What is RFID and how does it work?

RFID stands for Radio-Frequency IDentification. The acronym refers to small electronic devices that consist of a small chip and an antenna which transmits the identity (in the form of a unique serial number) of an object or person wirelessly, using radio waves. The chip typically is capable of carrying 2,000 bytes of data or less.

The RFID device serves the same purpose as a bar code or a magnetic strip on the back of a credit card or ATM card; it provides a unique identifier for that object. And, just as a bar code or magnetic strip must be scanned to get the information, the RFID device must be scanned to retrieve the identifying information.

A significant advantage of RFID devices over barcodes is that the RFID device does not need to be positioned precisely relative to the scanner. RFID devices will work within a few centimetres of the scanner so do not require physical contact.
RFID chips can be embedded in a multitude of devices, limited only by the imagination. Typically, they are used in wristbands, laminate passes, paper tickets, key fobs, pendants, keyrings – even watches. NFC chips are becoming increasingly common features in mobile handsets.