How RFID Tags Work
RFID stands for Radio-Frequency Identification, and refers to a technology where digital data encoded in RFID tags is captured by a reader via radio waves. RFID belongs to a group of technologies referred to as Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC), whose methods automatically identify objects, collect data, and enter the data directly into a computer system with little or no human intervention.

RFID started out as a way to track cattle, but has since expanded into inventory tracking, person/animal tracking, contactless payments, travel documents, security tags, healthcare data management, guard tour management, smart homes, and more.

There are three types of RFID systems: Passive Reader Active Tag (PRAT), Active Reader Passive Tag (ARPT), Active Reader Active Tag (ARAT)
  • Passive Reader Active Tag (PRAT): The reader is passive, only receiving radio signals from an active tag
  • Active Reader Passive Tag (ARPT): The reader is active, transmitting a radio signal, receiving authentication signal replies from passive tags
  • Active Reader Active Tag (ARAT): The reader is active and interacts with active tags
A tag can usually be read from several feet away, and can come as small as a grain of black pepper. Tags don't need an internal power source in order to operate. Tags can be read outside the line-of-sight, as opposed to barcodes, which must be aligned to an optical scanner. Tags can be passive, active, or battery-assistive.
  • Passive is the cheapest option, and features no battery. The tag uses radio energy transmitted by the reader
  • An active tag features an onboard battery and periodically transmits its credentials
  • A battery-assistive tag also features an onboard battery, but is only activated when in the presence of an RFID reader
Did You Know?
Detex's ProxiPen Guard Tour device is part of an Active Reader Passive Tag (ARPT) system. It uses RFID tags for its checkpoints, which can be concealed behind wallpaper, wallboard, plaster, paneling, glass or any other non-metallic material. This feature is of real benefit when the end user is concerned about vandalism or aesthetics. ProxiPen's main selling feature: not having to touch the checkpoint tags in order to read them makes it easier for a security officer to complete their assigned patrol.
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