What is RFID?

Since they were invented, Radio-frequency identification (RIFD) tags or cards have been used by the general public for a variety of purposes, from retail to transport. It is because of the ease that transactions are carried out, and assets and inventory are managed with the help of RFID. Where first passengers needed to manually check-in their cards at the bus or railway station, they now only need to pass by a detector and register themselves.

RFID is widely regarded as superior compared to other means of accessing digital data. Unlike reading barcodes which are designed to be read one at a time, RFID tags can be scanned instantly. It is crucial to understand first the basics of this technology to comprehend the convenience of having key cards equipped with it.

How does RFID work?

Radio-frequency identification works with electromagnetic fields to transmit and receive digital data with the help of ‘tags,’ which are devices containing micro-chips, antennas, and batteries that can either be active or passive. RFID tags are known to work over long distances and have the advantage of being waterproof, anti-magnetic, and high temperature resistant.

Products of RFID hardware

RFID tags can be ‘read-only’ where they act as passcodes needed to log into a database, or they can be ‘read and write’ where specific data can be encoded into the tag manually by the user. Active RFID tags contain an ‘onboard power source’, which could be a battery or a cell, and are mainly used to control physical parameters such as temperature or movement.

Alternatively, passive tags work over a shorter range as the reader’s waves are needed to establish communication, but they cost and weigh significantly less. RFID cards can be contact or contact-less type. The contact type is when contact is needed between the card and the card (or RFID) reader. In a contact-less type of RFID card, the reader and the card need only to be close but not touch. Contact-less cards often work with Near-Field Communication, also known as NFC, which is a technology similar to RFID.

One difference, however, is that NFC devices can act both as a reader and a tag. The cards themselves possess complex anatomy, but they remain to be lightweight and paper-thin. A microchip, along with an antenna, is installed in the plastic body of the card.

RFID key-card structure

The card information is stored in non-volatile memory, and it does not hold a battery but instead is powered by the RFID induction technology, much like its reader. The range in this situation would be 4 inches, thus the requirement for the reader and card to be near each other. When the RFID card is introduced to the electromagnetic rays of its reader, it activates the chip inside the card. After that, communication is set up for data transfer. This procedure emphasizes a key factor in RFID cards; almost no human intervention is needed for them to identify objects and analyze data.

Some common fears

Although RFID cards may seem vulnerable due to the lack of verification required to use them, security is a big feature because the encryption keys on both the card and the reader need to match for any data to be communicated. Despite this, a danger of fraud or hackers remains, and preventive measures are encouraged. RFID sleeves and shield wallets are a good option for added security. These protective devices are lined with special material to block scanners.

Newer RFID cards are equipped with added security to prevent malicious attacks, although outdated RFID technology is still prevalent.

References

  1. Radio-frequency identification
  2. What is RFID and How Does RFID Work?
  3. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

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