RFID - Glorified Barcodes?

I have recently romanticised RFID as new integration technology and an area of research. Harbouring behind my passion to find out more was my cynicism about RFID being much like bar-coding. So what's new?

The big message is that RFID is a multi-message processing system whereas bar-coding is a single message processing system. An RFID reader can process 1600 messages per second according to the gen2 tag specification. RFID can publish application level events (ALE) -  business transactions (i.e. an item enters storage, an item leaves storage). RFID, of course is not restricted to line of sight restrictions.

It does struggle with the choice of radio band. Options are

  • UHF (susceptible to liquids and metals - longer distance) 30 ft
  • HF (less susceptible but lower distance)

"slap and ship", a popular expression in RFID refers to a supplier slapping a  tags on box and shipping out the door (usually because the retailer stipulates it)

See this link for more info:

Tags aren't all one in the same either. Most tags are passive (ie. they rebound signals from the send) but some active tags (consisting of a battery on tag) transmits information out via antenna from 100-300ft+. You could pick up these tags for as little as 12 cents per tag if bought in bulk.

There are a few main categories of entities being tagged:

  • merchandise
  • assets
  • employees
  • customers (e.g. locating people by devices identified  by an ip address)

The use of RFID is raises some ethical and/or some serious privacy issues. The real intelligence gains are found when comparing RFID events that are correlated between entity tags (e.g. customer and merchandise)

I was encouraged to hear that we (Microsoft) have published a paper on the official response to Privacy in RFID (Stephen Schafer and Kim Hargraves)


The surprising thing I didn't realise is that the information sent to and fro in RFID is not encrypted.

Next I will be looking into BizTalk and RFID.


Which is interesting given people are already advertising courses well before a server product is available:


( I find it very interesting that the tech community adopt new terminology en-masse - examples: performant, deep-dive)