What Is the Main Limitation of RFID?

by John Lister

Radio-frequency identification, or RFID, offers the benefits of relatively low cost compared to other wireless technology, being physically unobtrusive and enabling detailed stock tracking. However, RFID is not without its limitations based on the goods it tracks and the methods used to enable its features.

Cost

Although an RFID tag can cost as little as a few cents and the cost has fallen over time, it still requires investment to install on a good, which doesn't always pay off. While an RFID tag is useful for tagging and tracking, it is not economically viable for tagging very low value goods. This is a particular issue with active tags (those that require a local power source), which can cost up to a dollar each.

Signal Collision

A February 2011 paper for the "International Journal of Computer and Electric Engineering" notes that it isn't easy to read multiple RFID tags simultaneously. This can lead to the different signals from the tags interfering with one another. Computerized techniques for "detangle" such signals, but implementing and managing these techniques increases operation costs.

Standards

The IJCEE paper notes that RFID does not have particularly sturdy and fixed technical standards. Lack of standards is an issue when companies attempt to share RFID information and tracking with other organizations. Sources of potential differences include the speed at which data transmits and the techniques that manage with signal collision.

Frequencies

The range of wireless frequencies in use varies across the three primary regions -- the Americas; Asia and Australasia; and Europe and Africa. The variations in ranges limits companies that want to use RFID tracking for international inventory management. "Crossover" frequencies work everywhere, but companies must plan ahead to use these types of frequencies when choosing tags and equipment.

About the Author

A professional writer since 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, John Lister ran the press department for the Plain English Campaign until 2005. He then worked as a freelance writer with credits including national newspapers, magazines and online work. He specializes in technology and communications.

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