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Understanding Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) – Part III


With the push being put on by industry giants such as Wal-Mart as well as strong government interest, RFID may be a technology every supply chain will soon have to reckon with. Are you prepared?<br>
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R. Moroz Ltd., a Canadian bar coding and RFID technology provider and systems integrator, and Canadian Transportation & Logistics have put together a series of articles to help you better understand this emerging technology. This week we take a close look at high frequency RFID (new articles are posted every Friday. To check past articles, write: Understanding Radio Frequency Identification) in the search box. Other feature articles will also be included.)<br>
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R. Moroz Ltd., Canadian Transportation & Logistics and the Town of Markham, Texas Instruments and Philips Electronics are also working together to bring you the 1st Canadian RFID conference.<br>
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The event takes place on April 28th in Markham. For more details check the RFID conference button on the www.ctl.ca Web site.<br>
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Now on to part III of our series on Understanding RFID.
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PART 3: HIGH FREQUENCY (HF) PASSIVE RFID<br>
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Passive High Frequency (HF) RFID operates at 13.56MHz and is a globally accepted frequency. This means that any RFID system operating at HF can be used globally. However, there are some differences with regulations in the different regions of the world. These differences pertain primarily to power and bandwidth. In North America, Industry Canada and the FCC limits the reader antenna power to three watts while in Europe the regulations allow for four watts.<br>
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HF is also the basis of numerous standards such as ISO 14443, 15693, 18000-3. These standards and others will be discussed in more detail in our section on RFID STANDARDS.<br>
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With HF, the signal travels well through most materials including water and body tissue. It is however affected more by surrounding metals compared to Low frequency (LF).<br>
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In comparison to LF, the benefits of HF are lower tag costs, better communication speed and the ability to read multiple tags at once.<br>
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The length of the antenna is based on the length of the signal wave thus the higher the frequency the shorter the wavelength. For this reason, there is the flexibility that an antenna for a HF tag is small enough that it can be produced by printing it onto a substrate, using conductive ink and then affixing the chip.<br>
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Today the cost for HF tags or what are also known as INLAYS is approximately $0.70 to $0.80 CDN. As demand increases, we should see prices drop significantly. <br>
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Tags produced with HF chips are typically less than .1mm in thickness and are available with different sizes of antennas. The larger the tag antenna, the greater the energy capture area the tag has and the greater the communication distance from the reader. Smaller tag sizes may be easier to package into a product but the downside is that there is a reduced communication distance. <br>
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The capability of the small inlay size allows for it to be embedded into labels. Labels with inlays are called smart labels. They can be used to print and write to the chip, and at the same time, they can use printers with embedded RFID readers or with external readers to printers.<br>
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With the allowable power regulations, HF is designed for applications that require 1m or less of communication range. Orientation of the tags with respect to the reader antenna will have an impact on the communication range. For optimum communication range, both antennas (tag and reader) should be parallel. Having the tag perpendicular to the reader antenna may reduce significantly the communication range.<br>
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The higher the frequency, the higher the data throughput and the faster the communications will be between the reader and the tags. This increase in speed allows for the reader to communicate with multiple tags at once. The process of communication with multiple tags is known as Anti-Collision and at HF, a reader can read up to 50 tags per second.<br>
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The following are some of the benefits and limitations of HF RFID:<br>
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– Penetrates most materials well including water and body tissue.<br>
– Not as effective as LF in the presence of metal and water.<br>
– Tags can easily be embedded into non-metallic items such as labels, pallets, keyfobs, cards etc.<br>
– HF should not be affected by electrical noise that may be generated by motors in an industrial environment.<br>
– Higher data transfer rate (20ms for read command), the higher the frequency, the faster the communication.<br>
– Transponders are less expensive (they can range from: $0.70 – $0.80 CDN)<br>
– Reader can communicate with multiple tags simultaneously<br>
– Read Range is less than one metre.<br>
– Tags have larger memory capacity. <br>
– Frequency is recognized and used globally (no restrictions)<br>
– Global Standard: ISO 15693, 14443, 18000-3<br>
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Although most access control systems today are based on LF, using either contact-less cards or keyfobs, HF is becoming the technology for new access control and security systems. The additional memory allows for improved security and the integration of biometrics as part of the security features. Enhanced access control systems have the ability to validate assets, such as computer equipment and other items as one passes through an access control system or portal. Each valuable asset is embedded with an ISO tag, which can be read and identified within the access control system. Documents and files can easily be identified and tracked as well.<br>
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Contact-less Smart Cards or RFID cards are going to be the next generation of credit cards. Visa, Master Card and American Express have been testing HF RFID based on ISO 14443 standards for some time. We should start seeing the deployment of these new cards in the next few years, once retail terminals are upgraded to support RFID capabilities.<br>
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One of the main reasons for the switch to contact-less smart cards is primarily due to the ruggedness and consistent performance levels of RFID. When a tag is embedded into a card or other form factors, the tag is essentially protected from the surrounding environment. <br>
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As for the readers, they can also be encased and protected from the surrounding environment. The second reason for the switch to RFID is the additional memory the tags can store. This allows for better security and protection of privacy issues. By using biometrics and personalized access number improved security can be accomplished.<br>
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In Canada, Shell currently uses HF RFID for its Easy Pay customer convenience program. This program allows for customers to pay automatically at the pumps. In Hong Kong, more than nine million people use the Octopus card to access the public transit system. Recently, the Netherlands has introduced a contact-less smart card system, based on ISO 14443, for payment and access to the Trans Link System (TLS). This will allow TLS travelers to move seamlessly between trains, light rail, metro and buses within The Netherlands using one single, contact-less ticketing solution.<br>
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Numerous sports teams and events are using HF RFID for payment and access. Most ski hills in Europe use the technology for convenience and for prevention of fraud. The next world cup schedule for 2006 in Germany will be using tickets embedded with HF inlays.<br>
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HF is also a solution for identifying products, such as cases and pallets. The communication range of HF places limits on the type of warehouse or logistics applications that can be considered for this technology. For retail or for applications that do not require long communication distances, HF is a very good solution. <br>
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High Frequency RFID
is an ideal solution for applications that require lower cost identification and the ability to read multiple tags at once at a distance of 1 meter or less.<br>
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