What is a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a technology that uses radio waves to identify a tagged object.

BREAKING DOWN Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

Radio Frequency Identification is used in conjunction with a microchip, an antenna and a scanner. Although commercial uses for it were developed in the 1970’s, it has become more universally accessible in recent years. With advancements to the technology used to read and store information, it is now more affordable to purchase and adapt.

Radio Frequency Identification works through a small electronic device, usually a microchip, that has information stored on it. These devices are generally quite small, sometimes the size of a grain of rice, and can hold large amounts of data. While they don’t always emit electricity, some can contain a stored power source or batteries. The scanners used to read these devices can also provide enough electricity to allow them to read the microchip. There are many different uses for the technology, but it is commonly used in tracking products, animals and currency.

The technology is not without controversy. Due to the nature of how these devices work it is not inconceivable that someone who is not supposed to access the information on the microchips would be able to. There is also concern that personal information may become accessible without consent, since these frequencies can be transmitted over larger distances than their more common counterparts, barcodes. Unlike barcodes and barcode readers, one does not need to be able to see the microchip to access the information on it.

An Example of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

One of the more common uses of RFID technology is through the microchipping of pets, or pet chips. These microchips are implanted by veterinarians and contain information pertaining to the pet including their name, medical records and contact information for their owners. If a pet goes missing and is turned into a rescue or shelter, the shelter worker scan the animal for a microchip. If the pet has a microchip, the shelther worker will only be a quick phone call or internet search away from being able to contact the pet’s owners. Pet chips are thought to be more reliable than collars, which can fall off or be removed, leaving a pet unable to find their way home.

With the rise of accessibility of the technology, most veterinarians and shelters now have the technology to read these microchips. Universal scanners and national databases for storing owner information are also rising in popularity, making it easier than ever for microchipping pets to be a successful way to get lost pets reunited with their owners.

The only downside of the device is that the records must be kept up to date. The information is only as reliable as what is being imputed by the person setting up the microchip.