Radio Frequency Identification

What Does Radio Frequency Identification Mean?

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) refers to technologies that use wireless communication between an object (tag) and an interrogating device (reader) to automatically identify and track the physical location of each object. A tag’s transmission range is limited to several meters from the reader and a clear line of sight between the tag and reader is not necessarily required.


Several industry groups, including the International Standards Organization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), regulate and define RFID interoperability standards.

Techopedia Explains Radio Frequency Identification

Most tags contain at least one integrated circuit (IC) and an antenna. The microchip stores information and is responsible for managing the radio frequency (RF) communication with the reader. Passive tags do not have an independent energy source and depend on an external electromagnetic signal, provided by the reader, to power their operations. Active tags contain an independent energy source, such as a battery. Thus, they may have increased processing, transmission capabilities and range.

Early demonstration of RFID dates back to the 1970s. The first patent associated with RFID was issued in 1983.

Some of the most common applications for this technology include retail supply chains, military supply chains, automated payment methods, baggage tracking and management, document tracking and pharmaceutical management, to name a few.

Despite the many benefits introduced by RFID, there are security concerns. Because some tags can be read from afar, it is possible for a rogue individual to carry a customized reader to scan a RFID-enabled passport and obtain holder information from a distance.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.