How do RFID security systems work?
- Types of RFID
- Applications of RFID systems
Since its inception in 1964, radio frequency identification (RFID) has been finding new applications in human life. Such is the case for security systems around the world thanks to RFID’s numerous qualities that make them perfect for product tracing and employee tracking in businesses. Just like local turnstile systems, it is also widely used for access control. This means authenticated and authorized access to rooms, functions and other places of value.
Despite its prevalence in security systems, people might still not know how it works. After all, there are many technological components to it that can leave the average person unaware of how to move and operate around it. To help you in that regard, here is how RFID systems work.
The core function of RFID systems revolves around the use of wireless, non-contact transmission of data through radio waves. Data is stored in a computer-linked database and is encoded in RFID tags or “smart labels” — similar to a barcode system you can find at your local supermarket. Examples of data that are commonly used are identification numbers, codes, price tags, and other personal information.
Despite its wireless nature, there is still a limit to how far a tag can be read by a reader. Most types have a read range from a few centimeters to over 30+ meters if the system is state-of-the-art.
In terms of design, excluding the host computer, there are three main components to a basic RFID system: the reader, the tag, and an antenna. The tag contains an integrated circuit that stores data. It also houses the antenna, which is programmed to send data to a reader through a certain distance by way of radio waves.
RFID tags can come in many different shapes and sizes, but they should always have a protective material that holds everything together, be it plastic or otherwise. Tags can come in the form of cards, stickers, barcodes, and other small contraptions that can house a given RFID system. When it comes to the antenna, the bigger it is, the more it can collect and send data back out. This means a higher read range.
The reader is usually attached to key locations and access areas. It receives radio waves and converts it back to a useful, operable form that is then sent to a host computer. The host computer can analyze the data in real-time or at a later date as needed.
Types of RFID
Now that you know its function and design, it would also be useful to note that there are 2 main types of RFID: active and passive.
What really sets an active type of RFID from its passive counterpart is its read range, cost, and extra components. Active RFIDs have a very long read range thanks to its larger size and extra components. Onboard electronics such as sensors, microprocessors, and ports are powered by a built-in power supply. This enables better functionality and a wider range of applications.
For example, some active RFID tags can have a temperature sensor that can detect if a perishable good is being stored properly or not. This helps a computer predict accurate expiration dates even if most perishable goods such as food have expiration dates printed on them. What is important to note here is that these added features come at a premium. This means active RFID is more expensive and may require more complex software than usual.
Meanwhile, passive RFIDs don’t need a power-supply simply because they do not have the same amount of electronics that their active counterparts have. Naturally, this means that they also do not offer the same amount of functionality. The read range is also quite limited if not near contact. This, however, is not a problem because many establishments already benefit from the basic function that an RFID can provide, especially for security systems and access control. Passive RFIDs are also cheaper and inconspicuous, allowing for discrete use.
Applications of RFID systems
As already mentioned, in terms of security systems, RFIDs are best used for controlling key access points in your establishment or building. This can mean rooms with valuables or computer terminals. Employees can also easily be tracked thanks to RFID’s ability to read unique tags, allowing for personalized IDs and tracking chips. For those in the retail and trading industry, RFID tags can be used in items you are selling to prevent theft and allow proper inventory and supply chain management.
RFID may not be a recent invention, but its applications in the modern setting are continually growing. If security is your priority, choosing to employ the use of an RFID system can help give you more protective measures beyond your local turnstile systems. The most important part is to analyze your needs and choose the appropriate system that is most suitable.