Sonakshi Bengani & Shreyans Bengani
The world of technology is truly living proof of the saying “change is the only constant.” Just when the world is beginning to get familiar with the brilliance of a technological launch or advancement, a new one comes up in the industry before you know it!
In recent times, radio technology has been a technology to keep your eyes on – eliminating wire functions and transmitting energy and signals the wireless way. One, and also prominent, of the many ways radio technology has been incorporated into daily lives and activities is via RF/RFID tag-based identification.
The Radio Frequency Identification technology has been the catalyst for transition from technology driven identification solutions for humans only to identification solutions for any asset – humans, equipment, objects, animals and the like.
In simple terms, RFID aids in identifying, tracking and thus managing assets (living and non-living) for improving efficiency, productivity and/or competitiveness. The technology has been welcomed and adopted across sectors and industries globally – healthcare, retail, agriculture, corporate, hospitality, logistics to name a few.
A comprehensive RFID solution comprises three main participants – RFID tag, RFID reader and a relevant software. RFID tags are smart and precise. They exchange complex signals with RFID readers, which help in unique identification of the object/unit the tags are attached to.
RFID as a means of identification is itself quite a broad field, and encompasses frequency range from as low as 100kHz to as high as 6Ghz, depending upon the use-case, objective, environment and various other such factors. From a broad perspective, however, RFID can be categorised into two main categories: Active RFID and Passive RFID.
As the name suggests, Passive RFID tags have no battery and work only on the basis of the incoming radio waves. They contain very little energy to power the chip which is just enough for them to get activated when they come within detection range (typically from a few centimetres to around 15m). Active RFID tags, on the other hand, contain batteries along with the chip and antenna, which enables constant signal exchange, and lays the ground for “real-time” tracking and precise locations. Passive RFID tags operate on small distances, whereas Active RFID tags operate and exchange signals across much larger distances.
A classic example of RFID’s role in identification and functioning, would be books with RFID tags in a library and self-checkout kiosks within the library. The RFID kiosks beam radio signals to the book which have RFID tags attached to it. In return, the tag sends out a return radio signal. This signal is decoded to figure out the digital code that ultimately uniquely identifies the particular book which is being issued.
Today, we are surrounded by RFID technology and its smart, intuitive identification system in our everyday lives. Books, physical assets, medical equipment, retail products, credit/debit cards, jewellery, railway wagons, and even animals/pets are using RFID identification.
It is the most accurate automated technology that results in reduction or sometimes complete elimination of manual effort and in turn ensuring efficiency in tasks, involving better use of time. RFID boasts of it being an enabling technology, aiding its user to think and act beyond just data collection and tracking, like enhancing user experience.
Having said that, every technological advancement has a security twist in its tale. And RFID technology seems to be no different. As the technology grows its wings and enters the phase of widespread adoption, its functioning loopholes also become the latest gift to security hackers.
It is not hidden that RFID has also become susceptible to security criticism because of various incidences of physical and electronic attacks. Some common security concerns with respect to RFID are data hacking, cloning, reverse engineering, denial or blocking of service and such.
The security challenges, and the measures being taken by providers to tackle them, is beyond the ambit of this article, and will be covered in a separate one.
But as a final word, while these challenges may raise major arguments against the use of RFID technology, we must remember technology succeeds only when the user adopts it with appropriate care. Users are the king and remain so, technology can and will be moulded as per convenience and trust of the user. The advantages of RFID do outweigh its challenges, and poise it to be a commonplace mode of identification and tracking in the near future.
A preferred and pioneer supplier of integrated RFID-based tracking solutions in India, Ecartes Technology Private Limited, has successfully implemented its two most prestigious projects in the government sector. The two mentioned projects are encoding and fitment of wagon tags for Indian Railways, the fourth largest railway network in the world, and the implementation of ETC via supply of toll automation tags ‘FASTag’ to NHAI and corporate banks.
Click here to find out more about Ecartes’ range of RFID-based solutions.
MORE ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Sonakshi Bengani is a Marketing and Communications professional currently employed with Ecartes. She has a bachelor’s degree in economics and psychology from Lady Shriram College in Delhi. Her experience in the digital marketing field, coupled with her zeal for creativity has led her to indulge in the art of content communication.
Shreyans Bengani is a Director at Ecartes, and primarily focusses on new technologies and innovation in identity, tracking and security management. A professional driven towards seeking and providing change, growth and progress, especially in India. he did his Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and MBA in Strategy from NMIMS. He carries a wealth of experience through working across three continents with Siemens, KPMG and an SAP Consulting Partner.