What is Radio Frequency Identification?

Definition and History

Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is a form of proximity-based identification. It uses microchips to emit and capture radio waves to identify and track electronics. This is primarily applied through transmitters (signal emitters) and transponders (signal receivers). 

The basic concepts of RFID technology were developed and tested in the early 1900s, with radar technology being demonstrated in WWII. Later that century the development of standardized frequency bands paved the way for wider adoption of the technology. The first patent for a batteryless RFID passive tag with limited interference was given in 1996.

Eventually, RFID solutions were developed for inventory management, supply chain optimization, and data storage purposes. In the present, this technology has become an integral part in Internet of Things (IoT) Integration, being embedded in a variety of different smart devices. Innovations are also being developed in sectors like healthcare and agriculture as well.

Benefits of RFID

  • Real-Time Tracking - Tagged objects can be tracked as they move along to different locations, ensuring confidence and product authenticity.
  • Enhanced Security - RFID signals and codes are unique. Along with being proximity-based, it makes for a more secure form of identity authorization.
  • Speedy Identification - RFID allows for quick and accurate identification, even with large quantities of items.
  • Automation - Automatic, reliable, rapid data collection reduces human error.


Today there is a very wide variety of modern implementations of RFID technology. Some examples are:

  • Access Control
    • Access cards and badges with RFID tags to grant entry to authorized personnel.
    • License plates and vehicle tags to patrol toll roads and gated areas.
  • Supply Chain Management
    • Placed on stock to track inventory in real time and prevent stock-outs.
    • Placed on shipments to ensure authenticity and monitor movement of goods.
  • Healthcare
    • RFID wristbands worn by patients for identification and tracking, streamlining the care process.
    • Tags on equipment to keep track of usage and maintenance.
  • Livestock and Agriculture
    • Tracking plant growth, monitoring equipment, and ensure healthy livestock.

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