(Radio Frequency IDentification) A data collection technology that uses electronic tags for storing data. The tag, also known as an "electronic label," "transponder" or "code plate," is made up of an RFID chip attached to an antenna. Transmitting in the kilohertz, megahertz and gigahertz ranges, tags may be battery-powered or derive their power from the RF waves coming from the reader.

Like bar codes, RFID tags identify items. However, unlike bar codes, which must be in close proximity and line of sight to the scanner for reading, RFID tags do not require line of sight and can be embedded within packages. Depending on the type of tag and application, they can be read at a varying range of distances. In addition, RFID-tagged cartons rolling on a conveyer belt can be read many times faster than bar-coded boxes.

Serialization - A Major Factor

RFID tags hold more data than bar codes, but a major differentiator is the unique serial number in the RFID's Electronic Product Code (EPC) because it allows tracking of individual items. While a UPC bar code might identify a 16 oz. bottle of mayonnaise, an EPC RFID tag could identify that single bottle. In this case, item level tracking could determine if the food had passed its expiration date.

Tracking livestock was one of the first uses of RFID, as well as vehicle and container tracking. RFID is also used to track people. In 2004, an amusement park in Denmark put RFID wrist bands on children, which could be quickly located by readers in the park if they were lost. RFID chips are even implanted into humans.

Libraries use RFID tags to quickly check out books and videos, and employees merely wave their RFID badges by a reader rather than insert them into a slot. For entrance ways manned with security guards, RFID tags can trigger calls to a database that puts pictures of the badge holders on screen by the time they approach the gate. To prevent theft, retail stores tag their merchandise with a tag similar to RFID, but without the chip.

MIFARE is reputedly the most widely installed contactless smartcard technology in the world with 500 million smart card chips and 5 million reader modules sold. The technology is patented by NXP Semiconductors. With the respective busines sites in Hamburg, Germany and in Gratkorn, Austria.

The MIFARE propietary technology is based upon the ISO 14443 (RFID) Type A 13.56 MHz contactless smart card standard.

The technology is embodied in both cards and readers (also referred to as a Proximity Coupling Device).

The MIFARE name covers 2 really different kind of contactless cards :

• MIFARE Standard (or Classic) cards employ a proprietary high-level protocol instead of ISO 14443-4, with a Philips proprietary security protocol for authentication and ciphering. MIFARE UltraLight cards employ the same protocol, but without the security part.
• MIFARE ProX, and SmartMX, are NXP Semiconductors brand names for smartcards that comply to ISO 14443-4 (T=CL).


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