RFID is a technology that offers many more benefits compared to
other identification technologies such as bar coding and magnetic stripe.
This emerging technology is not new in fact; it is currently
being used, in numerous applications throughout Canada and the world.
Originally, implemented during World War II to identify and authenticate allied
planes, this was known as Friend or Foe. RFID is still being used today for the
The main component of this technology is the transponder/tag1,
which in most cases comprises of a chip and antenna mounted onto a substrate or
an enclosure. The chip consists of a processor, memory and radio transmitter.
These transponders communicate via radio frequency to a reader, which has its
own antennas. The readers can interface through wired or wireless medium to a
main computer. Transponders are also known as smart or radio tags. The memory
will vary, depending on the manufacturer, from just a few characters to
Transponders can either be Read Only (R/O) which are
pre-programmed with a unique identification or they can be Read Write (R/W) for
applications that require data to be stored in the transponder and can be
updated dynamically. Another form of transponder is Write Once Read Many times
(WORM). This will allow for an identification number to be written to the
transponder once. The information is stored in the memory, it cannot be changed
but the transponder can be read many times.
The two most common types of RFID technologies are Active and
Passive. Active RFID transponders are self powered and tend to be more
expensive than Passive. Having power on board allows the tag to have greater
communication distance and usually larger memory capacity. The most common
application for Active RFID is for highway tolls such as the Highway 407 in
As for Passive RFID transponders, which are available with chips
and without chips, they have no internal power source therefore require
external power to operate. The transponder is powered by an electromagnetic
signal that is transmitted from a reader. The signal received will charge an
internal capacitor on the transponder, which in turn will then supply the power
required to communicate with the reader.