of Active Tags generally costs high. Low and High Frequency tags cost a little higher. Passive Tags costs as low as 15 cents in which only a bar code is printed.
What's in store for the future
It might take some years but RFID would surely come through to many diverse fields other than the many RFID is already being used in now. In 2011 the value of RFID’s Market was $5.84 billion. The growth of RFID has been most rapid in Apparel tagging with around 450 million tags being used in 2011 alone. The evolution of RFID through the decades is certainly some indication of how useful this technology can prove to be in new fields.