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Learning Center

Applications for RFID
Low-frequency RFID tags are commonly used for animal identification, beer keg tracking, and automobile key-and-lock, anti-theft systems. Pets are often embedded with small chips so that they may be returned to their owners if lost. In the United States, two RFID frequencies are used: 125kHz (the original standard) and 134.5kHz, the international standard.

High-frequency RFID tags are used in library book or bookstore tracking, pallet tracking, building access control, airline baggage tracking, and apparel item tracking. High-frequency tags are widely used in identification badges, replacing earlier magnetic stripe cards. These badges need only be held within a certain distance of the reader to authenticate the holder.

UHF RFID tags are commonly used commercially in pallet and container tracking, and truck and trailer tracking in shipping yards.

Microwave RFID tags are used in long range access control for vehicles, an example being General Motors' OnStar system.

Some toll booths, such as California's FasTrak system, use RFID tags for electronic toll collection. The tags are read as vehicles pass; the information is used to debit the toll from a prepaid account. The system helps to speed traffic through toll plazas.
Sensors such as seismic sensors may be read using RFID transceivers, greatly simplifying remote data collection.

In January 2003, Michelin announced that it has begun testing RFID transponders embedded into tires. After a testing period that is expected to last 18 months, the manufacturer will offer RFID-enabled tires to car-makers. Their primary purpose is tire-tracking in compliance with the United States Transportation, Recall, Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act (TREAD Act).

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Electronic Product Code
The Electronic Product Code, (EPC), is an electronically coded tag that is intended as an improvement on the UPC barcode system. The EPC is a 96-bit tag which contains a number called the Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN). Unlike a UPC number, which only provides information specific to a group of products, the GTIN gives each product its own specific identifying number, giving greater accuracy in tracking. The EPC was the creation of the MIT AutoID Center, a consortium of over 120 global corporations and university labs. The EPC system is currently managed by EPCGlobal Inc., a subsidiary of the Electronic Article Numbering Group and the Uniform Code Council, creators of the UPC barcode.

ISO 14443A
Approved in 1997, the particular that defines ISO 14443A is its 100% modulation depth. In the real world application, this means that the reader stops emitting its field for prescribed periods of time. This is also the most widely used contactless standard in the world and is used by two main memory products – Mifare and PicoPass. This standard is used for many applications including transport applications.

ISO 14443B
Due the limitations of its predecessor’s modulation depth - it was inherently unsuitable for microchips that require a continuous clock – the ISO 14443B was established. The defining variable of the B series is its 10% modulation depth that serves to preserve the continuity of the clock. Due to its advances, ISO 14443B has been adopted as the national standard for a number of countries, such as the U.S., China and Japan.

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ISO 15693
Building upon advances in technology, ISO 15693 was established with the main goal of increasing the distance of communication. Whereas the 14443 series was limited by a communication distance of only 10cm, ISO 15693 increased that distance to 50cm – 70cm. The main advantage of this standard is its use in vicinity applications that require the reader and card to communicate over a greater distance.

Magnetic stripe
Magnetic stripe, sometimes called magstripe, refers to a band of magnetic material on credit cards, transit fare cards or identification cards to store information. The magnetic stripe is read by physical contact and swiping past a reading head.

This is in contrast to the newer generation of smart cards which contain an actual computer chip with metal contacts, or contactless cards which use a magnetic field for close-proximity reading.

Memory Cards
Memory cards (also known as "dumb" smart cards because they can only store data, not process it like a computer) are typically single-use, disposable cards. Prepaid telephone cards and the Visa Cash cards used in the Atlanta Olympic Games are examples of this type of memory card. A reusable version, which can be reloaded with monetary value, is also available.

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Potential uses for RFID
RFID tags are often envisioned as a replacement for UPC bar-codes, having a number of important advantages over the older bar-code technology. RFID codes are long enough that every RFID tag may have a unique code, while UPC codes are limited to a single code for all instances of a particular product. The uniqueness of RFID tags means that a product may be individually tracked as it moves from location to location, finally ending up in the consumer's hands. This may help companies to combat theft and other forms of product loss. It has also been proposed to use RFID for point-of-sale store checkout to replace the cashier with an automatic system, with the option of erasing all RFID tags at checkout and paying by credit card or inserting money into a payment machine. (http://www.ncr.com/repository/articles/pdf/sa_selfcheckout_integratedsolutions.pdf).

An organization called EPCglobal is working on a proposed international standard for the use of RFID and the Electronic Product Code (EPC) in the identification of any item in the supply chain for companies in any industry, anywhere in the world. The organization's board of governors includes representatives from EAN International, Uniform Code Council, The Gillette Company, Procter & Gamble, Wal-Mart, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, and Auto-ID Labs.

Many somewhat far-fetched uses, such as allowing a refrigerator to track the expiration dates of the food it contains, have also been proposed, but few have moved beyond the prototype stage.

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RFID Frequency
There are four different frequency ranges used for tags: low, high, and ultra-high and microwave?

RFID technology uses radio waves to communicate and therefore different radio frequencies effect that communication. The most common frequencies used are low (125 KHz to 135 KHz), high (13.56 MHz), ultra high (850MHz to 956MHz), and microwave (2.4 GHz). Different frequencies offer comparative advantages in range, power, and cost and are therefore used with consideration of the required application.

How do I know which frequency is right for my application?

As stated above, different frequencies offer comparative advantages in range and power and are therefore used with consideration of the required application as well as other business considerations such as cost effectiveness.

Low Frequency tags have short ranges, but are also less expensive and use less power making them ideally suited for mass production such as security access cards and tracking assets.

High Frequency and Ultra High Frequency tags provide longer reading ranges and high speed data transfer, but have a higher system cost.

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Types of RFID Tags
RFID tags can be either active or passive. Passive RFID tags do not have their own power supply: the minute electrical current induced in the antenna by the incoming radio-frequency scan provides enough power for the tag to send a response. Due to power and cost concerns, the response of a passive RFID tag is necessarily brief, typically just an ID number. Lack of its own power supply makes the device quite small: commercially available products exist that can be embedded under the skin. As of 2004, the smallest such devices commercially available measured 0.4 mm _ 0.4 mm, and thinner than a sheet of paper; such devices are practically invisible. Passive tags have practical read ranges that vary from about 10 mm up to about 5 metres.

Active RFID tags, on the other hand, must have a power source, and may have longer ranges and larger memories than passive tags, as well as the ability to store additional information sent by the transceiver. At present, the smallest active tags are about the size of a coin. Many active tags have practical ranges of tens of metres, and a battery life of up to several years.

As passive tags are much cheaper to manufacture, the vast majority of RFID tags in existence are of the passive variety.

There are four different kinds of tags commonly in use, their differences based on the level of their radio frequency: Low frequency tags (between 125 to 134 kilohertz), High frequency tags (13.56 megahertz), UHF tags (868 to 956 megahertz), and Microwave tags (2.45 gigahertz).

See also for some Transponder devices which deliver a similar function, and contactless chipcards.

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What is a SAM?
SAM stands for Security Access Module which is a smart card module dedicated to the active authentication. This is the principal module for security and identification that gives the smart card its active component in communicating for security and authentication applications.

What is a semiconductor?
A semiconductor is, at face, an element that is neither a good conductor nor insulator of electricity, such as silicon. The main principal is that since it does not fall directly into either category, it lends itself to the manipulation of electric current based on the manipulation of electrons under certain conditions. Due to its ability of allowing the manipulation of electric current, semiconductors are used as the basic building block for Integrated circuits and microprocessors.

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What is a SIM?
A subscriber identity module (SIM) is a smart card securely storing the key identifying a mobile subscriber. SIMs are most widely used in GSM systems, but a compatible module is also used for UMTS UEs. The card also contains storage space for text messages and a phone book.
By using a SIM card, a subscriber can easily change the phone itself without losing his or her phone book and most importantly, without having to change her phone number.

Early versions consisted of the whole fullsize (85 x 54 mm) smart card. Soon the race for a smaller telephones called for a smaller version of the card. The card was cropped down to 25 x 15 mm (as illustrated). Since the SIM card slot is standardized (by the GSM11.11 standard), a subscriber can change carriers and use his current phone with a new provider's SIM card. However, this is difficult in the United States; almost all U.S. GSM providers SIM-lock phones that they sell—i.e., electronically lock their phones so that they can only be used with the provider's own SIM cards.

Some providers will unlock a customer's phone once he or she has fulfilled the service contract. Others, such as T-Mobile USA, have been known to unlock phones after a few months. Others, such as AT&T Wireless, will not unlock phones under any circumstances. AT&T Wireless not only locks its phones against its direct competitors, but even locks them against non-AT&T Wireless providers that have partnership agreements with the company.

The use and content of the card is protected by several levels of access codes. PIN is the every day access code for normal use of the phone. PIN2 is reqired to use special functions (like limiting outbound telephone calls to a list of numbers). PUK1 and PUK2 is used to reset PIN1 and PIN2 respectively.

The SIM is also a database—it stores network information such as its current location area identity (LAI). If the handset is turned off and back on again it will take data off the SIM and search for the LAI it was in. This saves time by avoiding having to search the whole list of frequencies that the telephone normally would.

Japan's PDC system also specifies a SIM, but this has never been implemented commercially. The specification of the interface between the Mobile Equipment and the SIM is given in the RCR STD-27 annex 4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SIM

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What is a smart card module?
A smart card module refers the Integrated circuit chip and contact plate that is embedded within the smart card.

What is a smart card?
A smartcard or smart card is a tiny secure cryptoprocessor embedded within a credit card-sized or smaller (like the GSM SIM) card.

Smart cards were invented and patented in France by Roland Moreno in the 1970s. Their first mass usage was payment in the French payphones starting from 1983 (Télécarte). The second one was the integration of a microchip into all French debit cards (Carte Bleue).

The ISO/IEC 7816 series of standards define:

  • the physical shape of the smart card
  • the positions and shapes of its electrical connectors
  • the communications protocols and power voltages to be applied to those connectors
  • the functionality
  • the format of the commands sent to the card and the response returned by the card

The cards do not contain a battery; power is supplied by the card reader.
In a contact-type smart card, the chip can be recognized by an area of gold-plated contacts about 1 cm2 close to the short side of the card. Normally the contact communication is relatively slow (9.6-115.2 kbit/s). There is currently a trend towards implementing USB 1 on these contacts (up to 10 Mbit/s), but there is not yet a final standard.

The applications of smartcards include their use as credit or ATM cards, SIMs for mobile phones, authorization cards for pay television, high security identification and access control cards, public transport tickets, etc.

Smart cards may also be used as electronic wallets. The smart card chip can be loaded with electronic money, which can be used to pay parking meters, vending machines, and merchants. Cryptographic protocols protect the exchange of money between the smart card and the accepting machine. Examples for this are Proton, GeldKarte, Moneo and Quick.

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What is a wafer?
A wafer refers to the semiconductor, usually silicon that the Integrated circuit chip is built upon. It gets its name from its wafer-like appearance.

What is an IC?
IC stands for Integrated Circuit. Built upon the semiconductor wafer, the IC consists of the integration of the microprocessor, ROM, RAM, EPROM or EEPROM, which together comprise the circuit.

What is meant by “contactless” smart card?
Contactless smart card refers to a card with an RFID chip which does not require physical contact with a reader to operate. Contactless smart card technology is based upon ISO 14443 A/B, ISO 15693 and ISO18000 standards. Functionality ranges from basic reading/writing, data storage, to more intelligent functions such as cryptography. This technology lends itself to multiple uses from authenticating identity and allowing admittance to a building, to reading from long distances at drive through toll-booths.

What is Dual Interface?
This interface allows cards to be read by contact and contactless readers.

EMV is an acronym for EuroPay MasterCard and Visa that refers to preset specifications that define the structure for international debit/credit cards. These major international banking institutions set an international standard for the use of smart card banking solutions in order to create uniformity for international financial transactions. The standards they set address the data and protocol along with extremely high level data security mechanisms to protect the sensitive financial data of the card across multiple international banking systems.

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What is GSM?
GSM stands for Global Service for Mobile Communications which is an established system that lets subscribers access the global communication network via a SIM card.

What is MIFARE?
MIFARE is a platform introduced by Phillips that adheres to the standards set by ISO 14443A and is an industry standard for both contactless and dual interface schemes. It is used extensively in electronic ticketing, public transportation and access control.

What is RFID?
Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a method of remotely storing and retrieving data using devices called RFID tags. An RFID tag is a small object, such as an adhesive sticker, that can be attached to or incorporated into a product. RFID tags contain antennas to enable them to receive and respond to radio-frequency queries from an RFID transceiver. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RFID.

What is UIM
UIM is an acronym for User Identification Module which refers to a subscriber identity module for standards other than GSM. It is used for any applications other than GSM that require the identification and authentication of a subscriber to a service.

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