active RFID (active radio frequency identification)

Contributor(s): Madelyn Bacon

Active RFID (radio frequency identification) tags are continuously operating, battery-powered sensors that gather and transmit data to a reading device.

An active RFID system consists of a reader, tag and antenna. Unlike passive RFID tags that contains merely an antenna and a microchip with no internal power source, an active RFID tag has its own power source -- an on-board, long-lasting battery that enables the tag to transmit data continuously, regardless of whether it's in the field range of a reader.

There are two kinds of active RFID tags: transponders and beacons. A transponder only communicates when it's in the immediate vicinity of a reader. A beacon broadcasts constantly. A number of unique characteristics are specific to active RFID tags. Because the tags are often required to survive in harsh environmental conditions like extreme temperatures or precipitation, some are encased in a protective shell. Given the size requirements of the battery, wiring and the durable exterior, active RFID tags are larger than passive tags. Some also have on-board sensors that track environmental parameters like the temperature, humidity, fluid and power consumption. They can also be used for highly specific use cases, such as sensing when a container door is open and there is a change in temperature. This gives shippers an extra insight that allows them to make important adjustments, like rerouting a shipment if it spoils.

Active RFID tags require low signal strength to communicate and can broadcast up to and even beyond a range of 100 meters. The cost per tag ranges anywhere from $15 to more than $100, depending on its capabilities. The high cost generally makes active RFID tags too expensive for simple inventory applications. They are better for tracking high-value items like cargo. Industries that commonly use active RFID tags in addition to shipping and logistics include automobile sales manufacturing, health and medical, construction, mining, remote monitoring and IT asset management.

This was last updated in April 2015

Continue Reading About active RFID (active radio frequency identification)

Dig Deeper on Internet of Things (IoT) Wireless

Join the conversation


Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

Does anyone have a comparative analysis between RFID technology v/s LoRaWAN technology?
We are doing a study for one of our clients. Any help in this context would be really appreciated.
I have an application that requires a 13.56MHz digital door lock to be operated by an RFID tag. Most of these locks use passive cards which have to be read withing a few mm of the lock. I require the tag to be read at a distance of 50cm. Would an active RFID transponder tag do the job? I only require the tag to operate when close to the lock.
Any suggestions would be most welcome.