Have you ever wondered what makes it possible for you to check out library books without having to scan anything? Or how do they time runners and bikers precisely during a race? Today you are going to find out! The technology is called Radio-frequency Identification (RFID). In this article, we will explain a bit about how RFID works and discuss some of it’s pros and cons.
How Does Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) Work?
The purpose of using RFID is to track objects. RFID systems are composed of a small electrical tag and a reading device. The RFID tags can cost as low as about $.05 and can be taped, built in, or attached to an object or device. The tag holds data about the item to which it is attached. For library books, this means book title, author, and due date. When the RFID tag comes within a certain distance of a device built to read it, anywhere from a few millimeters to several meters away, the radio waves are translated into data and displayed on the reader.
There is a wide array of applications for RFID tags. Here are a few that you have mostly likely used or seen used: electronic toll readers, checking out library books, the tracking of animals such as ants, house pets, or cattle, tracking medical equipment in a hospital, license plate registration stickers, toll road automatic payment, monetary transactions using your phone, casino chip tracking, inventory systems (Walmart even requires RFID tags on all shipments received to their stores), passports, and human implants to allow access to secure areas.
What are the Pros of RFID?
There are numerous benefits to using RFID tags as opposed to other tracking systems, such as bar codes. RFID tags are even outright replacing the old-fashioned barcode system in several industries. Barcodes must be visible to function, making them inconvenient for use with certain things. Using an RFID system, the tag can be hidden within the item and still easily read by a device. The barcode system will probably not completely die out since it is still cheaper, and in some cases more convenient than RFID tags.
RFID tags are much more reliable and accurate than other tracking systems. Corporations, such as Walmart, have introduced RFID tags into their tracking systems and thus saved thousands of dollars every year. The tags not only decrease the cost of labor, but lower the number of shipping and inventory mistakes made.
Hospitals have been able to become much more efficient and safe for patients when RFID tags have been attached to medical equipment to allow for easy tracking. Even operating rooms that have implemented the system are much safer for patients. By inserting RFID tags into all disposable gauze and sponges medical professionals are able to keep track of where every item is located. This eliminates the possibility that anything will be left behind after a patient is being closed up after surgery. RFID tag readers built in the shape of wandsncan scan the body to make sure nothing is still inside the surgical cavity.
The days of cattle thievery and branding practices have been nearly obliterated by the use of RFID tags. Each animal is given an RFID tag in their ear. If a rancher has lost a few cattle from the herd, he knows exactly how many, what type, and any other details about the animal he chooses to store on the tag.
Since it’s estimated that 80-90 percent of Americans use cell phones, you shouldn’t be surprised that RFID tags are being created to work hand-in-hand with cellular technology. A small RFID tag can be placed in the memory chip of the phone. Since the chip is capable of storing numbers, this will enable you to use your Smart Phone to make purchases at stores that read RFID tags. Some stores, such as Dairy Queen and 7-Eleven, have started creating their own tags to hand out to customers. These tags can be taped to your phone and used to make purchases or receive added discounts and savings. Credit companies are also working on implementing tags into your phone so that you can automatically pay for purchases without pulling out a card.
We could go on forever about the benefits and uses of RFID tags. Needless to say, they are here to stay. They have made businesses more efficient and our lives more streamlined.
Can RFID Tags be Dangerous?
From the above, you have deduced that RFID tags have infiltrated into nearly every level of modern technology, from libraries to the food we eat. However, there are many people who claim that the use of RFID tags can be dangerous as well as have implications that void some of our basic humans rights. As with most things in life, there are both good and bad aspects of using RFID tags.
While there are regulations in place to limit the use of RFID tags, there are still more laws that need to be developed. Identity theft and tag cloning are some of the potential risks of using RFID tags to process payment transactions or on passports. Interestingly, only some tags are able to be read worldwide. Both Japan and Europe read their tags on a different frequency than the U.S.
The most widely protested use of RFID tags is for human implantation. In October 2004, the FDA approved the first RFID chips that are safe for human implantation. Hospitals have since begun to to use them in identifying patients as well as hospital staff with special access to drugs and medical records. Unfortunately, it is possible to hack the tag information and create a clone chip, thus stealing an identity. Also, there are hazards to implanting a chip in the body, such as the RFID magnetic interference making MRIs useless for people with chips, minor tissue reactions, and others. With the advancement of technology, many of this issues could possibly be overcome. However, there are protest groups that believe the use of RFID chips in humans takes away their freedom choice.
RFID tags have been of great benefit to society. There is hardly a person that hasn’t in some way interacted with them, whether directly or indirectly. Under controlled circumstances and with strict governmental regulations, RFID tags can be of great benefit to the world. However, caution should be taken to ensure safety as RFID technology continues to progress.
About the Author
Natalie Clive is a writer for MyCollegesandCareers.com. My Colleges and Careers helps people determine if an online education is right for them and helps them understand which online courses and online schools they can choose from to reach their goals.
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