What is RFID? What Does RFID Stand For?

RFID stands for Radio Frequency IDentification.

The new RAIN RFID standard is also an acronym (RAdio frequency IdentificatioN) designed to help consumers better link the possibilities and capabilities of RFID with Cloud Computing based applications, which is usually where the data resides.

How does RFID work?

At the highest level, how RFID works is by powering an RFID Tag, usually by the RFID readers signal once it comes into close enough proximity, so that the tag is able to send it's unique identification number to the reader. This unique identification number can then be cross checked in a sub-system to see what asset or person is being identified.

The more technical answer is that RFID transmits data through electromagnetism. Small, electrically-charged particles interact with each other, creating an electromagnetic field. This field is made up of different waves of photons; the collection of waves from lowest to highest frequency is what we call the electromagnetic spectrum.

Every day, you use several devices that rely on communicating through the generation of waves in the electromagnetic spectrum. For example, radio stations use transmitters to generate waves sending music to the receiver in your car radio. RFID uses this same principal to send information between the tag and the reader.

What uses are there for RFID?

The two broad uses for RFID are 1- Access Control, and 2- Asset Tracking. Chances are you already use RFID and didn't know it.

  • - Contactless payment and transit/toll systems use RFID to identify who you are and process your transaction or allow you through the toll gate.
  • - Passive RFID tags in retail products assist in loss prevention and enable emerging business methods, like consumer self-checkout.
  • - Hospitals use RFID to improve efficiency, provide better patient care and reduce the risk of spreading an infection.
  • - Manufactures embed RFID tags into their products to track each stage of production and ensure quality

This is just a few real world examples, the application of RFID is near limitless.

How far does RFID work?

Generally speaking, RFID tag maximum read distances are as follows:


General Read Distance

125 kHz & 134.2 kHz Around 10 cm (4 inches)
13.56 MHz Under 1 meter (3 feet)
433 MHz Over 800 meters (2624 feet)
860 - 960 MHz Over 2 meters (7 feet)
2.4 - 2.483 GHz Around 50 meters (160 feet)
5.725 - 5.875 GHz Around 100 meters (~300 feet)

We've covered more details on the distance of each RFID technology on our RFID Range page.

What is the maximum transmit power?

This is country specific and in some cases further regulated by the region or city. This list is by no means the full list of all of the different frequency regulations. To ensure your compliance with local regulations make sure that you review the current standards prior to purchasing your readers.


Maximum Transmit Power

125 kHz & 134.2 kHz 72 dBμA/m
13.56 MHz 60 dBμA/m
433 MHz 0.1 Watts
860 - 960 MHz View the GS1 Regulations Outline
2.4 - 2.483 GHz 4 W indoor
0.5 W EIRP outdoor
5.725 - 5.875 GHz 4 W USA/Canada
0.5 W Europe

Next Topic: RFID Range

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