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Radio-Frequency Identification 


Baggage tags equipped with radio-frequency identification (RFID) will soon be available at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, marking a first of its kind for the country.


GS III- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is RFID tags?
  2. What is a barcode?
  3. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology Vs barcodes
  4. Is RFID enhanced version of barcode?

What is RFID tags?

  • It’s a wireless tracking system that consists of tags and readers.
  • Radio waves are used to communicate information/identity of objects or people to nearby readers – devices that can be hand-held or built into fixed positions like poles or buildings.
  • The tags can carry encrypted information, serial numbers and short descriptions.
  • There are also high-memory tags like the ones designed for use in the aviation industry.
Types of RFID tags:
  • Active RFID tags
  • Passive RFID tags

Active RFID tags

  • Active RFIDs use their own power source, mostly batteries.
  • Active tags can ping information every few seconds like beacons, or they can get activated when a reader is in the proximity.
  • Active tags have a longer read range, around 300 ft, compared to passive tags.

Passive RFID tags

  • Passive RFIDs, on the other hand, are activated through the reader using the electromagnetic energy it transmits.
  • This is enough power for the tag to transmit information back to the reader.

What is a barcode?

  • A barcode is a printed series of parallel bars or lines of varying width used for entering data into a computer system.
  • The bars are black on a white background and vary in width and quantity depending on the application.
  • The bars represent the binary digits zero and one, which represent the digits zero to nine processed by a digital computer.
  • These barcodes are scanned using special optical scanners known as barcode readers, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • The majority of these codes use only two different widths of bars, however some use four.
  • The numbers that make up a barcode are also printed at the bottom.
    • One of the most well-known examples of a barcode is the QR code.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology Vs barcodes

  • RFID uses radio waves to communicate data from RFID chips to readers that do not require line of sight in order to obtain the data, whereas barcodes use light to read the black-and-white pattern printed on the sticky tag.
    • An RFID tag can communicate with a powered reader even when the tag is not powered.
  • When printed on paper or sticky labels, barcodes are more susceptible to wear and breakage, which can affect their readability. RFID tags, on the other hand, are sometimes placed in plastic labels or into the object itself, making them more durable than barcodes.
  • In contrast to barcode scanners, RFID scanners can process dozens of tags in a single second.
  • Also, barcodes are simple and easy to copy or counterfeit, whereas RFID is more complicated and difficult to replicate or counterfeit.
  • Unlike barcodes, which must in line of sight, RFID tags need not be.
  • Also, RFID tags are expensive compared to barcodes.

Is RFID enhanced version of barcode?

  • Since their introduction in the 1970s, barcodes have become an indispensable part of commercial activity on a daily basis, whether in grocery stores or at airports.
  • When it comes to speed, there is a noticeable difference between barcodes and RFID. This is because barcodes must be read manually, making them more susceptible to human error and more difficult to evaluate their accuracy.
  • However, RFID’s accuracy may be compromised if the tags are applied to metals or liquid.
  • Since RFID frequencies can be transmitted over greater distances than barcode frequencies, there is also concern that RFID technology raises data protection issues, resulting in personal information becoming accessible without consent.
  • When deciding whether to use barcodes or RFID, it is important to consider the purpose, the environment, and the potential costs of an application.

-Source: Indian Express

December 2023