Radio Frequency Identification
Technical Writing Course
22 May 2008
Thesis: RFID is a flexible identification technology, which allows us to identify whatever
A. History of RFID
1. First RFID usage
2. Historical Development
3. Future of RFID
B. What is RFID?
1. Frequency Ranges
2. RFID tags
2.1. Active Tags
2.2. Passive Tags
2.3. Semi-Active (Semi-Passive) Tags
4. Readers (Interrogators)
D. Usage Area of RFID
1. Electronic Payment
2. Supply Chain
3. Animal Tracking
5. Book Tracking in Libraries
6. EAS (Electronic Article Surveillance)
E. Standards of RFID
F. Advantages of RFID
G. Privacy and Security
RFID (RADIO FREQUENCY IDENTIFICATION)
Imagine you enter a store and take what you want or what you need, and then just
walk out without paying. This is not a dream now. In the past, we have to wait in the queues
at the markets. But now, owing to RFID we don’t have to wait in the queues for hours, our
RFID card pays our fees. This is one of the benefits of RFID; it also has many benefits like
that. Despite its features, an RFID system is very small. An RFID system includes three main
parts a reader, a transreceiver, and a transponder (tag). RFID systems use radio frequencies to
identify. It can be used to identify everything such as; animals, any objects, or even a person.
It has a history of about 70 years. First RFID devices were used during World War II by
United Kingdom to distinguish their airplanes from the enemy ones. But, in 70 years RFID
technology was developed rapidly. Now, we can see RFID all around us. We can simplify
RFID such as; RFID is a flexible identification technology, which allows us to identify
whatever we want.
RFID has a history of about 70 years. First RFID devices were used during World War
II by United Kingdom to distinguish their airplanes from the enemy ones (Elham
Mousavidin). After that, usage areas of it and its microchips were changed. They have being
developed for 70 years and it will continue to develop. While it was developing, it was used
in different areas. In the 1950s, RFID technology started to develop. First RFID projects and
researches were published in these years. In the 1960s, first RFID designs have been made by
researchers. First designs were about anti-theft (C.M. Roberts). These systems used 1-bit tags
and attach the most valuable items in the stores. If somebody tried to rob it, RFID tag would
block the theft. Also first commercial began in the 1960s. In the 1970s the development of
RFID technology was increased. Researchers started to attach RFID tags to animals especially
pets. It was used because, RFID tags on the pets stored information about the animal. When
the owner of the pet brings the animal to the veterinarian, veterinarian can see animal’s
illnesses which animal lived before. And can cure it easily. In the 1980s RFID systems was
used in several areas such as; animal tracking, toll roads in Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, and
Norway (C.M. Roberts). RFID started to enter our daily life in those years. And it started to
make life easier. In the 1990s RFIDs were started to use in railways (toll collection). It was
also started to use in worldwide including; Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Hong
Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, South Africa, Singapore, and
Thailand (C.M. Roberts). In these years, the size of tags also decreased, and standards were
changed. First patents were taken in those years. Until now, about 350 patents have being
taken. In addition, in the 1990s US military has used this technology. Then MasterCard and
American Express used RFID cards. RFID was started to use in libraries in the 1990s (Elham
Mousavidin). In the 2000s growth in usage continued. The United Kingdom army started to
use. Also, Gillette used RFID tags in razor blade packaging in 2003. In March 2003, Benetton
used it in clothes. RFID tags also used in valuable cars keys.
Radio Frequency Identification is a technology that allows us to identify objects,
animals, or even a person. It uses radio frequencies to identify. An RFID tag can be attached
on anything. It has a microchip which stores the information. This information is sent via an
antenna to the reader. The reader converts the radio waves into computer language and sends
it to host system. RFIDs work like barcodes. Barcodes use codes that placed on an item and a
reader that reads these codes. RFID systems also have readers, but in RFID systems, the
information is stored in a microchip, and in addition it uses radio frequencies to transfer the
data. These signals have different ranges such as; low frequencies which have a range of 100
to 500 kHz, intermediate frequencies which have a range of 10 to 15 MHz, and high
frequencies which have a range of 850 to 950 MHz, 2.4 to 5.8 GHz. (C.M Roberts).
RFID tags have three different types; active tags, passive tags, semi-active (semi-
passive) tags. Active tags have their own batteries which attach on them. They use this battery
to send information to reader via antenna, and power the microchip. They have a reading
distance approximately 100 feet. They can be used about 10 years with their batteries. Active
tags are more reliable than passive and semi-active ones. They are heavy-duty, namely they
can be used in water and any other difficult situation. Passive tags don’t have their own
batteries. They use the electric energy from the electromagnetic field which is generated by
the reader and they have a reading distance of about 20 feet. They are only active when a
reader is nearby to power them. Semi-active tags also have a battery, but they don’t use this
battery to communicate with the reader. They use it to power the microchip. They have
infinite life. (Elham Mousavidin). Semi-active tags have two main advantages when we
compare with active and passive ones.1. They are more sensitive than passive tags.2. They
have longer life than active tags. When we compare active and passive tags; active tags have
more reading distance than passive ones, and active tags are expensive than passive tags.
All RFID systems have antennas to transfer the data from microchip to the reader.
Different types of antennas can be used depend on the application. If the distance between the
tag and reader increases, the quality of antenna also will increase and if the quality of
information increases, quality of antenna will also increase.
RFID readers read the information, which stored in the microchip and transferred via
antennas, with their own antennas. Generally, this information is encoded. Reader decodes the
information and sends it to the host computer. Also a reader produces the electric power for
passive and semi- passive tags. They also named as interrogators.
RFID has a wide area of usage. For instance; electronic payment, supply chain
management, animal tracking, healthcare, EAS (Electronic Article Surveillance) etc.
One the usage areas of RFID are electronic payment. This payment is especially in
transportation. First usage was started in Hong Kong. They named this technology as
“Octopus”, and they started use this in 1997. Now, this system is being used by %95 of
Chinese population (UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology). In addition,
Oystercard is used in London’s transportation system. This cards has unique identify number
which stores when card is used and where it used, and card can be cancelled when it lost or
stolen. Also, RFID tags have been using in credit cards by MasterCard and American
Express. RFID tags were started to use in passports after October 2006. This RFID chips store
personal data of passenger (Information Commissioner’s Office).
Supply Chain Management is another usage area of RFID. For instance, in 2002
Marks&Spencer tagged about 3.5 million returnable foods. This was the largest supply chain
management which includes RFID all around the world. Manufacturers can see the decrease
of stocks. Also it is used in airports to monitor the passenger’s baggages (Tristam Carslie). A
company in Cincinnati chips its employees (Daniel Sieberg).
Animals are now people’s best friends. They can be ill, owing to RFID these illnesses
stored in RFID chip and when you will go a veterinarian, he look at this tag and can see
animal’s illnesses. Also RFID is used in animal tracking to distinguish them when they will
The most common usage area of the RFID is healthcare. RFID chips are been using on
human body. An RFID chip embeds somebody’s arm and it stores the information about
patient such as; blood type, patient’s identity, and other details. Also these chips are being
used to identify drugs. In addition, RFID tags used by Alzheimer patients. Because,
Alzheimer patients can forget easily what they must do. They attach on RFID tags what they
need to use.
Libraries have started to use RFID tags to track the books. This helps to increase the
quality of checkouts and keeps collections in order. Also it helps the consumers to find the
book easily. Librarians keep book in order, and you find the book which you want. In
addition, it blocks the book robbery in libraries. When somebody steals the book or wants to
take the book without permission, when the book enters the read ranges of reader it starts to
alarm. And the security in library blocks the steal. The usage areas of RFID are increasing
rapidly. It is limited by imagination.
Electronic Article Surveillance is another usage area of RFID. In this area 1-bit tags
are used to record the presence and absence of an object. The most common usage is in anti-
theft devices. RFID tags are attached on the items or clothes in the stores. And if these leave
the store, it alarms before tag is deactived (C.M. Roberts).
The fast development of RFID must adapt the progressive technology. So RFID must
have some standards. ISO and ANSII are working to increase the standards of RFID
technology. For instance, RFID has a standard on animal tracking (ISO 11784 and ISO
11785), and also in supply chain management RFID has a standard (ISO 18000-3 and ISO
18000-6). In addition, EPC (electronic product code) has some works on RFID
standardization. EPCglobal Network uses the RFID in especially supply chain. It has some
standards on readers and tags. EPC tags include a microchip and an antenna which attach on
it. EPC number is kept on the tag. This information is sent to EPC reader via radio waves
RFID has lots of advantages when we compare it with the other identification
technologies (bar codes). It has a wide reading area. It can work in difficult situations like
snow, ice, rain, fog, mud… etc. Also, it has a very small reading time less than 100 ms, and
an RFID reader can read many information at the same time.
The most worry about RFID is it is reliable and secure. Hackers and analysts are
potential problems for RFID. The information which sends by antenna to reader can read any
reader which in read area. This is one of lacks of RFID. But, user of RFID tag can avoid this
problem by using password which known by only reader. However, this can not block
“hacking”. One of the security benefits of RFID tags is the read range is small. So, it is
difficult to hack the data which stored in RFID microchip. Daniel Sieberg said; “When RFID
chips are embedded in your ID cards, your clothes, your possessions, you are effectively
broadcasting who you are to anyone within range.” An RFID tag can store about 2kb data and
read range is several feet. But, in 2005 a group of hackers in Las Vegas make a reader which
has reading distance at about 70 feet (Daniel Sieberg).
In conclusion, in the progressive technology RFID is a candidate of future technology.
In the near future we see RFID all around us. It becomes life easier. So, all governments
should pay attention to this technology. RFID tags are very small so we can identify whatever
we want without worry. RFID has some problems about hacking, but we can avoid this
problem with passwords.
UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, “Radio Frequency Identification”,
www.parliament.uk/post, July 2004, number 225.
Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO),”Data Protection Technical Guidance Radio
Frequency Identification”, www.ico.gov.uk, August 2006.
Commission of the European Communities, “Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in
Europe, steps towards a policy framework”, www.ec.europa.eu/information_society/
Cougar Software, Inc., “About RFID Technology”, An intelligent Agent Technology
Tristam Carslie, “What is Radio Frequency Identification”, Information Technology
Association of America, access on April 2008.
C.M. Roberts, “Radio Frequency Identification”, Department of Information Science, Otago
University, New Zealand, 2006, p.18-26
Daniel Sieberg, “Is RFID tracking you?”, http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/07/10/rfid/index.
html, October 23. 2006.
Elham Mousavidin, “RFID Technology: An Update”, ISRC Technology Briefing Series,
access on March 2008.