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What is an RFID Tag?

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 01/12/2023

In this dynamic era of the digital age, when seamless connectivity and efficient data management have become paramount, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has emerged as a transformative force. It facilitates wireless data transfer through radio waves, offering multiple applications across sectors and industries.

RFID tags have proved to be a reliable and versatile solution across industries, including supply chain management, healthcare, retail, and automobile.

In this article, you will delve into the intricacies of RFID technology, exploring its principles, applications, advantages, types, and how it has revolutionised the toll collection mechanism in India through FASTag. Keep reading.

Understanding RFID Technology

At its core, RFID technology utilises radio frequency signals to identify and track objects, people, or animals. It comprises four major components – an RFID tag, an RFID antenna, an RFID reader, and a backend software.

What is an RFID Tag?

An RFID tag is a small electronic device comprising an antenna and an electronic microchip. The microchip stores and processes information, while the antenna facilitates communication with RFID readers through radio waves. An RFID tag is affixed to the person or object being tracked, and the microchip in it is assigned a unique Electronic Product Code (EPC) for precise object identification.

RFID tags come in various types, including active, passive, and semi-passive. Below are the different types of RFID tags explained:

Active RFID tags

Active RFID tags rely on their own power source to transfer the information to RFID readers. These tags typically have small batteries that need to be replaced periodically. The advantages of active RFID tags are that they offer long communication ranges and continuous tracking. Additionally, they can initiate communication on their own. Such tags are used to perform diagnostics and high-precision activities.

Passive RFID tags

Passive RFID tags, on the other hand, do not have their own power source. They depend on the electromagnetic energy emitted by RFID readers to transmit data. These tags are cost-effective and last longer than active RFID tags. However, they do not have very long communication ranges and are suitable only for day-to-day tasks such as inventory management, retail tagging, toll collection, etc.

Semi-passive RFID tags

Semi-passive RFID tags have batteries, but they communicate with RFID readers using electromagnetic energy, just like passive RFID tags. These tags are very similar to passive tags in terms of sizing and appearance. However, they have longer communication ranges because of their in-built batteries. Semi-passive RFID tags have applications in industries such as logistics, IT, and healthcare.

What are RFID Readers?

RFID readers are hardware devices equipped with antennas that can send and receive radio frequency signals to communicate with RFID tags. These readers are responsible for identifying RFID tags and capturing the data stored in them. Then, the captured data is transmitted to a central database or system for further processing.

The communication between RFID tags and RFID readers can occur at different frequencies, such as low frequency, high frequency, and ultra-high frequency. Each frequency band has its advantages and limitations, influencing factors such as reading range, data transfer speed, and interference resistance.

What is RFID Backend Software?

The backend software serves as the brain of the entire RFID system. It is responsible for managing and processing the data received by RFID readers. The type of software may vary depending on the RFID application. For example, the RFID system can be integrated with existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software or Inventory Management Systems (IMS).

Applications and Advantages of RFID Technology

The primary advantages of RFID technology include seamless data transfer and automation. It can help simplify day-to-day tasks, such as retail billing, supply chain management, detecting security breaches, toll collection, etc. Let’s discuss some of the significant applications of RFID technology in detail:

Toll Payment Collection at Toll Plazas

RFID technology serves as a streamlined solution for toll payment collection on a global scale, offering an efficient alternative to the time-consuming and tiring manual methods. Recently, the Government of India introduced the FASTag system for toll collection at national highway toll plazas across the country.

Do you have any idea FASTag works on which technology? It’s the RFID technology being discussed in this blog. Currently, nearly all toll plazas on national highways are equipped with FASTag readers for electronic toll transactions through RFID FASTags affixed on the windscreens of cars, buses, trucks, etc.

The FASTag incorporates a microchip that securely stores data related to the vehicle and its owner. These tags are linked to payment wallets, facilitating seamless funds transfer directly to the toll collection agency’s bank account. The working of the FASTag technology and its advantages are covered later in this blog.

Retail Billing and Inventory Management

RFID technology has several applications in the retail sector, including billing, inventory management, product tracking, etc. It helps store owners manage their inventory efficiently. Additionally, it enhances customers’ shopping experiences by providing accurate information about product descriptions and availability.

Some store owners use RFID technology to facilitate quick and secure transactions through RFID-enabled payment systems. Several credit cards come equipped with NFC chips to allow users to make quick payments through RFID systems. All they need to do is take their credit cards near the RFID readers and enter the transaction amount.

RFID technology also aids in mitigating the risk of theft within establishments. The RFID systems are designed to ascertain whether items traversing through exit doors have been billed or not.

Patient Trading and Medical Equipment Monitoring

RFID technology plays a crucial role in the healthcare industry as well. It has the potential to streamline the monitoring of medical equipment, tracking of patients, and managing medicine inventory. It can also be used to restrict entries for unauthorised personnel in sensitive zones.

The adoption of RFID systems in healthcare removes the need for physical scanning, thus enhancing the efficiency of various medical procedures. Additionally, it helps in minimising the risk of human errors during procedures, contributing to higher patient satisfaction. The implementation of this technology enables healthcare facilities to reduce wait time for patients, specifically during critical situations.

Access Control and Security

RFID Technology is widely employed for access control and security applications, providing a convenient and secure way to manage entry to buildings, offices, airports, hospitals, parking lots, and restricted areas.

The entry gates are fitted with RFID readers, and only authorised personnel are given ID cards equipped with RFID tags. When an unauthorised person without an RFID tag tries to cross the entry gate, the RFID readers detect foul play and start a buzzer or alarm to alert the authorities.

Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Another sector where RFID technology has widespread uses is the logistics industry. Earlier, manual tracking of the movement of inventory was a daunting task, especially in manufacturing units and warehouses where a substantial number of items were stored.

However, the introduction of RFID technology revolutionised this process, enabling the rapid and error-free reading and tracking of thousands of items within seconds. Furthermore, the technology automatically updates all data associated with stored items, eliminating the need for manual intervention.

Shipping providers can also place RFID readers at their warehouse entry gates to maintain a precise record of upcoming and outgoing shipments. Consequently, this technology enhances the efficiency of warehouse management considerably.

The Role of RFID in FASTag

As mentioned, FASTag is an electronic toll collection system introduced by the Government of India to ensure quick and hassle-free toll payments on highways. It aims to reduce long traffic snarls at toll plazas and enhance the overall driving experience by automating the toll collection process.

How does FASTag work?

RFID FASTag technology works in the following manner:

Installation of an RFID FASTag

An RFID FASTag is affixed on the windscreen of the vehicle. There is a unique RFID number in FASTag for the identification of the vehicle owner, registration number, and other related details.

Wallet linking

The FASTag is then linked to a prepaid payment wallet or bank account of the vehicle owner. The toll payments are deducted directly from these wallets.

RFID reader at toll plazas

All toll plazas in India are equipped with RFID readers. When a vehicle with a FASTag on its windshield approaches a toll plaza, the RFID reader captures the data from the unique identifier on the FASTtag and sends it to a central server for further processing.

Automatic toll deduction

The toll payment is then deducted from the linked payment wallet or bank account and deposited to the toll collection agency.

Barrier operation

Upon successful toll payment, the barrier at the toll booth opens and allows the vehicle to pass through without stopping. If the payment is unsuccessful, the driver can pay the toll manually.

Advantages of RFID FASTags

The advantages of RFID FASTag include:

  • Facilitate cashless toll payments at toll plazas across the country

  • Reduce waiting times at toll plazas and minimise traffic congestion

  • Automate the toll collection process, reducing the need for manual intervention

  • Ensure transparent and traceable toll payments through secured digital wallets

  • Saves drivers’ time and fuel

  • Aligns with the broader goal of reducing reliance on cash transactions

The Final Word

The integration of RFID in FASTag is ensuring smooth experiences for both drivers and toll plaza operators. Going ahead, the synergy between RFID and toll payments represents a paradigm shift in the way you will approach and experience road travel.

As a responsible driver, you should always carry a motor insurance policy while driving your car. A comprehensive car insurance policy protects you from incurring unforeseen financial losses due to theft or damages sustained by your car during a road mishap.

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What is an RFID tag used for?

RFID tags are used for transmitting data through radio waves. They have multiple applications across industries, such as logistics, healthcare, security, retail, and automobile.

Is RFID tag same as FASTag?

While RFID refers to the technology, FASTag is the implementation of this technology for toll collection on national highways in India. The two terms are often used interchangeably.

How can I get FASTag for my vehicle?

You can get FASTag online or offline. You can visit an authorised bank’s portal and fill in your details to get the FASTag. You need to make a nominal payment for the same. New cars typically come affixed with FASTags.

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