Your 7 Basic Questions about RFID & USB RFID card readers answered

rfid applications

1. How does a RFID reader work?

Let's first explain the RFID basics.  A RFID system basically uses 3 components: the tag, the antenna and the reader. The tag is normally attached with an object. It contains a unique identification. The antenna detects tag, via the magnetic fields it creates. The reader receives tag information and manipulates the information. The tag information could for example be an identification number. This article focuses on the RFID reader.

2. Is RFID the same as NFC? Or what is the difference?

No, RFID and NFC are not the same. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. NFC is the short Near Field Communication. However, you can say that the NFC tag is a form of RFID.

• NFC has shorter distance than RFID

• NFC can be used in different ways, for example to pay with your smartphone or smartwatch

• RFID can be used to store and send information one directional, NFC however can be used in 3 different ways:

• NFC tag (passive mode)

• NFC tag (active mode)

• Between NFC tags (peer to peer)

3. Can my phone be used as RFID tag?

Yes,  you can use your phone as RFID tag. For Android or Windows phones you enable NFC. In case of an Apple you need to enable Bluetooth. Traditionally a RFID tag is a smart card, badge, ticket or drop. Nowadays, the smart phone can be used as RFID tag as well.

4. Where are RFID readers applied?

Examples of situations in which RFID readers can be used:

• At a tourniquet to access a building or next to a door

• To identify yourself at a company computer

• To release a printjob from a MFP, so called secure release

• In a rental car or shared company car to identify a driver

• In order to start a machine safely

• To charge a Electric Vehicle like a car or motor

• To get a candy bar at a vending machine of a school

5. Can a RFID reader also write?

Although the term RFID reader is widely used, RFID readers can actually also write new information on a RFID tag. Of course there might be hindrances to it.

6. What is the maximum reading range of a passive RFID reader?

Of course this depends, but in general you can say that a RFID tag can be read from 8 meter distance, whereas a NFC tag can be read from max. 10 cm. The strength of the antenna is decisive for the, maximum reading range, as well of course the environment in which the RFID reader is installed.

7. What are the newest trends if you are talking about RFID readers?

Traditionally RFID readers are used for secure printing. However, the application scope is much broader:

• Contactless authentication solution

Due to Covid companies are searching for more and more contactless solutions, especially if more people are using the same reader to authenticate.

• Mobile credentials

More and more companies do no longer want to rely on only a smart card to give access to the company premise or facilities. Companies prefer to stop with key card systems and switch to mobile access. Smartphones are not easily forgotten are more secure and offer the possibility of adding an extra security layer, this called multifactor identification.

• Multi factor identification

As hackers use ransomware to take companies hostage, the need to make the company network and computers attached to it safer, has largely increased. Adding a RFID card reader as an extra means of authentication to for example a PC, decreases the likelihood of a computer hack. Two factor identification is a form of multi factor identification and means 2 of the following factors are satisfied:

1. Something you know for example a password or user name

2. Something you are for biometric features

3. Something you have: this could be a key card, smartphone, trusted device or other hardware token.

Other factors could be location or time.

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Edwin Kooijman

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