RFID Frequency Ranges –How to Choose the Right Frequency & Tag

RFID tags are classified by the frequency they are intended to function in. There are four main frequency bands that are assigned to be used in RFID systems, by different government agencies.

RFID Frequency Ranges

RFID frequency ranges are classified as:

  • Low Frequency (LF)
  • High Frequency (HF)
  • Near Field Communication (NFC)
  • Ultra High-Frequency (UHF)

The above RFID frequency ranges were initially confined to non-commercial usage and comprised of frequency ranges called as ISM (Industrial, Scientific and Medical) radio bands. Based on the purpose of the RFID tags, they are designed to work in one of these bands. The frequency is determined by two key elements – the materials of the object to be tagged and the read range that is required.

LOW FREQUENCY (LF) RFID TAGS

  • LF Frequency Range – The low frequency range comprises of frequencies ranging from 30 KHz to 300 KHz. However, only 125 KHz or 134 KHz (to be precise 134.2 KHz) are utilized for RFID. This frequency range is used for RFID tags to track animals and it is available for RFID use across the world. The RFID tags used in this frequency range are typically referred to as LF tags.
  • Power Source and Read Range – They utilize near-field inductive coupling to get power and connect with an interrogator. The LF tags function as passive tags and they have a small read range of just a few inches.
  • Transfer Rate and Storage – Among all RFID frequencies, the LF tags have the lowest transfer rate and typically can store only a limited amount of information.
  • Multiple Tag Reading Capability – The LF tags are not equipped with or have limited anti-collision features; thus the simultaneous reading of multiple tags within the interrogation zone is either impossible or extremely difficult.
  • LF Tags Readability and Usage – The Low Frequency (LF) tags are easily read when they are attached to items that contain animal tissues, water, metal, wood and liquids. LF tags are the most widely used tags and they are used for asset tracking, access control, animal tracking, automotive control, healthcare and POS (point-of-sale) applications. LF tags are used the most in automotive industry, especially in vehicle immobilizer systems where the LF tags embedded in the ignition key is used to start the car.

HIGH FREQUENCY (HF) RFID TAGS

  • HF Frequency Range – The high frequency spectrum comprises of frequencies ranging between 3 MHz and 30 MHz, but there is only one frequency of 13.56 MHz that can be utilized for RFID applications. The frequency is now accessible for RFID applications across the globe with the same power. Tags and interrogators that use 13.56 MHz frequency are typically referred to as the HF tags and HF interrogators.
  • Power Source and Read Range – Similar to LF tags, the High Frequency (HF) tags also utilize near-field inductive coupling to get power and connect with an interrogator. The HF tags function as passive tags and they have a read range of under 3 feet.
  • Transfer Rate and Storage – The HF tags have lesser transfer rate when compared to UHF frequency, but they have the capability to store more data than LF tags. Certain HF tags can store data up to 4K.
  • Multiple Tag Reading Capability – Unlike LF tags, HF tags are equipped with anti-collision capabilities that allows reading several tags simultaneously within the interrogation zone. However, since the read range for HF tags and interrogators are limited, they don’t implement anti-collision which simplifies the process and reduces the cost.   
  • Design and Affordability – HF tag antennas are typically made up of copper, silver or aluminum coil that has three to seven turns. HF tags are very simple to make and they are thin and two-dimensional. The HF tags are less expensive than LF tags because of the simpler antenna design. They are available in various sizes, even less than half-inch in diameter.
  • HF Tags Readability and Usage – The HF tags can be easily read when they are attached to items that contain water, tissues, wood, metal and liquids but can be affected by metal objects that are in the vicinity. Inductive coupling used by High Frequency interrogators utilizes magnetic flux to get power and connect with the tag. Magnetic flux is not directionally oriented but Omni-directional, which means that it evenly covers the entire region around its source and there are no holes in its density. This feature makes HF tags the preferred choice for applications such as smart shelves where the magnetic flux covers the entire shelf so that all the items in the shelf are scanned. Some of the other areas where HF tags are used are in asset tracking, credit cards, smart cards, airline baggage and library books. The lack of restrictions on the usage of HF frequency and the growing popularity of smart cards has enabled HF tags to be the most commonly used tags across the globe.

Near Field Communication (NFC) Tags

  • NFC Frequency Range – NFC tags operate in the high frequency range of the RFID band at 13.56 MHz.
  • Power Source and Read Range – NFC tags function as passive tags and operate without a power supply of their own and communicate using the ISO 14443 type A and B wireless standards. NFC tags provide secure data transmission within a distance of approximately 10 centimeters.
  • Design – NFC tags are designed to store information and transfer a wide range of data types to other NFC enabled devices. They are designed with the basic architecture of RFID tags and contain three components – a tiny microchip or integrated circuit, an antenna and a material or substrate layer to hold all the components together. NFC tags are available in a wide range of shape, size and form factors with a variety of storage capacity and transfer speeds.
  • Usage – NFC tags are ideal for use in access control, transport, consumer electronics, healthcare, payment, information exchange and collection, ticketing applications and coupons.

ULTRA HIGH FREQUENCY (UHF) RFID TAGS

  • UHF Frequency Range – The ultra-high frequency range comprises of frequencies ranging between 300 MHz to 1,000 MHz, however only two frequencies 433 MHz and 860-960 MHz, can be used for RFID applications. The 433 MHz frequency is used for active tags whereas the 860-960 MHz frequency range is used mostly for passive tags as well as some semi-passive tags. The 860-960 MHz frequency range is generally termed as one frequency, either 900 MHz or 915 MHz. Tags and interrogators within this range are known as UHF tags as well as UHF interrogators.
  • Power Source and Read Range – The semi-passive and passive tags within this frequency range use far-field radiative coupling or backscatter coupling. UHF tags have an approximate read range of 15-20 feet.
  • Multiple Tag Reading Capability – All the protocols in the UHF frequency range have some form of anti-collision ability that allows reading several tags simultaneously within the interrogation zone. The new Gen 2 protocol for UHF tags is designed to read hundreds of tags every second.
  • Design and Affordability – UHF antennas are typically made of copper, silver or aluminum that is deposited in the substratum. Their length of effectiveness is around 6.5 inches, roughly half the wavelength of the 900 MHz radio waves. The optimal length of UHF antennas is one-half of the wavelength of the carrier wave; however, with the right design, the length could be decreased. The UHF antennas are thin and they are simple to make which allows tags to be extremely small, just 100 mM, and pretty much two-dimensional. UHF interrogators are expensive than HF interrogators; however, UHF tags are getting more cost-effective.
  • UHF Tags Readability and Usage – Since water absorbs UHF signals, UHF tags can’t be quickly read when they are being attached to objects with animal tissues and water. The UHF tags, when attached to metal objects, become detuned. Therefore, to improve UHF tag efficiency, it is important to separate UHF tags from objects made of metal or that contain liquid. UHF tags are not readable when water or any other conductive material is put between the tag and interrogator antenna. Radiative coupling that is used by UHF interrogators utilizes radio waves for power and to interface with the tags. Diffraction, reflection and refraction of radio waves provide the multipath effect that allows radio signals to arrive at the receiver through different routes. Signals that come from multiple paths diminish the strength of the original signal. This results in an interrogation zone with diverse signal strength. Sometimes, the UHF tags cannot be read in areas with low signals, which eventually causes random tag readability issues. The UHF antennas are directional that enables you to create an interrogation zone with clearly define boundaries, even though the zone could contain holes. UHF tags, because of the requirements of large corporations to use them within the supply chain, are getting a huge boost. This along with the introduction of Gen 2 protocol have created an enormous momentum in the RFID industry to make UHF tags at a low cost in high quantity.
  • Government Regulations – UHF frequency regulations aren’t similar to the frequency regulations for HF tags. Governments across the globe had allocated UHF frequencies of approximately 900 MHz, which was long before RFID, for applications that were not RFID-related. Therefore, there isn’t a common frequency band of around 900 MHz that can be used for RFID applications. Different countries have different frequency ranges with different allowable maximum powers and duty cycles. To solve this issue, Gen 2 protocol was developed to operate on any frequencies in the 860-960 MHz frequency range and also with various max power levels. Government regulations have split the allowed frequency range into different smaller frequency bands. These smaller bands are called as channels. Countries have different number of channels within their allocated bandwidths. Regulations also require that interrogators don’t make use of one channel all the time, but rather randomly hop between the channels that are available.

The following table displays the RFID frequency ranges by country and the allocated band sizes, maximum power and number of channels assigned.

CountryFrequency (MHz)PowerChannels
North America902-9280.5-4 W EIRPVaried
Europe (302-208)918-9284 W EIRP50
Europe (Lower Band)865-8682 W ERP15
Japan908.5-9144 W EIRP16
Singapore866-869, 923-9252 W ERP20
Korea950-9560.5 W ERP, 2 W ERP10
Australia865-8684 W EIRP12
Argentina, Brazil, Peru902-9282W ERP20
New Zealand864-9294W EIRP50
RFID Frequency Ranges by Country

How AssetPulse’s RFID Tracking Solutions help you to efficiently track equipment you need only occasionally

How do you store & find excess equipment, molds, jigs & test equipment you need only occasionally?

RFID Tracking Solutions can be great for offsite storage tracking and fast retrieval. Here are the implementations and advantages we have seen:

Real Estate 100x Variance

R&D labs, clean rooms and manufacturing real estate can be 10x to 100x more expensive than offsite storage. These facilities optimize space usage and tend to remove any equipment not routinely needed.

Reasons why Companies store Equipment Offsite

  1. Companies that do repeated custom work need to quickly identify molds and equipment that is in storage.
  2. Companies that tend to do backward compatibility testing need a quick way to retrieve test and reference equipment.
  3. Different SKUs in R&D and manufacturing need different equipment and need to switch out equipment on their benches quickly and efficiently.
RFID tracking solutions
Photo by Dmitriy Suponnikov on Unsplash

AssetPulse RFID Tracking Solutions for Efficient Storage and Quick Retrieval of Lab Equipment

How AssetPulse RFID Solutions helped a large Biotech Company handle storage efficiently.

OFFSITE SIZE

  1. 30+ lab managers in 20+ buildings with need to exchange equipment between labs/cleanrooms & storage.
  2. 500+ pallets with thousands of equipment. Labs were assigned pallets they could manage and store.
  3. Offsite storage was laid out like a warehouse & run by warehouse managers.

RFID TRACKING DESIGN

  • Warehouse managers didn’t want to take responsibility for what was inside the pallet or train lab managers in any manner.
  • Lab managers could order pallets and they managed what went into it.
  • Warehouse tracking was done at the pallet level – they were only responsible for efficient storage and fast retrieval of pallets.
  • Warehouse wanted to add temporary staff who didn’t need extensive training to help in storage or retrieval or operations.
  • Layout had to be designed to optimize the height and volume of the building, while enabling quick retrieval.
  • AssetPulse developed the software and mechanism to enable the whole process.

RFID EQUIPMENT TRACKING SOFTWARE SPEC

  • Require minimal to no training for lab managers and warehouse personnel.
  • Provide Integrated views for lab Managers on pallets location & contents.
  • Provide an integrated view for warehouse on check-in and check-out, and other tracking aspects.
  • Have a quick way to dynamically find empty spaces and fill them with pallets. Much like how cars are stored in a multistorey garage.
  • Generate alerts if wrong location is used.
  • No Manual Entry should be required – use handheld readers, antennas, fixed readers, tags.
  • Add redundancy to minimize and eliminate loss.
  • Photo evidence where possible on pallet’s status on check-in/checkout.
  • Attach images of device and pallets for easy identification.

The above is our largest implementation. We have done several projects where stored equipment is in the same building needing only handheld reader, software and tags.

AssetPulse doesn’t manufacture any hardware – this enables us to source the best combination for our customers.

We develop the world’s best RFID Tracking Solutions.

AssetPulse’s RFID Tracking Solutions ensure efficient storage and fast retrieval of lab equipment from any where at any time!

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RFID for Lab Equipment Tracking – Expert Advice to Choose Tags, Readers & Antenna

Are you considering RFID for Lab equipment tracking?

Here are some key tips to choose RFID tags, RFID readers & antenna, based on 15+ years of RFID experience. We help Labs track anywhere between 50 to 100,000+ pieces.

RFID lab equipment tracking
Photo by Misael Moreno on Unsplash

Research Info to choose RFID for Lab Equipment Tracking

Assumption

You have a “standard lab” where tracked equipment is in the known lab/buildings & not subject to extreme temperatures, shock, vibration, etc.

Objectives Drive Tag Choice

There are hundreds of RFID tags & RFID readers. Most of them work with the same frequency and work with each other. However, to meet the objectives of your use case, you can’t choose an RFID tag independent of choosing a reader, antenna & software.

Before you choose your hardware/software, you need to firm up the objectives & use case details.

Key Questions to Answer

Answers to the following questions will drive selection of RFID technology (LF/HF/UHF), tag size, reader/antenna, software and cost too.

1) Do you want all the equipment to be tracked automatically in real-time or just make it easy for a fast manual audit using a handheld scanner?

2) How does your equipment travel? All within one lab, multiple lab areas in a building, or across buildings?

3) Do you want to assign equipment to people, and allow check-in and check-out like a library?

4) Do you want the tag to contain equipment maintenance history? Impacts read-only or read/write tag

5) How important is aesthetics – both the tag and the fixed RFID hardware? Do you want the antenna to be visible or not? Some of our clients have embedded them in walls and floors.

6) Do you want to monitor equipment stored in cabinets? Are you open to new cabinets?

7) Do you want to track equipment that is due for calibration and goes out for calibration?

8) Do you want to raise alerts when equipment is missing from a location?

9) Do you store excess lab equipment in offsite storage? If so, do you want to monitor offsite storage locations?

Implementation Tidbit

  • Most of the labs use UHF RFID to track lab equipment, not HF/LF.
  • The longer the read range, the bigger the antenna on the tag and hence bigger the tag itself.
  • OK to use two or more tag and reader types.
  • Choice of tag mounting methods determines success.

Equipment Homework

You need this information for a vendor/consultant to help you.

1) List all equipment you want to track – equipment, accessories, – sort by size if possible.

2) For each piece of equipment type, note the type of surface – metal, plastic, wood, etc.

3) When equipment is stacked, can you always ensure that there is an airgap for the RFID signal to communicate with the reader?

4) Lab layout including pictures of all entry, exit, storage area, benches and anything metal that could impact signals.

AssetPulse Solution – RFID for Lab Equipment Tracking

AssetPulse doesn’t manufacture any hardware. This enables us to source the best combination of RFID tags, readers, antenna and software for our customers. If you have decided to use RFID for lab equipment tracking, AssetPulse can be your trusted partner. With the amount of experience and expertise, AssetPulse can provide the best RFID lab equipment tracking solutions that suits your needs.

Looking for RFID Lab Equipment Tracking Software?

RFID Solutions Customized for your Industry

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Why AssetPulse’s RFID Tracking Solution Stands Out from the Rest

Prospects ask – what is different about AssetPulse’s RFID tracking solution?

Over 15 years, we have developed proprietary RFID deployment and tracking technologies that help reduce deployment time/cost, increase tracking accuracy and enable expand-as-you-go deployments.

We have competed head-on at top labs, SMBs, technology companies, biotech, pharma, manufacturing companies, police, government, DOD and won – purely because we gave each of our customers a competitive edge that could not be matched by any other RFID solution provider.

RFID tracking solution

RFID Tracking Solution Partnered with Best-in-Class RFID Hardware Vendors

Almost every RFID hardware vendor (reader, antenna, tag) and technology provider wants to work with us, because they know we have had a good track record of getting into high-profile accounts while at the same time, can provide quickly deployable solutions for SMBs. Our vendor’s salespeople know very well that when they involve us as an implementation partner, they will almost always get a complex deal.

We are proud to say that we get all the advanced equipment, pricing, tags, roadmaps, etc. from all top vendors in RFID industry. So, we have a pulse on where a lot of technologies are heading.

We have a testing lab that stress tests all the hardware we work with. Our customers source hardware from us because we stress test all the new versions.

US Patented RFID Tracking Solution

Here is an example of the US patent we were granted (I am on the patent too!)

AssetPulse Patent – Systems and Methods to Detect Cross Reads in RFID Tags

We have several machine learning algorithms and hardware technologies that can do automatic testing of tags at various orientations that enable speedy and accurate deployments.

If you are thinking of deploying RFID in any manner, please call me. Even if our solution is not a fit for you, I will make sure you get enough data so that you can pick the right vendor and solution.

Talking to hundreds of prospects each quarter over the last 15+ years has helped me have a deep understanding of the RFID space. When we talk, you will be leveraging that knowledge at absolutely no cost.

We welcome VARs, Integrators & Partners

We have worked with several VARs, System Integrators & Partners. If you have an ongoing project, we can work with you. In fact, some of the biggest projects have come for us by leveraging relationships of existing contractors with customers.

Hardware vendors & integrators know that their chance of closing sales go up by 300% if they bring us to the table. Their customers clearly see that we have the experience to reduce deployment and implementation risk.

Reach out to us if you want to learn more about AssetPulse RFID Tracking Solutions.

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How AssetPulse’s RFID Work Order Tracking System helps Manufacturers get Real-time Visibility

Tracking work orders on the manufacturing floor provides vital information about the state of the product, the last known location of the work order, the sequence of workflow, the time it stayed in each work cell, if the work order is completed and so on. It is an integral part of the assembly line. The purpose of work order tracking is to get instant visibility of the status of work orders, fine tune and improve the process. But, you can’t achieve that through manual and traditional work order tracking systems.

AssetGather’s RFID Work Order Tracking System helps you to automate work order tracking, eliminate traditional and manual work order tracking systems and get real-time instant visibility.

RFID work order tracking system
Parcel photo created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com

Why AssetPulse’s RFID Work Order Tracking System

AssetGather’s RFID work order tracking system helps you to track work orders throughout the manufacturing process. RFID-enabled work order tracking enables you to accurately track the time spent at each work cell and determine the speed at which the products/materials move through the assembly line. Manufacturers can use this vital information to fine-tune and improve efficiency. RFID work order tracking system also helps you to quickly trace and track work orders that are misplaced and reduce downtime.

Locate RFID Bins & Parts Wirelessly

RFID tagged bins and sub-assemblies report their exact locations wirelessly. There is no chance of human error.

Just type in the work order, customer or other job name you assigned. You will know in real time, which production workbench, room or building each and every part of the work order is at.

Our RFID work order tracking system can also generate alerts if parts are not moving as per schedule or if they are stuck in one location for too long.

Barcode Bins & Parts can get lost

If you have a barcode system, then you are relying on manual scans that are prone for errors. Many times, operators forget to scan/enter or plan to do it later and forget, shift changes happen, and the inventory status is lost. You can avoid manual errors by just sticking an RFID tag next to the barcode. You can get instant visibility of the location of the part.

Works with Existing Work Order Systems

AssetGather’s RFID Work Order Tracking system can work with any ERP system you already have. Since this works alongside your manufacturing process, there will be no impact on your current manufacturing processes.

Looking for Work Order Tracking Solution?

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