What is RFID? Basic Terms and FAQ

what is RFID

Even if you know the answer to “What is RFID?” you may still be wondering a lot of things about it. Especially, if you need to be using RFIDwhat is RFID labels in your manufacturing process.

Here is a list of basic terms relating to RFID and some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

RelatedWhat Is The Difference Between RFID, NFC and BLE Technologies? 

Related: What You Need to Know to Create the Best RFID Label Solution

What is RFID? Basic Terms

What is RFID?

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is an automatic identification method that stores and remotely retrieves data via an RFID tag or transponder.

What is a UPC?

UPC stands for Universal Product Code, which has been used to auto-identify items via machine-readable barcodes for a number of years.

What is an EPC?

The EPC, or Electronic Product Code, is the next generation of automatic product identification. EPCglobal, an organization leading the development of industry standards for EPC, refers to the EPC as a “simple, compact ‘license plate’ that uniquely identifies objects (items, cases, pallets, locations and so on) in the supply chain.”

What are the differences between UPC and EPC?

A UPC only identifies object classes or generic categories of product — such as a pack of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum. An EPC uses a unique serial number to identify each individual pack of gum and makes it possible to automatically track products from manufacturer to store shelf.


How does RFID work?

An RFID programmer encodes information onto a tiny microchip within a thin RFID tag that looks much like a normal pressure-sensitive carton label. This tag is attached to a carton as it begins its supply chain journey from manufacturing plant to retailer. RFID readers that work on the same protocol as the tag are distributed at key points throughout the supply chain. These readers activate the tag, causing it to broadcast high-frequency radio waves within bandwidths reserved for RFID usage by individual governments. These radio waves transmit identifiers or codes that reference unique information about products inside the carton. Readers relay the codes to a host computer as the carton passes through an RFID reader/portal or moves along a conveyor anywhere in the supply chain. The computer parses this information and makes it readily available to anyone who needs to know where a product is at any given moment.

Related: RFID Inlay and Tags: Questions and Answers 

What is the difference between HF & UHF?

The first difference is the operating frequency. HF (High Frequency) works at 13.56 MHz and UHF (Ultra High Frequency) is at 860 – 960 MHz depending on the country of use. Generally, the operating range for HF is less than 12″ while UHF can operate at significantly longer distances. There are also differences in performance related to the types of products the inlays or labels are attached to and the operating environment. For this reason, it is always important to consult with a qualified RFID supplier to review your products and requirements and, if warranted, perform a site survey

What is the difference between an inlay and a label?

An inlay is the functional portion of the RFID label. It is made up of the antenna to which a chip (the brains of the inlay) is attached. The inlay is typically supplied on a substrate or carrier and is called a dry inlay, or if adhesive is added, it is called a wet inlay. In both cases the inlay is supplied to a converter where it is inserted into a label or tag or whatever type of construction is required for the application.

What benefits does RFID have over barcodes?

The most obvious benefit is that RFID does not have to be seen to be read. Bar codes must be placed on the outside of the product and the product must be orientated so the barcode is inline with the scanner. On the other hand, with RFID, you could have (multiple) products inside a sealed carton (for example) and each product can still be identified. Another important difference is that RFID is a read/write technology. So if desired the data can be written (or programmed) after it has been attached to the product. This offers a higher level of flexibility to track and update the data as the product goes through the supply chain, into the end-use application or beyond.

What’s the RFID Value Chain?

Avery Dennison works with numerous leading silicon designers and fabricators in order to match our product designs with the chips that drive them. We design, assemble and test inlays and then deliver them to the end-user market through an established qualified converting and integrated network of partners that add value by offering a total RFID solution.

How do I get started?

As with any project you need a well-defined problem statement. What problem are you trying to solve and what are the necessary elements required to solve the problem? In other words, how will you measure success? You also need to make a very realistic assessment of what the solution is worth to your application so you can determine if it offers an attractive ROI.

If this is your first RFID application it is best to bring in an experienced Systems Integrator to help layout the framework for the project and offer guidelines on what type of solutions should be considered.

Call PaladinID today to find out exactly what you need to “Make Your Mark!”

Please give us a call at  (888) 972 – 5234 or email us at info@PaladinID.com.

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About PaladinID, LLC
PaladinID develops and supports high-performance barcode labeling applications. We work with our clients to “Make Your Mark” by providing the expertise and tools necessary to create an entire product label printing solution. Located in central New Hampshire, PaladinID has been serving Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New England, and beyond for over 30 years, and in 2017, became an RFID-certified company. We look forward to working with you.

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