Advantages & Disadvantages of RFID

pencil and barcode image by Anatoly Tiplyashin from

RFID, or radio-frequency identification, is a system that identifies and wirelessly transmits the identity of a person or an object via radio waves. An RFID system comprises of an antenna, a reader and unique active, passive or battery-assisted passive tags.

The main purpose of an RFID system is the transmission of data through a tag (which is a portable transmitter). The RFID reader deciphers and processes the data at the receiving end. This technology is popularly used in the health care, manufacturing, retail, animal-tracking, defence and security, and transportation sectors.

Advantage 1: Efficiency

RFID tags do not require line-of-sight to be deciphered They can be read through cardboard, plastic, wood and even the human body. RFID tags can easily track moving objects and send the required information back to the reader. This eliminates human errors, reduces labour and provides quick access to a wealth of information.

Advantage 2: Return on Investment (ROI)

RFID costs more to implement than a barcode system, but provides a good return on investment in the long run, since RFID is significantly more efficient.

Advantage 3: Less Vulnerable to Damage

RFID tags are less susceptible to damage. An RFID tag is securely placed within an object or embedded in plastic, enabling the system to be used in a variety of harsh environments, such as areas of high temperature or moisture, or with exposure to chemicals or the outdoors.

Disadvantage 1: Expense

RFID systems are typically more expensive than alternatives such as barcode systems. While passive tag reading is similar to (and generally less expensive than) barcode reading, active tags are costly due to their complexity. Active tags consist of an antenna, radio transceiver and microchip, increasing the overall cost of an RFID system.

Disadvantage 2: Collision

Tag collision and reader collision are common problems with RFID. Tag collision occurs when numerous tags are present in a confined area. The RFID tag reader energises multiple tags simultaneously, all of which reflect their signals back to the reader. This results in tag collision, and the RFID reader fails to differentiate between incoming data. RFID reader collision results when the coverage area managed by one RFID reader overlaps with the coverage area of another reader. This causes signal interference and multiple reads of the same tag.

  • Tag collision and reader collision are common problems with RFID.
  • This causes signal interference and multiple reads of the same tag.

Disadvantage 3: Security

RFID technology gives rise to numerous security concerns. Since the system is not limited to line-of-sight, external (and malicious) high-intensity directional antennas could be used to scan sensitive tags. Fraud is always a possibility when the technology is used for high-security operations, such as payment verification.