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Radio Frequency Identification

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is an upcoming technology which has application over a large domain of industries. It can be termed as the long term replacement for bar coding in the field of automatic data capturing. It has the potential to significantly change the way processes occur and companies operate. The last few years have seen several developments that have sped up the adoption of this technology. 1) The emergence of major consumer applications have brought RFID from an experimental technology into the mainstream. 2) The development of smart labels has also been a major thrust in its case against the existing bar codes. This paper discusses the technology involved in RFID as well as its real life application proffles. This is an attempt at understanding the technology better.
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Radio Frequency Identification
Radio Frequency Identification (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 antennae. Passive tags require no internal power source, whereas active tags require a power source.
Types of RFID tags:
RFID cards are also known as "proximity", "proxy" or "contactless 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 in the case of low frequency RFID tags.
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 integrated circuits 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.
RFID tags are being used in passports issued by many countries. The first RFID passports ("e-passports") were issued by Malaysia in 1998.Standards for RFID passports are determined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), 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:
• Throughout Europe, and in particular in Paris in France (system started in 1995 by the (RATP)), Lyon and Marseille in France, Porto and Lisbon in Portugal, Milan and Torino in Italy, Brussels in Belgium, RFID passes conforming to the "Calypso" international standard are used for public transport systems. They are also used now in Canada (Montreal), Mexico, Israel, Pereira in Colombia, etc.
• 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, Norway, the upcoming public transport payment is to be entirely RFID-based. The system is to be put into production around spring 2007
• In Norway, all public toll roads are equipped with an RFID payment system known as AutoPass.
• Since 2002, in Taipei, Taiwan the transportation system uses RFID operated cards as fare collection.
• 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 can be recharged with cash at add-value machines or in shops, and can be read several centimetres from the reader.
• RFID tags are used for electronic toll collection at toll booths with Georgia's Cruise Card 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) for all billing. This eliminates the need to identify a vehicle by licence plate and saves the end user money.
An Electronic Road Pricing gantry in Singapore. Gantries such as these collect tolls in high-traffic areas from active RFID units in vehicles.
• In Singapore, public transport buses and trains employ passive RFID cards known as EZ-Link cards. Traffic into crowded downtown areas is regulated by variable tolls imposed using an active tagging system combined with the use of stored-value cards (known as CashCards).
• In Rio de Janeiro, "RioCard" passes can be used in buses, ferries, trains and subway. The cards cannot be recharged.
• A number of ski resorts, particularly in the French Alps, have adopted RFID tags to provide skiers hands-free access to ski lifts.
Product Tracking:
• The Canadian Cattle Identification Agency began using RFID tags as a replacement for barcode tags. The tags are required to identify a bovine's herd of origin and this is used for tracing when a packing plant condemns a carcass. Currently CCIA tags are used in Wisconsin and by US farmers on a voluntary basis. The USDA is currently developing its own program.
RFID tags used in libraries: square book tag, round CD/DVD tag and rectangular VHS tag.
• High-frequency RFID tags are used in library book or bookstore tracking, pallet tracking, building access control, airline baggage tracking, and apparel and pharmaceutical item tracking.
• UHF RFID tags are commonly used commercially in case, pallet, and shipping container tracking, and truck and trailer tracking in shipping yards.
• Microwave RFID tags are used in long range access control for vehicles.
• Since the 1990's RFID tags have been used in car keys. Without the correct RFID, the car will not start.
• In January 2003, Michelin began testing RFID transponders embedded into tires.
• Starting with the 2004 model year, a Smart Key/Smart Start option became available to the Toyota Prius. The key uses an active RFID circuit allowing the car to detect the key approximately 3 feet from the sensor. The driver can open the doors and start the car with the key in a purse or pocket.
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