Tuesday, November 14, 2006

RFID vs. Barcodes

RFID vs. Barcodes

While RFID will probably never completely replace barcodes, it has distinct advantages over the barcode. For example,

  • Human intervention is required to scan a barcode, whereas in most applications an RFID tag can be detected "hands off."
  • Barcodes must be visible on the outside of product packaging. RFID tags can be placed inside the packaging or even in the product itself.
  • You must have "line of sight" to read a barcode. RFID tagged items can be read even if they are behind other items.
  • The readability of barcodes can be impaired by dirt, moisture, abrasion, or packaging contours. RFID tags are not affected by those conditions.
  • RFID tags have a longer read range than barcodes.
  • RFID tags have read/write memory capability; barcodes do not.
  • More data can be stored in an RFID tag than can be stored on a barcode.
[ Source]

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Omron V740 Reader

The V740 Series RFID system

-Suited for retail logistics
-Multi protocol capability
-Compatible with UHF (915Mhz)
-Able to communicate using EPC and ISO Standards
-Firmware can support EPC Class 1 Generation 2 protocols.
Can Integrates into standard IT infrastructures as a networked node.


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RFID in Transportation

RFID Parking Area Vehicle Access Monitoring and Control

RFID technology is rapidly gaining ground in the access control industry. One area where it can provide significant advantages is in vehicle access control. Cars, trucks, or other vehicles--even forklifts in warehouse environments--can be tagged with passive RFID transmitters. When a restricted area, or a parking lot entrance, is approached, a reader at the site accesses the tag. If the vehicle is authorized, the gate opens and it is allowed to pass.

In the very simplest systems, the mechanism works in pass/fail mode--access granted or access denied. However, if the data from the tag can be connected with a database, functionality of the system is greatly enhanced. Clearly it is not practical or cost effective to locate a PC at each entry point where an RFID reader and the gate control mechanism are located. However, as both require an RS-232 serial connection to communicate with a computer, making input from them available across a network once required just that.

Now, with serial device servers, RS232 RFID readers and gate control mechanisms can be remotely monitored and controlled via Ethernet. The above diagram depicts a standard network-enabled RFID parking applications. This network-enabled configuration opens up many possibilities for RFID-based access control systems. For example, a prepaid account can be linked to the car's RFID tag. The RFID reader authorizes the car for entry, logs entry time, and transmits that data back to the server, then the gate mechanism is activated and the car enters. A similar exit point is configured, and when the car leaves the RFID reader logs exit time, releases the gate mechanism, and transmits the exit data back to the server. The customer's account is then debited for the time she spent in the parking lot. The advantages of this type of system include not only easy access for the customer, but the elimination of staffing at entry and exit points.


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Thursday, November 09, 2006

RFID from Wikipedia

Radio Frequency Identification made at CSTCC (RFID) is an automatic identification method, relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using devices called RFID tags or transponders. An RFID tag is an object that can be attached to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person for the purpose of identification using radio waves. Chip-based RFID tags contain silicon chips and antennas. Passive tags require no internal power source, whereas active tags require a power source.

History of RFID tags

In 1946 Léon Theremin invented an espionage tool for the Soviet government which retransmitted incident radio waves with audio information. Soundwaves vibrated a diaphragm which slightly altered the shape of the resonator, which modulated the reflected radio frequency. Even though this device was a passive covert listening device, not an identification tag, it has been attributed as the first known device and a predecessor to RFID technology. The technology used in RFID has been around since the early 1920s according to one source (although the same source states that RFID systems have been around just since the late 1960s).[1][2][3]

A more similar technology, the IFF transponder, was invented by the British in 1939 [1], and was routinely used by the allies in World War II to identify airplanes as friend or foe. Transponders are still used by military and commercial aircraft to this day.

Another early work exploring RFID is the landmark 1948 paper by Harry Stockman, titled "Communication by Means of Reflected Power" (Proceedings of the IRE, pp 1196–1204, October 1948). Stockman predicted that "...considerable research and development work has to be done before the remaining basic problems in reflected-power communication are solved, and before the field of useful applications is explored."

Mario Cardullo claims that his U.S. Patent 3,713,148 in 1973 was the first true ancestor of modern RFID; a passive radio transponder with memory. [3] The first demonstration of today's reflected power (backscatter) RFID tags, both passive and active, was done at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in 1973. [2]

Types of RFID tags
RFID cards are also known as "proximity" or "proxy" cards and come in three general varieties: passive, semi-passive (also known as semi-active), or active.

Passive RFID tags have no internal power supply. The minute electrical current induced in the antenna by the incoming radio frequency signal provides just enough power for the CMOS integrated circuit in the tag to power up and transmit a response. Most passive tags signal by backscattering the carrier signal from the reader. This means that the antenna has to be designed to both collect power from the incoming signal and also to transmit the outbound backscatter signal. The response of a passive RFID tag is not necessarily just an ID number; the tag chip can contain non-volatile EEPROM for storing data.

The lack of an onboard power supply means that the device can be quite small: commercially available products exist that can be embedded in a sticker, or under the skin. As of 2006, the smallest such devices measured 0.15 mm × 0.15 mm, and are thinner than a sheet of paper (7.5 micrometers). [2] The lowest cost EPC RFID tags, which are the standard chosen by Wal-Mart, DOD, Target, Tesco in the UK and Metro AG in Germany, are available today at a price of 5 cents each. The addition of the antenna creates a tag that varies from the size of a postage stamp to the size of a post card. Passive tags have practical read distances ranging from about 10 cm (4 in.) (ISO 14443) up to a few meters (EPC and ISO 18000-6) depending on the chosen radio frequency and antenna design/size. Due to their simplicity in design they are also suitable for manufacture with a printing process for the antennas.

Non-silicon tags made from polymer semiconductors are currently being developed by several companies globally. Simple laboratory printed polymer tags operating at 13.56 MHz were demonstrated in 2005 by both PolyIC (Germany) and Philips (The Netherlands). If successfully commercialized, polymer tags will be roll printable, like a magazine, and much less expensive than silicon-based tags. The end game for most item level tagging over the next few decades may be that RFID tags will be wholly printed - the same way a barcode is today - and be virtually free, like a barcode. However, substantial technical and economic hurdles must be surmounted to accomplish such an end: hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested over the last three decades in silicon processing, resulting in a per-feature cost which is actually less than that of conventional printing.


Unlike passive RFID tags, active RFID tags have their own internal power source which is used to power any ICs that generate the outgoing signal. Active tags are typically much more reliable (e.g. fewer errors) than passive tags due to the ability for active tags to conduct a "session" with a reader. Active tags, due to their onboard power supply, also transmit at higher power levels than passive tags, allowing them to be more effective in "RF challenged" environments like water (including humans/cattle, which are mostly water), metal (shipping containers, vehicles), or at longer distances. Many active tags have practical ranges of hundreds of meters, and a battery life of up to 10 years. Some active RFID tags include sensors such as temperature logging which have been used in concrete maturity monitoring or to monitor the temperature of perishable goods. Other sensors that have been married with active RFID include humidity, shock/vibration, light, radiation, temperature and atmospherics like ethylene. Active tags typically have much longer range (approximately 300 feet) and larger memories than passive tags, as well as the ability to store additional information sent by the transceiver. The United States Department of Defense has successfully used active tags to reduce logistics costs and improve supply chain visibility for more than 15 years. At present, the smallest active tags are about the size of a coin and sell for a few dollars.

The RFID system
An RFID system may consist of several components: tags/transponsders, tag readers, antenna, middleware/application software.

The purpose of an RFID system is to enable data to be transmitted by a mobile device, called a tag, which is read by an RFID reader and processed according to the needs of a particular application. The data transmitted by the tag may provide identification or location information, or specifics about the product tagged, such as price, color, date of purchase, etc. The use of RFID in tracking and access applications first appeared in 1932, to identify aircraft as friendly or unfriendly ("identify friend or foe" (IFF)). RFID quickly gained attention because of its ability to track moving objects. As the technology is refined, more pervasive and possibly invasive uses for RFID tags are in the works.

In a typical RFID system, individual objects are equipped with a small, inexpensive tag. The tag contains a transponder with a digital memory chip that is given a unique electronic product code. The interrogator, an antenna packaged with a transceiver and decoder, emits a signal activating the RFID tag so it can read and write data to it. When an RFID tag passes through the electromagnetic zone, it detects the reader's activation signal. The reader decodes the data encoded in the tag's integrated circuit (silicon chip) and the data is passed to the host computer. The application software on the host processes the data, and may perform various filtering operations to reduce the numerous often redundant reads of the same tag to a smaller and more useful data set.

Take the example of books in a library. Security gates can detect whether or not a book has been properly checked out of the library. When users return items, the security bit is re-set and the item record in the Integrated library system is automatically updated. In some RFID solutions, a return receipt can be generated. At this point, materials can be roughly sorted into bins by the return equipment. Inventory wands provide a finer detail of sorting. This tool can be used to put books into shelf-ready order.

Current usage
RFID tags are being embedded in passports issued by many countries. The first RFID passports ("e-passports") were issued by Malaysia in 1998. In addition to information also contained on the visual data page of the passport, Malaysian e-passports record the travel history (time, date, and place) of entries and exits from the country.

Standards for RFID passports are determined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and are contained in ICAO Document 9303, Part 1, Volumes 1 and 2 (6th edition, 2006). ICAO refers to the ISO 14443 RFID chips in e-passports as "contactless integrated circuits". ICAO standards provide for e-passports to be identifiable by a standard e-passport logo [3] on the front cover.

RFID tags are included in new UK and some new US passports, beginning in 2006. The US produced 10 million passports in 2005, and it has been estimated that 13 million will be produced in 2006. The chips will store the same information that is printed within the passport and will also include a digital picture of the owner. The passports will incorporate a thin metal lining to make it more difficult for unauthorized readers to "skim" information when the passport is closed.

Transport payments
The New York City Subway is conducting a trial during 2006, utilizing PayPass by MasterCard as fare payment.
The Moscow Metro, the world's busiest, was the first system in Europe to introduce RFID smartcards in 1998.
In the UK, op systems for prepaying for unlimited public transport have been devised, making use of RFID technology. The design is embedded in a creditcard-like pass, that when scanned reveals details of whether the pass is valid, and for how long the pass will remain valid. The first company to implement this is the NCT company of Nottingham City, where the general public affectionately refer to them as "beep cards". It has since then been implemented with great success in London, where "Oyster cards" allow for pay-as-you-go travel as well as passes valid for various lengths of time and in various areas.
In Oslo, NO, the upcoming public transport payment is to be RFID-based all round. The system is to be put into production around spring 2007
Since 2002, in Taipei, Taiwan the transportation system uses RFID operated cards as fare collection. The Easy Card is charged at local convenience stores and metro stations, and can be used in Metro, buses, parking lots and taxis. The uses are planned to extend all throughout the island of Taiwan in the future.
In Hong Kong, mass transit is paid for almost exclusively through the use of an RFID technology, called the Octopus Card. Originally it was launched in September 1997 exclusively for transit fare collection, but has grown to be similar to a cash card, and can be used in vending machines, fast-food restaurants and supermarkets. The card itself can be recharged with cash at add-value machines or over the counter in shops, and can be successfully read several centimetres from the reader.
The "Calypso" RFID pass is used throughout the world for public transport systems such as Paris and Lyon in France, (RATP), Porto and Lisbon in Protugal, Milan and Torino in Italy, Montreal in Canada, Mexico, Pereira in Columbia, etc.
RFID tags are used for electronic toll collection at toll booths with Georgia's Cruise Card, California's FasTrak, Illinois' I-Pass, Oklahoma's Pikepass, the expanding eastern states' E-ZPass system (including Massachusetts's Fast Lane, New Jersey Turnpike, and the Maine Turnpike), Florida's SunPass, North Texas NTTA and Houston HCTRA EZ Tag, The "Cross-Israel Highway" (Highway 6), Philippines South Luzon Expressway E-Pass, Brisbane's Queensland Motorway E-Toll System in Australia, Autopista del Sol (Sun's Highway), Autopista Central (Central Highway), Autopista Los Libertadores, Costanera Norte, Vespucio Norte Express and Vespucio Sur urban Highways and every forthcoming urban highway (in a "Free Flow" modality) concessioned to private investors in Chile and all highways in Portugal (Via Verde, the first system in the world to span the entire network of tolls) and France (Liber-T system). The tags, which are usually the active type, are read remotely as vehicles pass through the booths, and tag information is used to debit the toll from a prepaid account. The system helps to speed traffic through toll plazas as it records the date, time, and billing data for the RFID vehicle tag. The plaza- and queue-free 407 Express Toll Route, in the Greater Toronto Area, allows the use of a transponder (an active tag) to account for all billing; this eliminates the need for identifying a vehicle by licence plate and saves the end user a significant cost.

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