What is RFID?
RFID stands for “Radio Frequency Identification.” This technology wirelessly transmits data via electromagnetic fields to automatically track, identify, or authenticate tagged objects. These tags can be as small as a single grain of rice, but are enormously powerful in nearly any business application.
Using RFID readers and printers, companies can gain greater enterprise-wide visibility as they track and manage their inventory or transported assets. RFID speeds throughput by minimizing the effort of users to input data and offers an efficient way to implement security.
Choosing the Right RFID Readers and Printers for your Business
RFID readers are typically categorized three distinct ways based on the frequencies they are tuned to, and therefore, the applications their labels and tags are used for. Radio waves function differently at different frequencies, so these categories all have their own specialized advantages and limitations. In extremely general terms, low and high frequency tags are best for secure or small applications, while ultra high frequency is better for larger scale tasks.
Low Frequency RFID Readers:
LF RFID tags operate using a long wavelength in the 135kHz range and can pass through thin metallic barriers. This category of RFID tag requires direct contact with its reader for the data to be captured, as the read range is extremely short, approximately 1-2 inches. Because the reader will only activate over short distances, this option is perfect for securing doors or restricting access to hardware.
- Access control: embedded in IDs and entrance key fobs for tenant, parking, or building security management
- Pet tracking: inserted under the skin of animals to tag them in case they are lost or stolen
- Card payment: chips on a plastic card allow for quick deduction of pre-paid credits for use in laundry machines or ticket takers
- Reading objects with high-water content: included on items like fruits and beverages
Because of the read range limits, LF RFID tags are not used for product tracking.
High Frequency RFID Readers:
HF RFID tags operate in the 13.56MHz range and have a short read range of about 5 inches. This range can be extended to 3 ft. using specialized readers or larger tags. While their range is more limited than UHF, HF RFID tags have less interference issues so they can be implemented on an automated line where high speed reading is required. Their longer wavelength also allows them to be more proficient at reading metal and water-based substances.
- Small object tagging: inserted into labels on small vials and biological samples in hospital settings
- Smart card payment: embedded as a chip on a plastic card for secure credit card transactions
- Patient tracking: included on ID wristbands to track patient admittance and flow. Paragon’s Identi+Health Solution offers a fully comprehensive method of patient tracking.
- Transportation and inventory management: placed into library books, travel tickets, and other paper products that govern and track movement
Ultra High Frequency RFID Readers:
UHF RFID tags operate using a short wavelength in the 902-928 MHz range and boasts a far more powerful read range of about 50ft. UHF RFID Readers can also read many more tags per second and trasfer the data far faster than other readers. Unsurprisingly, UHF RFID Readers have become the most popular choice among businesses who employ RFID aplications. While UHF tags and readers do have some issues with interference, a properly designed system customized to the company’s specific processes can surpass any problems.
- Container tags: mounted on label stock
- High volume processing: reading labels on boxed goods or tracking racers as they pass a finish line
- Vehicle management: carries out electronic toll or parking payment transactions as cars pass a checkpoint
It is important to note that while UHF RFID Readers are a great overall solution, they are somewhat limited in strength. Running on a short wavelength means their signal is far more likely to be weakened. Paragon will work with you to configure your hardware to avoid interruption.
Readers are further categorized by style depending on how data needs to be collected.
Fixed RFID Readers:
Fixed readers use 2-4 antennas to automatically grab data from tagged objects as they pass through a room or down an assembly line. The reader then uploads the data to a directly connected computer or to a database via a wireless network. Typically, fixed RFID readers will support external sensors to indicate to workers that data was successfully read or transmitted.
This reader is typically used to manage assets on a conveyor belt or to take warehouse inventory as products are delivered.
Mobile RFID Readers:
Mobile readers function like mobile computers with an additional antenna and tag reader. Instead of automatically grabbing data from any nearby tag, mobile readers only read the tags a user manually scans. This information can be decoded directly using the device’s software, or transmitted to a separate database or system for storage.
Mobile readers are commonly used to track assets or individually monitor stock.
Desktop RFID Readers:
Desktop readers function liked basic barcode scanners. The desktop reader will always be plugged into a computer. When a tagged object is scanned, the reader decodes the data into keyboard text, which can be manipulated or input into applications on the host device. Because they remain stationary, desktop readers have a short range of 12 or less inches.
This reader is recommended for retail and POS applications.
Creating a Comprehensive Solution: RFID Tags and Printers
Active tags run off of batteries and can function independently, allowing them to be read at faster speeds and further distances than passive tags. Electronic toll booths are a good example of active reader and tag hardware. Because they incorporate their own battery, active tags are more expensive and larger than passive tags.
Passive tags are powered by the reader. Lacking a battery, they are smaller and thinner than active tags and can even be turned into labels. Their small size and inexpensive cost make passive tags the more widely used of the two.
To learn more about RFID tags, click here.
RFID readers aren’t the only hardware you can use to create an effective RFID solution. Your RFID system should also incorporate an RFID printer, which encodes data into the RFID tag. RFID printers can also create barcodes on the RFID label, an extra step which acts as a failsafe in case the tag gets damaged in transit. Implementing dual barcode and RFID labels ensures that the receiving party will always be able to read the data.
Your final choice of printer needs to be made based on whether you will be printing a high or low volume of tags and the environment the printer will perform in. There are small volume printers like the Zebra ZD500, which is typically utilized in the healthcare or retail fields, and is better for mid-volume printing.
In comparison, the Zebra R110Xi4 is a high-speed, high-volume printer best suited for industrial-level, on-the-production-line printing. Paragon will advise you on which model to purchase based on your unique process needs.
Not sure where to begin? Let us help you
With so many different options available, choosing the right RFID reader and printer can be challenging, yet vital to the success of your operations. Paragon offers a wide variety of RFID hardware to meet your specific business needs without compromising on quality, efficiency, or accurate performance. Our RFID readers and printers come with features tailored to industry standards and can be integrated into your existing architecture.
By working with Paragon, your satisfaction is guaranteed. Before suggesting a reader or printer, we take the time to understand how your company works and what you hope to accomplish with your new technology. Our consultants will also identify the environment, application, and workload the hardware will be expected to work in to ensure that your reader or printer functions properly on the job. Finally, our data collection experts will design, test, and deploy your full RFID solution to certify system reliability without disrupting business flow or infrastructure.
If you are interested in scheduling your free consultation, call us at 800.211.0768 or send us an inquiry here. Don’t miss out on the efficient technologies your competitors are using! Find out how Paragon Data Systems can improve your operations with RFID today.
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