RFID: Advantages and Disadvantages

RFID: Advantages and Disadvantages

Radio frequency identification or RFID is a wireless technology for automatically identifying and tracking tags or smart labels using electromagnetic fields. Some of its notable applications include contactless payment for toll gates, tracking and managing inventory, other contactless payment and point-of-sale solutions, asset tracking, intelligent transportation systems, security and access control, and animal identification, among others.

Simplified Explainer: How Does RFID Work?

A specific RFID system fundamentally consists of a small radio transponder, a radio receiver, and a radio transmitter. An electromagnetic pulse from an RFID reader activates a nearby tag. In turn, the activated tag transmits digital data back to the reader.

The technology is somewhat similar to barcoding. Both involve ascribing unique numbers or data into an object for it to become identifiable and trackable. However, instead of representing data in a visual form, radio frequency identification uses data in the form of digital signals using low-frequency electromagnetic radiation.

Note that there are also two types of tags: passive tags that are powered by the interrogating waves from a reader, and active tags that are powered by a battery and thus, provide a longer and wider range than passive tags.

Pros: What are the Advantages of RFID Technology?

The advantages of RFID collectively center on its superiority over barcoding. In general, the technology provides benefits and applications that are not present from an identification and tracking system using barcodes and optical scanners.

Below are the specific advantages of radio frequency identification:

• Speed and Convenience: Note that RFID is one of the types of automatic identification and data capture or AIDC technology that provides a convenient, faster, and efficient way for identifying, recording, and tracking objects or items.

• Wider Range: Compared to a barcode printed on an object or item, a tag does not need to be within the line of sight of a reader because radio waves have a longer range and electromagnetic radiation propagates in different directions by default.

• Simultaneous Scanning: Furthermore, unlike barcoding that involves running individual barcode scans on each item, an RFID system can scan multiple items simultaneously. Items contained in a box or placed on shelves could be scanned at once without moving them from their storage as long as they are within the range.

• Data Security: The data on tags are more secured than visually represented data on barcodes because they are hidden from plain sight and are represented by digital signals. It also takes specialized equipment to read these tags. Added security is possible through different data encryption techniques.

• Versatility: Another advantage of RFID is its wider application due to its versatility. Tags can be embedded into different items or objects such as plastic cards. They can be fitted to vehicles, as well as locks and doors, or attached to consumer items.

Cons: What are the Disadvantages of RFID Technology?

Implementation considerations collectively represent a critical disadvantage of RFID. The material and capability requirements are more complex than systems based on barcodes and optical scanners. Hence, it might be inefficient for individuals and smaller organizations to adopt and implement this technology.

Below are the specific disadvantages of radio frequency identification:

• Technological Competency: One of the drawbacks of RFID is the required information systems capability for its implementation. The system depends on the synergy between the gadgetries and other hardware, as well as database management applications.

• Relatively Costlier: Implementing the system is relatively inexpensive. However, when compared to a barcode system, radio frequency identification technology is costlier to set up because of additional technological requirements.

• Scanning Issues: Despite having a wider range, physical obstructions can limit the system. More specifically, although readers can scan through non-metallic materials, they can have problems scanning through metallic and conductive objects.

• Privacy Concerns: Poorly implemented security workarounds can compromise the system. Unauthorized devices can read and even change data on unsecured tags.  Interception is possible since data are represented by digital signals.

• Inferiority: Compared to other wireless communication technologies and standards such as Ultra-Wideband, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and Z-Wave, radio frequency identification technology is considerably inferior due to its technological limitations.


  • Chetouane, F. 2015. “An Overview on RFID Technology Instruction and Application.” IFAC-PapersOnLine. 48(3): 382-387. DOI: 1016/j.ifacol.2015.06.111
  • Ting, S. L., Tsang, A. H. C., and Tse, Y. K. 2013. “A Framework for the Implementation of RFID Systems.” International Journal of Engineering Business Management. 5: 9. DOI: 5772/56511
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