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RFID Technical Issues. Operations & Decision Technologies Department Kelley School of Business Indiana University. What is RFID?. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification

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rfid technical issues

RFID Technical Issues

Operations & Decision Technologies


Kelley School of Business

Indiana University

what is rfid
What is RFID?
  • RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification
  • It is a technology that permits contact-free transfer of data using a radio frequency transmission
  • The heart of RFID technology is a transponder, which is a silicon chip attached to an antenna. It is called a tag. The tag can be attached to items that are to be tracked
  • A numeric code is stored on the chip. This code is called the electronic product code (EPC)
  • The code is read when communication takes place between a reader (interrogator) and the tag
rfid technology is not new
RFID Technology is Not New!!
  • Tracking livestock (Approximately 15 years)
  • Contactless payments (Approximately 5 years)
    • ExxonMobil Speedpass
    • Tollbooth lanes
  • Event access (Ticketing)
  • Building access control
  • Has been used in manufacturing to track large components such as engines and chassis
  • Has been used for the international postal system for monitoring the quality of service
why now
Why Now?
  • The creation of the Electronic Product Code (EPC)
  • Technology changes
  • EPCGlobal Generation 2 standard (Gen 2)
  • The price of the tags has been coming down. However, price is still an issue
  • Mandates by various organizations (European Parliament, DOD, Wal-Mart, Target, etc.)
the wal mart mandate
The Wal-Mart Mandate
  • Wal-Mart required its top 100 suppliers to be RFID-enabled at the case and pallet level by January 2005
  • The rest of its suppliers had to be compliant by December 2006
  • Wal-Mart did not endorse specific RFID hardware or software
  • Expected suppliers to perform their own tests of RFID technologies
  • Will impact 10,000+ Suppliers
advantages of rfid
Advantages of RFID
  • Provides non-contact, non-line-of-sight operation
  • Is difficult to counterfeit
  • Is a highly capable and proven technology for a wide range of applications
  • Provides an instantaneous read of code
rfid technology is maturing
RFID Technology is Maturing
  • Technology has improved significantly
  • Standards are being adopted and agreed upon
  • Some markets are maturing
  • Other markets being identified for possible applications
  • Significant impact expected in SCM
rfid systems
RFID Systems
  • Tags are attached to objects
  • Each tag has a certain amount of internal memory in which it stores information about the object
  • This information could be unique ID numbers, details about manufacture date and product composition
rfid systems1
RFID Systems
  • When the tags pass through a field generated by a reader, they transmit information back to the reader, identifying the object.
  • Until recently the tags and readers were used in systems with low volumes but the objective is to use them in high volume situations
possible roadblocks
Possible Roadblocks
  • Tag reading efficiencies and prices
  • Standards - Applications are global but the basis of radio regulations are national and even regional
  • Interoperability of the technologies through the supply chain
  • Who bears the cost of the RFID system in the supply chain?
possible roadblocks1
Possible Roadblocks
  • The barrier points for tags are 2 meters for range and 3GHz for frequency. Below these points, it is possible to make a low cost tag system. Beyond these points, technologies get more expensive
  • IT Infrastructure to handle the large amounts of data
  • Change of work and labor practices
  • Privacy and ethical issues
  • Security issues
improvements in rfid technology
Improvements in RFID Technology
  • From read-only tags to read-write
  • From no memory in tags to 2K, 8K and in some cases 16K bits
  • Better authentication between tag and reader
  • Anti-collision algorithms for multiple tag reads in the field
  • More sophisticated security algorithms
an rfid system
An RFID System


Command to

Retrieve Data



Host Computer

Data Requested

Data Received

Data sent to Host



Request Transmitted

Internet / Intranet


Data Transmitted

rfid tags
  • Tags can be either active (powered by a battery) or passive (powered by the reader field)
  • Tags can also be semi-active or semi-passive (same type of tag). Such tags have batteries but are only activated by a reader’s electromagnetic field
  • Tags come in various forms including smart cards, tags, labels, watches, and even embedded in cell phones
structure of a tag
Structure of a Tag

Chip + Antennae + Substrate = Tag

Chip or Integrated Circuit (IC)


rfid operating frequencies
RFID Operating Frequencies
  • Low Frequency (125-134kHz)Used in access control, livestock, race timing, pallet tracking, wireless commerce
  • High Frequency (13.56 mHz)Smart labels – Used in supply chain, wireless commerce, ticketing, product authentication
  • Ultra-High Frequency – UHF (900+mHz)Emerging technology
  • Microwave (2.45 gHz)Not widely deployed
rfid transponder or tags
RFID Transponder or Tags
  • It is a micro-chip with a unique ID code (UID) and memory
  • It also has an antenna which is usually copper or aluminum
  • Active tags versus passive tags
  • Some chipless tags – very low cost, short read range tags
readability issues
Readability Issues
  • Dead Tags – Unreadable
  • Quiet Tags – Readable but only at a short distance
  • Quality of tags is an issue
  • Readability rates of higher quality tags are at about 97% to 98%. That translates to about 2 Sigma
electronic product code


8 Bits

EPC Manager

34 Bits

Object Class

20 Bits

Serial Number

34 Bits

Electronic Product Code
  • Header: Identifies the EPC’s Version Number
  • EPC Manager: Indicates the enterprise using the EPC number
  • Object Class: Refers to the class or category of a product (similar to a Stock Keeping Unit – SKU)
  • Serial Number: Identifies a unique item being tagged


tag packaging formats
Tag Packaging Formats
  • Weather-proof or environment-proof enclosures
  • Pressure sensitive labels
  • Credit card size flexible labels
  • Tokens and coins
  • Embedded tags
  • Paper tags
transponder tag classes
Transponder/Tag Classes
  • Read Only
  • Write Once Read Only
  • Read/Write
  • Read/Write with On-Board Sensors (for recording parameters such as temperature, pressure, etc.)
  • Read/Write with Integrated Transmitters – Can communicate with other tags and devices without the presence of a reader
low frequency tags
Low Frequency Tags
  • Typical Maximum Read Range - <0.5 m
  • Relatively expensive even at high volumes. Low frequency requires a longer more expensive copper antenna. Least susceptible to performance degradations from metal and liquids
  • Generally passive tags
  • Applications include access control, animal tracking, POS applications including SpeedPass
  • Data rate slower than other frequencies
  • Passive tag size is larger than other frequencies
high frequency tags
High Frequency Tags
  • Typical Maximum Read Range – Approx 1m
  • Less expensive than low frequency tags. Best suited for applications that do not require long range reading of multiple tags
  • Generally passive tags
  • Applications include item-level tracking such as baggage handling (non-US)
  • Data rate slower than other ultra high frequencies (UHF)
  • Passive tag size is larger than UHF
ultra high frequency tags
Ultra High Frequency Tags
  • Typical Maximum Read Range – Approx 3m
  • In large volumes, UHF tags have the potential to be cheaper than either LF or HF tags. Offer balance between range and performance
  • Active tags with integral battery or passive tags
  • Applications include pallet tracking and item-level tracking such as baggage handling (US)
  • Data rate faster than other LF or HF tags
  • Passive tag size is smaller than LF or HF tags
microwave tags
Microwave Tags
  • Typical Maximum Read Range – Approx 1m
  • Very similar to UHF tags but with faster read rates. Most susceptible to performance degradations from metal and liquids, particularly metal
  • Active tags with integral battery or passive tags
  • Applications include SCM And toll collection
  • Data rate faster than other ultra high frequencies (UHF)
  • Passive tag size is smaller than UHF tags
rfid readers
RFID Readers
  • Readers are radio frequency devices that:
    • Transmit and receive RF signals
    • Contain a control unit to execute commands
    • Incorporate an interface to transfer data
    • Receives commands from a Host computer
    • Responds to software commands from Host
reader characteristics
Reader Characteristics
  • Stationary or Hand-held
  • Multi-protocol?
  • Weather-proof?
  • Read ranges vary from a few centimeters to a few meters
  • Read range is dependent upon broadcast signal strength, size of broadcast antenna, size of transponder antenna, and the environment
antenna characteristics
Antenna Characteristics
  • Transmits and receives RF signals
  • Typically made of copper or aluminum, new technologies emerging for printed antennas
  • Stationary or Hand-held
  • Weather-proof?
  • Fixed or Turnable
an antenna tunnel
An Antenna Tunnel



tunnel reads

rfid system issues
RFID System Issues
  • Read Distance Requirements
    • Long read range
    • Short read range
  • Frequency
    • All frequencies have their pros and cons
  • ISO Standards
    • Proprietary or Standards-based
rfid system issues1
RFID System Issues
  • Government Regulations
    • Varies from country to country
  • Multiple Tag Reading in Same Field
    • Anti-collision algorithms
  • Hardware set-up
    • Environment can affect performance
  • Transponders
rfid players hardware
RFID Players – Hardware
  • Alien Technology
  • Intermec Technology
  • Matrics, Inc.
  • Savi Technology
  • SAMSys Technologies
  • Symbol Technologies
  • Texas Instruments
rfid players software
RFID Players - Software
  • Manhattan Associates
  • SAP
  • RedPrairie
  • JDA Software
  • Manugistics
  • EXE Technologies
rfid middleware
RFID - Middleware
  • TIBCO Software
  • Sun Microsystems
  • webMethods
  • GlobeRanger
  • ConnecTerra
rfid systems integrators
RFID – Systems Integrators
  • IBM Global Services
  • Accenture
  • Cap Gemini Ernst and Young
  • Sapient
  • Kurt Salmon Associates
  • The ePC Group