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RFID

What is Automatic Identification?
Automatic identification, or auto ID for short, is the broad term given to a host of technologies that are used to help machines identify objects. Auto identification is often coupled with automatic data capture. That is, companies want to identify items, capture information about them and somehow get the data into a computer without having employees type it in. The aim of most auto-ID systems is to increase efficiency, reduce data entry errors, and free up staff to perform more value-added functions, such as providing customer service. There are a host of technologies that fall under the auto-ID umbrella. These include bar codes, smart cards, voice recognition, some biometric technologies (retinal scans, for instance), optical character recognition, and radio frequency identification (RFID).

How does a RFID system work?
An RFID system consists of a tag, which is made up of a microchip with an antenna, and an interrogator or reader with an antenna. The reader sends out electromagnetic waves. The tag antenna is tuned to receive these waves. A passive RFID tag draws power from a field created by the reader and uses it to power the microchip’s circuits. The chip then modulates the waves that the tag sends back to the reader; the reader converts the new waves into digital data.

Are there any health risks associated with RFID and radio waves?
RFID uses the low-end of the electromagnetic spectrum. The waves coming from readers are no more dangerous than the waves coming to your car radio.

What is an Electronic Product Code?
The Electronic Product Code, or RFID, was developed by the Auto-ID Center as a successor to the bar code. It is a numbering scheme that will be used to identify products as they move through the global supply chain.

Why is RFID better than using bar codes?
RFID is not necessarily “better” than bar codes. The two are different technologies and have different applications, which sometimes overlap. The big difference between the two is bar codes are line-of-sight technology. That is, a scanner has to “see” the bar code to read it, which means people usually have to orient the bar code towards a scanner for it to be read. Radio frequency identification, by contrast, doesn’t require line of sight. RFID tags can be read as long as they are within range of a reader. Bar codes have other shortcomings as well. If a label is ripped, soiled or falls off, there is no way to scan the item. And standard bar codes identify only the manufacturer and product, not the unique item. The bar code on one milk carton is the same as every other, making it impossible to identify which one might pass its expiration date first.

Will RFID replace bar codes?
Probably not. Bar codes are inexpensive and effective for certain tasks. It is likely that RFID and bar codes will coexist for many years. 

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