RFID readers are similar to barcode scanners in many ways, but instead of using a laser or imaging device to obtain information from barcodes, an RFID reader obtains information from RFID tags via low power radio waves. Pictured at left is an Intermec handheld RFID reader, as you can see it looks quite similar to a Barcode scanner. Both devices collect information from the tags or labels, they just use different means. RFID readers don’t require a line of sight between the reader and the tag as a barcode scanner does, making data capture capable in visually or environmentally challenging conditions. Another important difference between barcode scanners and RFID readers is that RFID readers are capable of programming RFID tags as well.
RFID readers use an antenna to send and receive signals to and from RFID tags, and this antenna can be either internal or external. Once information is received it is processed by an internal computer and then sent wirelessly back to your main database. When implementing RFID, one of the main challenges is ensuring that your RFID reader antenna is able to read the particular frequency of your tags. The three most common frequencies are low frequency (LFID), high frequency (HFID) and ultra-high frequency (UHFID). Frequency Agile Readers can take away some of the hassle though, these readers are capable of reading multiple frequencies and are a good investment if you need to read different types of tags.
Readers can be either stationary or handheld, stationary RFID readers are normally seen at receiving dock doors of distribution centers. When a worker moves a pallet or case across the loading bay door, the RFID reader automatically activates and reads the tags on all pallets or cases. An example of this type of fixed RFID reader is pictured at left. Another example of a stationary or fixed RFID reader that is probably more familiar to you is the EZPass toll booth. As your car passes through the toll booth, the fixed reader sends and receives information, making sure that your account is charged each time you pass. Readers can also be incorporated into other equipment such as forklifts or assembly lines.
In addition to using a reader that operates at the same frequency as your tags, you’ll also need to consider other attributes in order for your reader and tags to be fully compatible. When considering an RFID implementation it’s always wise to talk to a professional to be sure you’re headed in the right direction. If you need more information, or you’re considering implementing Radio Frequency Identification technology feel free to contact us.