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RFID vs IoT: Is RFID the Future of the Internet of Things?

The ongoing discussion on the role of RFID in the IoT sector once more, brings to the fore, the fact that technology has no barriers. Electronics and related devices that were hitherto used for daily communications and are controlled by the users, are now “empowered” to aid in data computation.

Thus, there is a concern on whether the growing popularity of RFID would potentially shape the future of the Internet of Things (IoT). If so, what is the extent of the changes it is expected to make?

In this article, we disclose some of the unique characteristics or benefits of RFID’s integration in the IoT market. We also reveal some of the differences between the two and what the future outlook would be like.

What is RFID?

Let us start by defining the terms, starting with RFID. It means Radio Frequency Identification. It means a lot of things, but the takeaway is that with RFID, it is easier to “identify” things by computer systems.

The following key points will also help you understand how an RFID works:

  • Automation: one of the features of RFID is the automated process of identifying the objects and a wide spectrum of assets.
  • Tag Addition: it is common for RFID tags to be attached to the objects, humans and animals meant to be tracked.
  • Simplified Tracking: with the aid of RFID tags, it become easier to obtain or “read” data from the tagged objects. It is also a veritable way of identifying and recording the data about the tagged objects.

What is IoT?

ESP IoT Board
ESP IoT Board

The Internet of Things or “IoT” for short, refers to the “network of interconnected devices designed to have an access to the Internet.” These devices are also equipped with properties for facilitating data transfer.

The following features are peculiar with Internet of Things (IoT):

  • They are a network of vehicles, devices, machines and devices with embedded sensors and software. It is also possible for the IoT devices to be embedded with electronics.
  • The embedding of the electronics, software or sensors helps the IoT devices to collect and transfer data seamlessly.
  • With the Internet-connectivity, IoT devices can easily transfer the data (usually behavioral-based data) over the Internet. This helps the companies utilizing it to make informed decisions going forward, based on what they had in the obtained data.

The Principle of RTID in IoT

To understand how the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) method possibly makes a difference in the IoT; we would like to make a few important points.

  • The application of the RFID tags to the targeted assets, such as objects and pieces of equipment helps to make tracking simpler. When this combines with the IoT devices’ access to the Internet, transferring the obtained data becomes simpler.
  • They both are designed to revolutionize the business ecosystem, by way of tracking behaviors, collecting data about the same and sending across the obtained data for excellent optimization. The implementation of the behaviors derived the data could potentially lead to an improved customer experience, as it relates to the assets being tracked.

With that being said, let us now look at some of the different ways that RFID and IoT can work together.

1. Interaction Capabilities

At the core of its operations is the RFID’s capabilities to trigger and sustain interactions among the “tagged objects.”

In this case, we are looking at the possibility of enabling “ordinary things,” objects or machines to “interact” with one another. By this process, data is mined or obtained and the same is transmitted.

Besides, the overall application of RFID in IoT in this regard is the enablement of the “things” or devices to connect to a central network (Internet). From there, they can produce and deliver obtained behavioral data over the Internet.

2. Application or Object Tracking

The core goal of RFID application in IoT is to streamline the process of tracking or “taking note” of an object’s behavior. From human beings to objects and machines; the tracking is necessary.

It is through this process that the RFID tags take note of the asset, application or object’s activities. The obtained data is then transmitted for future use.

3. Wireless Communication

Both the RFID and IoT share a similar feature – wireless connectivity. Since they use a wireless communication method, they tend to collect and transmit data over a longer distance.

Besides, the wireless connectivity is helpful in the prevention of hitches in the data collection and transmission process.

Examples of RFID Technology in IoT


For maximal results, the application or integration of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in the Internet of Things (IoT) market is limited to certain industries.

The following are some of the examples denoting the application of RTID in the IoT market:

RFID in the Healthcare Industry

The medical or healthcare system could do with the application of RFID tags to make the things or objects smarter.

For example, the integration enables the use of the RFID tags for tracking, monitoring and transmitting the health or medical records of patients. This helps the medical personnel to take a note of the patients’ previous medical conditions and come up with better solutions.

Smarter Cities and Buildings

The world is getting “smarter” and the role of RFID and IoT can be felt here. The creation of “smart cities” and “smart buildings” is simplified by the use of RFID tags to monitor and trigger certain actions.

The following are some instances:

  • The tag can be used to monitor the efficiency of the different items or pieces of equipment in the home.
  • It can also be used to turn on the street lights to shine brighter, when someone gets closer.
  • The integration of RFID and IoT in the home can helps towards automating the opening and closing of doors once it “senses” someone approaching.
  • For smarter cities, it can help open the parking garage’s doors, as soon as a car approaches it.

The Transportation and Logistics System

The transportation industry is also disrupted with the integration of RFID and IoT. From tracking the location of a package to creating an accurate map for the delivery of products; this helps to make the logistics system better.

Object Location and Identification

Ever connected your smartphone to a Bluetooth device and it showed the name? That gives you an idea of what it feels like to identify a device with the aid of RFID and IoT.

The addition or attachment of the RFID tags to the important devices, such as smart sensors, cameras, home electronics and GPS can make identification simpler.

The Components of RFID in IoT

For the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to work best for Internet of Things (IoT); the components need to be maximized.

There are a wide range of components or solutions one can use to bolster the tracking of assets. These components include:

1. RFID Tags

The use of RFID tags in IoT helps to determine where a device is, what it does and the obtained behavioral data is transmitted.

The properties of RFID tags include:

  • Compact: the smaller size allows for the tags to be added or attached to objects without being visible.
  • Extensive Composition: the components of the RFID tags include Integrated Circuits (ICs) and an antenna. The tags also have a microchip used for the storage and processing of the information obtained about the tracked asset/object. The antenna is used for two purposes – receiving and transmitting radio signals, wirelessly.

Passive vs. Active RFID Tags

You will find two types of RFID tags. These are the active and passive tags. They have different properties, thus:

  • Active RFID Tags: these are the tags that have a dedicated power source, and which also supports a sensor. The active RFID tags are commonly used due to the ability to transmit the obtained behavioral data over longer distances.
  • Passive RFID Tags: on the contrary, the passive RFID tags are the ones that don’t have a dedicated power source. Instead, they rely on the reader for data transmission. Also, due to the zero-power source, the distance covered by the data transmission is usually shorter.

Downsides to RFID Tags

There are certain downsides or disadvantages to using the RFID tags. The reasons include:

  • Tag Efficiency’s Reduction: there is a chance that the efficiency of the RFID tags will decrease. Examples of such scenarios are the reduced transmission rate due to the use of the passive RFID tags, and the interference by metal or water.
  • Cost-Factor: certain types of RFID tags are more expensive than the others. An example is the active tags with a dedicated power source.

2. RFID Antennas

These are the devices used for radio wave emissions. The RFID antennas are also used for the following purposes:

  • They serve as the major connectivity path between the reader and the RFID tags.
  • RFID antennas are equipped to receive reflected signals from the RFID tags.

Types of RFID Antennas

There are two (2) major types of RFID antennas used in IoT. They are the circular and linear RFID antennas. The choice of one over the other depends on factors like the desired range and the location of the RFID tags.

Here are the differences between the linear and circular RFID antennas:

  • The Range: the range or the extent of the RFID tags’ signal transmission is a difference. While the circular RFID antennas are suited for the short-range applications; the linear RFID antennas are best-suited for long-range applications.
  • Method of Propagation: while the circular-shaped RFID antennas have a double plane with a spiral shape, the linear antennas have a vertical propagation. The other difference here is that the circular antennas give a wider range that boost the linear antennas’ performance, while the linear antennas offer readable RFID tags and better control.

3. RFID Readers

These are the devices responsible for reading and writing into tags. For this to happen, the RFID readers need to utilize the RFID antennas for capturing and reading the radio waves emitted by the RFID tags.

The following are some of the processes that go into the capturing and reading of the radio waves in IoT devices:

  • The sending out of Radio Frequency (RF) signals from the RFID antennas.
  • The sent-out RF “energizes” the tag, in the sense that it enables the tag’s reflection back to the ID code.
  • The RFID reader is used to decode the reflected signal, after the RFID antennas reflect the same.
  • The decoding leads to the identification of the specific tag.

RFID Readers’ Availability

A lot of options await you when choosing the best RFID readers for IoT operations. Some of the options cut across the following parameters:

  • Shapes and Sizes: you can find these readers in the form of mounted, handheld and desktop variants.
  • Frequency: they also differ by the operating frequency. An example is the low-frequency RFID reader used for tracking assets over a long distance. On the other hand, there is the high-frequency RFID reader used for tracking stationary assets or assets that don’t move around. They tend to track these assets over a shorter distance.

4. RFID Software

Also called the “RFID asset tracking software,” the role of the software includes:

  • Monitoring and tracking the objects or devices connected to the RFID tags.
  • It supports the generation of analytics, in terms of using advanced reporting, data filtering and event management.
  • The RFID software also oversees the processing of the data collected by the RFID antennas and tags.

What is the Difference between RFID and IoT?

IoT Computer
IoT Computer

Despite the impressive uses or integrations of RFID tags in IoT, there are a couple of differences between the two.

Here are some of the common types of technologies:

Connection Method

IoT typically supports different communication channels. Ideally, it needs to connect to either Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi to be able to access external data sources.

On the other hand, RFID requires the use of a specific Radio Frequency (RF), and is mostly connected via the use of radio waves for data transmission between the RFID readers and tags.

Data Capture and Exchange Method

For data exchange, RFID relies on the RFID tags. For the data capture, it is best-suited for recording the proximity of the monitored or tagged objects.

On the other hand, the IoT thrives on real-time data capturing and it uses both the wired and wireless networks for data transmission.

Conclusion: RFID vs. IoT Which is Better?

Both the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Internet of Things (IoT) are well thought-out technologies for tracking, accessing and reporting back on the behavioral data of objects, animals and human beings.

However, if you are to choose between the two, it has to be based on the distances covered for object identification, the types of applications and the comprehensiveness of the solutions.

Nevertheless, the fusion of RFID IoT aids in the accurate tracking, improved safety and increased efficiency of things, across different industries.

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