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RFID tag

RFID tag

(also radio frequency identification tag, RDIF chip)

RFID tag definition

An RFID tag is an electronic tag or tracking device that uses radio frequency technology to exchange information with an RFID reader. RFID tags are comparable to barcodes, but the key difference is that barcodes require a scanner, while RFID tags can be read within a certain range and without a direct line of sight. RFID tags can be attached to an object (e.g., bags, apparel, vehicles), animal, or person.

Types of RFID tags

  • Active RFID tags have their own power source (e.g., a battery).
  • Passive RFID tags receive power from the reader’s antenna.

How do RFID tags work?

  • RFID technology has two main components: an RFID tag and an RFID reader.
  • RFID tags contain an antenna and an integrated circuit (IC).
  • The antenna receives radio frequency (RF) waves while the integrated circuit processes and stores data.
  • An RFID reader is a network-connected device that can be permanently attached or portable. The reader transmits signals using radio waves that activate the tag.
  • Once the tag is activated, the data travels to the antenna, which is translated into data.

Examples of RFID tag uses

  • Paying for something with Apple Pay.
  • Microchipping your pet.
  • Unlocking a hotel room door with a key fob.
  • Scanning a biometric passport at an airport.
  • Tracking a vehicle.
  • Making a contactless credit card payment.

RFID tag security and privacy concerns

A common privacy and security concern is that anyone with a compatible reading device could read RFID tags. Most RFID tags don’t have enough computing power to be encrypted (except RFID tags used in passports).

This lack of security makes RFID tags susceptible to skimming attacks (where an attacker withdraws money from the victim’s credit card as they walk by). To minimize the risks, many companies are using RFID-blocking materials.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security