Radio Frequency Identification System (RFID)

Radio Frequency Identification System (RFID)

Have you ever been curious about how the LED wristbands at the BTS concert are precisely controlled to synchronize the color of the lights with the music to create the perfect vibe?  How does a transportation card automatically deduct and add money simply by tapping them when boarding a bus? What about mobile payment systems like Apple Pay or Android Pay function as substitutes for physical payment cards? Although the term “RFID” may be unfamiliar to some people, it is a well-established system deeply integrated into our daily lives.

A man making a contactless payment for the bus by tapping his transportation card on an RFID reader

Let's take the example of a bus or a city transit “metro” card. Nowadays, it is somewhat of an uncommon sight to see people who pay for local bus fares with cash compared to the widespread use of cash as a payment form on transportation systems a decade years ago. This is due to the use of a payment system where individuals can tag their check, credit, or metro cards on a terminal and have the bus fare automatically deducted with a "beep" sound.

The system that enables such transactions is called RFID, which stands for Radio-Frequency Identification. This technology allows for the reading of information over long distances using radio waves. In order to utilize this technology, an RFID reader (such as a transportation card terminal for buses) is required.

Components of the RFID System

There are 4 components to the RFID System: an RFID Tag, an antenna, a reader, and a server.


The RFID system consists of an IC chip, or integrated circuit chip, that contains a microprocessor and memory. An IC chip is used to store information about an object or person that is being tracked or identified using radio waves. The IC chip The system can be categorized into active and passive types based on whether or not it has a power source.

A description of different types of RFID tags


Antenna plays a role in transmitting and receiving data. It can be made in various sizes and is an important factor in determining the shape of the tag.


An RFID reader, also known as an RFID interrogator, is a device used to read and retrieves information from the RFID tag. The reader uses radio frequency technology to communicate with RFID tags. Depending on its purpose, it can be classified as fixed, mobile, or portable.

  1. Fixed RFID Readers: Fixed RFID readers are designed to be permanently installed in a specific location, such as entry points, conveyor belts, or warehouse gates. They are typically connected to a power source and a network infrastructure. Fixed readers provide a stable and continuous reading capability, often with a longer read range and higher read accuracy. They are suitable for applications that require consistent and automated RFID data capture in a fixed location.
  2. Mobile RFID Readers: Mobile RFID readers are handheld devices that offer flexibility and portability. They are battery-powered and often come with integrated barcode scanners or other data-capture functionalities. Mobile readers are suitable for applications that require mobility, such as inventory management, asset tracking, or retail environments. They allow users to move around and capture RFID data from multiple locations within a facility or in the field.
  3. Portable RFID Readers: Portable RFID readers are compact, lightweight devices that offer maximum portability. They are similar to mobile readers but typically have a smaller form factor and reduced functionality. Portable readers are convenient for on-the-go RFID data collection tasks or situations where carrying a larger device may be impractical. They are suitable for applications like event management, file tracking, or short-term inventory audits.


The server plays a role in managing distributed reader systems.

RFID tags and readers exchange data through antennas, and the collected data is ultimately managed on the server.
Two fingers holding an RFID tag

International standards have been established to ensure RFID compatibility, with the two most common types being TYPE A and TYPE B, both operating at a frequency of 13.56Hz. In the United States, RFID is commonly used in contactless payment systems, such as mobile wallets and smart cards. These systems utilize RFID technology operating at a frequency of 13.56 MHz, which adheres to international standards like ISO/IEC 14443 Type A and Type B.

Pros and Cons of the RFID System

The advantages of RFID systems over barcodes that record tags with simple black/white shading are the ability to record more diverse and extensive information.  RFID systems also have the ability to assign a unique serial number when attached to individual products. RFID tags are also superior in that they can be used semi-permanently and repeatedly, and it can be said that their data reliability is high.

However, the drawbacks of RFID systems include their high cost, incompatibility due to different frequencies used in different countries, and lower security due to the ability to read information from a distance via radio waves. This raises concerns about privacy invasion and tracking of attached tags, such as ID cards from a distance using antennas. Therefore, caution must be exercised when using the RFID system. Additionally, due to the limited range of applications, there are not many places where this system can be used.

A comparison of RFID system and barcode scanner

Future Application of RFID

RFID chip attached to liquor bottles

The RFID technology is currently being used in a wide range of fields. It is widely used for recognizing and storing personal information through tags attached to transportation cards, highway passes, passports, and identification cards.

In the US, Delta Airlines implemented an innovative RFID-based baggage tracking system to improve the efficiency and accuracy of baggage handling. RFID tags are attached to passenger bags, enabling real-time tracking as bags move through various stages of the baggage handling process. This technology significantly reduces the chances of lost or mishandled bags and enhances operational efficiency. In 2010, South Korea pioneered the use of RFID chips on liquor bottles to authenticate them. By scanning the bottles with smartphones equipped with RFID readers integrated into their U-SIM cards, consumers could verify the genuineness of the liquor. This system allowed Korea to effectively combat counterfeit liquor in the market. In Japan, tags are affixed to the bags and clothing of elementary school students, serving as identification for building access control.

RFID technology is widely utilized across various industries, with significant potential for future applications. In the retail sector, RFID tags offer opportunities for improved inventory management, reduced theft, and personalized customer experiences. These applications demonstrate the ongoing expansion and evolving potential of RFID technology in our everyday lives.

In our upcoming blog post, we will explore the success story of ZARA, a fashion industry leader, and their pioneering use of RFID tag technology. We'll delve into how they have seamlessly integrated RFID technology across product design, inventory management, and post-delivery store management. Stay tuned!

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