Introduction to RFID

Automatic Identification

In recent years automatic identification procedures (Auto ID) have become very popular in many service industries, purchasing and distribution logistics, industry, manufacturing companies and material flow systems. Automatic identification procedures exist to provide information about people, animals, goods and products.

The omnipresent barcode labels that triggered a revolution in identification systems some considerable time ago, are being found to be inadequate in an increasing number of cases. Barcodes may be extremely cheap, but their stumbling block is their low storage capacity and the fact that they cannot be reprogrammed.

The technically optimal solution would be the storage of data in a silicon chip. The most common form of electronic data carrying device in use in everyday life is the chip card based upon a contact field (telephone chip card, bank cards). However, the mechanical contact used in the chip card is often impractical. A contactless transfer of data between the data carrying device and its reader is far more flexible. In the ideal case, the power required to operate the electronic data carrying device would also be transferred from the reader using contactless technology. Because of the procedures used for the transfer of power and data, contactless ID systems are called RFID systems (Radio Frequency Identification).

Radio Frequency Identification - RFID

An RFID system is always made up of two components:

the transponder, which is located on the object to be identified,the detector or reader , which, depending upon design and the technology used, may be a read or write/read device.

basic principle

Picture: The reader and the transponder are the main components of every RFID system

A reader typically contains a high frequency module (transmitter and receiver), a control unit and a coupling element to the transponder. In addition, many readers are fitted with an additional interface (RS 232, RS 485, ...) to enable it to forward the data received to another system (PC, robot control system, ...).

The transponder, which represents the actual data carrying device of an RFID system, normally consists of a coupling element and an electronic microchip. When the transponder, which does not usually possess its own voltage supply (battery), is not within the response range of a reader it is totally passive. The transponder is only activated when it is within the response range of a reader. The power required to activate the transponder is supplied to the transponder through the coupling unit (contactless) as is the timing pulse and data.

Operating principles of RFID systems

There is a huge variety of different operating principles for RFID systems. The picture below provides a short survey of known operation principles (The numbers refer to the relating chapters in the book).

The most important principles - 'inductive coupling' and 'backscatter coupling' are described more detailed below.

Picture: The allocation of the different operating principles of RFID systems into the chapters of the English eddition.