How Do They Work?

RFID  is the use of radio waves to read information on a tag. RDIF is similar to bar-coding as data is captured by a device that stores metadata in a database. However it does not have to be lined up as barcode readers do. RFID tags contain an integrated circuit which is a set of circuits on a piece of semi conductor material, which transmits data onto the RFID reader. The reader converts the radio waves to information that can be transferred to a host system in which data is analysed.

These tags are often made from plastic and can be either passive or active. Passive tags are cheaper than active ones and must be charged up to transmit data. On the other hand, active tags have an onboard supply and can transmit data at all times without being powered up.

Where are they already in use?

RFID technology has been around for decades and is already used in luggage tags to help bags arrive in the correct location as well as to hold data in credit cards.

The first successful use of RDIF implants was in 2009 in which Mark Gasson implanted a tag into his left hand. In 2010 he showed that a computer virus could wirelessly infect his implant and transmitted to other systems. Although previously used, this was the first time RFID had been implanted into a human and used in applications like unlocking his house.

In Medicine, RFID can be used to track different equipment that may be stored in the hospital or being transported for each is given a different tag which can be analysed by radio waves and located. 

Here are some different uses of RFID in a hospital including patient alarms and communication.

In Transport, trains can be easily monitored because RFID systems tag rail cars and rail operators can track service records to schedule and make sure there are no issues. This is efficient because details do not have to be manually checked but just automatically uploaded onto a system, allowing looking at train details to be quick. RFID systems can also ensure the precise stopping point of a train on the platform as long as the train has a tag, and this is better than optical sensors which were previously used and could fail due to debris in the way.

This image shows a tag on train transmitting data to the computer system.

In the pharmaceutical industry, RFID is used for drug tracing systems, and contributes to 60% of sales.  Counterfeit drugs which do not have RFID tags are prevented from infiltrating the system. 

Problems with RFID

  • Radio waves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum and interference from other radio frequency emitting devices can occur, slowing down overall performance. A high density of tags in one area can cause collision, however systems can be developed to ensure tags respond individually and therefore do not collide.
  • There is a security issue because data tags can be read by anyone with a RFID tag reader and it an unauthorised person get hold of one this could affect an entire system. 


  • Weiss, H., 2018. Why You’Re Probably Getting A Microchip Implant Someday. [online] The Weiss, Haley. “Why You’Re Probably Getting A Microchip Implant Someday.” The Atlantic. N.p., 2018. Web. 6 Apr. 2020.
  • Journal, RFID et al. “RFID JOURNAL |.” Web. 5 Apr. 2020.
Kate Walters
Kate Walters

Student of NLCS London
Member of NLCS London Computer Science Society


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