What is radio frequency identification? What can RFID products do?

RFID wireless communication technologies enable many applications across industries include identification and access; people, asset and product tracking; safety and machine tools, among others.

By Mark T. Hoske July 9, 2020


Learning Objectives

  • RFID: Radio frequency identification defined.
  • RFID applications include identification and access; people, asset and product tracking; safety and machine tools, among others.
  • Recent RFID products show diversity of applications.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a set of wireless technologies that can read information (passive) from a chip or read and write information (active). Across many industries, RFID can serve in place of proximity sensors, 2D or 3D codes, access keys and various other automated or manual record-keeping technologies or procedures that track products, assets, tools, people and workflows.

Discussing flexible electronics, IDTechEx noted low-cost wireless-enabled RFID sensors can be used in industrial and environmental monitoring and in smart packaging, in line with connected devices and systems in the Internet of Things, as explained in an April press release. RFID sensors or tags can use batteries or harvest electromagnetic energy from its surroundings.

IDTechEx estimates 18 billion RFID tags will be produced in 2020. The IDTechEx report, “RFID Forecasts, Players and Opportunities 2019-2029” has more about the global RFID industry.

According to IDTechEx, Boeing has a prototype multimodal RFID sensor, which could be applied to industrial equipment large and small and transmit information wirelessly via Bluetooth to help predict equipment failure and improve productivity.

RFID products for industrial applications

In the New Products for Engineers database from CFE Media and Technology, the RFID subcategory under I/O and networking, includes the following products.

Chesterton ViewIn Technology from A.W. Chesterton Co. is RFID technology for mechanical seals, allowing for easy seal identification and recordkeeping in a web/mobile application. Plant maintenance staff can use it to scan equipment quickly, identify the type of Chesterton seal in use and obtain stored installation instructions, pressure test reports, and other helpful data in an easy-to-use web/mobile app.

Chesterton ViewIn Technology from A.W. Chesterton Co. is RFID technology for mechanical seals, allowing for easy seal identification and recordkeeping in a web/mobile application.
Courtesy: A.W. Chesterton Co. and New Products for Engineers Database from CFE Media and Technology

BIS RFID Read/Write Head with Integrated Processor from Balluff Inc. uses the high frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz and supports the DIN ISO 15693 contactless smart card standard. Read heads with an integrated processor unit can be connected to a higher-level control system via IO-Link, RS232, TCP/IP or via Serial Subnet 16 TM. The diverse configurations, dimensions, and variants with separate or integrated read heads can meet most requirements.

Compact Non-Contact RFID Safety Sensors from Balluff Inc. is a non-contact, electronic safety sensor designed for application in safety circuits and is used for monitoring the position of movable safety guards. In this application, the safety sensor monitors the closed position of hinged, sliding or removable safety guards by means of a coded electronic actuator. The safety function consists of safely switching off the safety outputs when the safety guard is opened and maintaining the safe switched off condition of the safety outputs for as long as the safety guard is open.

Simatic RF615R from Siemens is a UHF-radio frequency identification reader to help provide a continuous, up-to-the-minute overview of processes and material flows. Knowing where materials are at all times is crucial for better planning and optimization of production and logistics. Stationary read / write devices in the production and supply chain and transponders on products, workpieces, and goods allow uninterrupted tracking and tracing. UHF-RFID offers long ranges, high reading speed, and the option of bulk reading. It has a footprint approximately 1/4th of previous readers, allowing for use in more confined areas as a lower price.

Simatic RF1070R from Siemens is an RFID-based badge-management product for human-machine interface (HMI) panels and other machines or systems. Existing employee ID information provides the basis for identification, which increases user friendliness and minimizes costs using simple ID badges. This avoids HMI login details written on sticky notes. The growing demand for site security, cybersecurity and traceability calls for access to HMIs and other machines or systems in a regulated and documented way. RFID-based access management increases security while enhancing productivity and efficiency by preventing issues which could be caused by unauthorized access.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

KEYWORDS: Radio frequency identification, RFID, asset management


How could RFID technologies help your automation implementations?


See related New Products for Engineers at www.controleng.com/NPE.

Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.