07:46 PM
Connect Directly

Bringing Real-Time Tracking To Logistics

Radio-frequency ID tags offer new efficiency in supply-chain management.

Just what is RFID? And how does it work? The basic components of a radio-frequency identification system are an antenna, a transceiver, and a transponder, commonly called an RF tag. The tag is electronically programmed with information unique to the item to which it's attached.

The antenna, which is available in a variety of shapes and sizes, picks up a signal emitted by the tag and transmits it to a transceiver that's equipped with a decoder. The antenna can be always on, or it can be activated by a sensor.

The antenna often is packaged with the transceiver to become a reader that can be configured either as a handheld device or a fixed-mount device, such as those on toll booths that automatically debit motorists' accounts. The reader, which can receive radio waves from one inch to 100 feet or more, depending on power output and radio frequency, decodes the data encoded in the tag's integrated circuit, or silicon chip, and sends it to a computer for processing.

RFID tags can be read-only or can contain data that can be rewritten or modified. The former is called a passive tag, and the latter active. Passive tags usually contain 32 to 128 bits of data and often operate in a way similar to a common bar code. These tags are less expensive and lighter than the active variety and have an unlimited operational life.

Active tags, which can have as much as 1 Mbyte of memory, require internal batteries, which have a maximum life of about 10 years. In addition to having fewer capabilities, passive tags have a shorter read range and require higher-powered readers.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The Business of Going Digital
The Business of Going Digital
Digital business isn't about changing code; it's about changing what legacy sales, distribution, customer service, and product groups do in the new digital age. It's about bringing big data analytics, mobile, social, marketing automation, cloud computing, and the app economy together to launch new products and services. We're seeing new titles in this digital revolution, new responsibilities, new business models, and major shifts in technology spending.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - July 22, 2014
Sophisticated attacks demand real-time risk management and continuous monitoring. Here's how federal agencies are meeting that challenge.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.