Radio frequency identification, more commonly referred to as RFID, is a system that uses radio waves to send information about an item to an RFID reader. The system is used by the military, retailers, suppliers, other types of businesses and consumers in order to save time, reduce labor costs and eliminate the risk of human error. When using RFID, there is no need for human involvement, and the system is more advanced than that of the bar code as it the tag does not need to be visible to be received by the reader.
An RFID tag usually consists of a microchip, with around 2-kilobyte capacity, and radio antenna attached to a substrate. The RFID reader is a device with at least one antenna that has the capability to send and receive radio waves. The reader receives information sent by the tag and transmits the data to a computer.
RFID technology is not at all new, but has only begun to gain popularity in recent years. Previously, the extra costs involved for the system and the limited uses meant RFID was not worth the investment for many companies. However, as the technology has improved, RFID solutions have become cheaper than buying traditional labels. The cost of RFID tags cost between 25¢ and 50¢, but prices are expected to drop to as low as 5¢ in the future.
In May 2006, Intermec Inc. developed RFID technology to allow tags to be reusable, impervious to chemical exposure and able to withstand temperatures ranging from -50 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Further developments are expected to increase RFID technology uses for consumers. One idea is to use a microwave as an RFID reader to recognize the tag on a food in order to cook according to the stored information.