Understanding RFID in 10 points

rfid label sbe direct

With the massive development of RFID products, it is important to understand how the technology works and how to use it in the most efficient way. How does the technology work? What is the most effective support in terms of how it is used? What chip to choose? To best find your way among the wide range of media and chips, here are a few simple points to which SBE responds:

1. What does RFID mean?

antenna label

Every day we use RFID products without knowing: via transport cards, anti-theft labels in stores, security badges or more recently contactless keys for our car.

This technology has the advantage of saving users time and allowing quick reading of data. But do you really know what RFID is?


RFID or Radio Frequency Identification is a method to remember and recover remote data. The system is activated by a transfer of electromagnetic energy between a radio label and an RFID transmitter. The radio label, also called RFID tag, is made up of an electronic chip and an antenna that receives the radio signal emitted by the reader also equipped with RFID technology. The components allow both reading and responding to the signals.  

 RFID fonction



explanatory diagram

NFC stands for Near-Field Communication. NFC is also based on RFID protocols. The main difference with RFID is that an NFC device can act not only as a reader, but also as a tag (card emulation mode). In peer-to-peer mode, it is also possible to transfer information between two NFC devices.

NFC systems operate on the same frequency as HF RFID systems (13.56 MHz). Therefore, there are only limitations in reading range at short distances. This is why NFC devices must be very close to each other, usually no more than a few centimeters. NFC is often used for secure communications, for example for access control or in the consumer sector for contactless payment.

2. For wich media for RFID CHIP and NFC chip?


Today RFID is developing in different media:

Types of surfaceLenses


Cards and badges

  • Identification of people
  • Contactless payment
  • Control of access to business premises
  • Transport
  • Loyalty cards

etiquette pvc sans contact rfid

RFID contactless PVC label

  • Identification & traceability
  • 3 formats of ISO RFID standard labels
  • The powerful and affordable RFID technology
  • 4 types of RFID chips available


Labels and stickers 

  •  Identification of assets
  •  Stock and inventory
  •  Fight against forgery
  •  Traceability of products
  •  Promotion at events



  • Identification of people
  • Contactless payment
  • Promotion at events


Key rings and RFID tags

  • Access to residences, premises, and car parks
  • Company access badges 


Subcutaneous chips   

  • Identification



For each different surface, the chip may be for single-use (reading only) or rewritable (reading and writing with memory). To choose the chip type, you must first choose the frequency according to the desired use.


3. Communication by the chip.


Frequency is the feature that allows communication between the chip and the antenna. But all chips on the market do not have the same functionality.

The chips differ largely in their operating frequency and the reading distance. The higher the frequency, the greater the reading distance. Depending on these elements, the chip will be more or less powerful and more or less expensive.

Three types of frequencies are used for RFID chips:

Low frequency (125 Khz),

High frequency (13.56 Mhz)

Very high frequency (UHF).


Type of frequencyFrequency of functionReading distance (m)Transfer rateStandards

Bass frequency

< 135 kHz 0.5 1kb/s ISO 14223/1, ISO 18000-2

High frequency

13.56 Mhz 1 25kb/s ISO 14443,  ISO 15693,  ISO 18000-3

Very high frequency

863 to 915 Mhz 3 to 6 28kb/s ISO 18000-6


A number of manufacturers share the market, offering chips with increasingly high performance. This technology is now standardized and present in many everyday objects.

Discover our 2 RFID readers:

The UFH RFID reader can read quickly and remotely your badges, cards and other RFID transmitters inside and outside.

The USB RFID reader adapted for the fast contactless reading of badges and cards low frequency and high frequency (LF and HF).

4. The capabilities of the RFID chip.

This technology has three versions:

  • Passive RFID
  • Semi-Passive RFID
  • Active RFID


Passive RFID works in read-only since the chip does not have a battery and must be moved towards the reader to be read. A powerful electromagnetic signal is sent to it, enabling the RFID chip to be activated and the information contained in it to be read.


On the other hand, active RFID works with an energy source such as a battery or mini battery, which allows the card to be read over longer distances. This technique is mainly used for the traceability of people, vehicles or logistical traceability.


Like active RFID, semi-passive RFID is powered by an energy source. However, the battery feeds the RFID chip at regular time intervals. It does not send out a signal. This technology is useful for food traceability, especially to record changes in temperature during transport.

There are different RFID classes:


TagFonctionAvantages / inconvénients

Classe0 Classe1

Passive Reading the unique identifier Less expensive than active tags, useful for reading a large volume of goods at a short distance. However, the reading distance is also a disadvantage because the reader must be nearby.
Classe2 Passive Additional functions: reading, writing with memory
Classe3 Semi-passive Tags assisted by a battery More efficient and less expensive than active RFID. However, there is still some uncertainty around how reliable it is for traceability.
Classe4 Active Communication without transiting a central server  Independent technology with clean energy that allows long-distance reading. The disadvantages are the cost of labels and their limited duration, the low security of the waves emitted, and its impact on health.
Classe5 Checking Feeds class 0 to 3 tags and communicate with class 4 tags.  

The most common chip: The Mifare.

mifare logo

Mifare is the most widespread smart contactless chip technology in the world and is manufactured by NXP. Mifare is standard for the RFID card.

mifare decomposition

The four types of Mifare chip:



Mifare Ultralight

13,56 Mhz 512 bits (64 bytes = 64 characters) Read-only. No failsafe like in the Mifare Classic. Used mainly for disposable tickets. Class 0/1

Mifare classic


13,56 Mhz 768 bytes (768 car.) Security block. Ability to read or write data, but also to increase or decrease values. Writing distance of 10 cm. The first version of Mifare.

Mifare classic


13,56 Mhz 4 KB (4096 characters) Security block. Ability to read or write data, but also to increase or decrease values. Writing distance of 10 cm. Class 2

Mifare DESFire


13,56 Mhz 2 KB, 4 KB ou 8 KB Contactless data transfer without requiring energy or a battery. This chip has a higher level of security compared to others. The card takes 28 applications each supporting 32 files. The size of each file is defined at the time of creation. Practical and flexible product.

Which chips are also available on the market?

Mifare chips are not the only ones on the market, there are other types and the most well-known ones are:


Chip typeCharacteristics
125 KHz EM 4200 (EM Microelectronic)

128 bits in read only, low frequency contactless with identification device. It is gradually replacing EM 4100/4102 and EM 4005/4105. Very low energy consumption and high performance. Class 0/1

125 KHz EM 4100 (EM Microelectronic)

64 bits in only programmable reading, low consumption. Small chip for a better implementation. Class 0/1

125 KHz T 5577 (Atmel)

363 bits. Reading and writing chip from a reader. Class 2

125 Khz HiTag (NXP)

From 64 bits to 2048 bits. Effective in transmitting data in complex environments. Several versions including hitag S, hitag 2 and hitag 1. The difference is essentially in memory size and reading/writing function.

To know well the limits and the dangers of RFID.

To be able to communicate with RFID tags, you need a fixed or portable reader. The purpose of this reader is to read the data if it has been recorded in the design or to modify the content if the chip allows.


CharacteristicsReading DistanceFrequency
Fixed In the form of a portico or kiosk, particularly at a supermarket till, for access control, in the library. Distance: 25 cm, Short: up to 1 m, Medium distance: up to 9 m Long-range: hundreds of meters.

Low-frequency LF 125 Khz

High-frequency HF 13.56 Mhz 

Very high-frequency UHF 868 Mhz

Portable  Scanner portable to read labels manually. Labels do not need to be moved. A few centimeters to a few meters

Low-frequency LF 125 Khz

High-frequency HF 13.56 Mhz 

Very high-frequency UHF 868 Mhz

portable reader

A portable reader with RFID port.

rfid port

Fixed handle reader for access control.

RFID on a daily basis.

For years, RFID has been mainly present in security through the control of corporate access or to combat in-store theft.

Today, it has the main aim of identifying:

  • Items against theft, in stock management
  • People, thanks to contactless cards and passports
  • Pets using subcutaneous electronic chips

RFID is also found in information and advertising in some cities such as Tokyo where 10,000 RFID markers have been installed on the streets to inform pedestrians while traveling or to display promotions on the street. Paris has inserted RFID chips into 95, 000 trees for monitoring.

Daily Improvement

pass navigo
To simplify everyday life, companies introduced RFID into many everyday objects such as electronic motorway tolls, public transit (Navigo Pass), biometric passports, and contactless payment.

In the future, RFID will spread to other areas such as medicine, in public waste disposal, or connected to Wi-Fi connection. Esso has, for example, put in place a system that would allow fuel to be supplied thanks to a reader in the car.

Combating fraud

RFID also allows you to combat shoplifting through discrete anti-theft labels products and packaging.

RFID: improved corporate performance.

Many distributors and logistics companies are finding new uses for this technology: airport baggage management, shop inventories, shelf-stacking and overall stock management.

magneto acoustic label

Product traceability

It is possible to track a product with an RFID label from its manufacture until it is sold in store. Analyzing its data helps optimize the supply chain and save time and money.

subcutaneous chipOne of the oldest uses for this type of process dates back to the 1980s where it was used to identify and track livestock. RFID technology monitors animals from birth to slaughter without fraud, for better traceability for the consumer and the farmer. Today, more and more subcutaneous chips are inserted under the skin of certain animals, especially to better identify pets (in case of loss) or to monitor endangered animals.

decathlon shipping projectIn the industry, this label is placed on the product or on its packaging during its manufacture. The chip allows you to trace the product during its journey: during transport, storage or placement on a store shelf. This technique allows companies to better estimate the cost and duration of the supply chain. This makes it possible to anticipate malfunctions and obtain a history of the product in case of damage.

Inventory Management

warehouse image reader

In stores and factories that have stock, the RFID tag is the means to quickly analyze the flow. The computerized system allows for a trace of flow: from supply to sale. The till communicates with the computer updates the inventory list.

inventory storeThis technique allows users to better control the cost of their stock. The technology notifies users when the product has arrived and been dispatched. In case of theft in stock, it is possible to trace the journey of the product. In addition to supply, shops can also speed up shop inventories. Companies such as Tesco, use robots equipped with RFID readers to read chips and perform inventories.

rfid wine characteristicsRFID tags allow users to recognize a product and obtain all its characteristics. This process is used particularly for authenticating wine labels to prevent theft and fraud. To optimize its logistics chain, companies like Decathlon use RFID technology to recognize products and exchange them without receipts.

The limits of RFID.

Like any technology, RFID has its own limits. The dissemination of information poses a problem for privacy issues. An unsecured card can be easily copied to recover or modify sensitive data.

anti-hacking card

As a result, it is necessary to provide more security, and for that, we need to:

  • Protect RFID cards and badges using protective cases that prevent data retrieval,
  • Limit the lifespan of RFID card data (Navigo card only records the last three stations so that individuals cannot be tracked and to avoid fraud),
  • Encrypt or encrypt data to avoid risking disclosing sensitive information such as identity information, banking data, etc.
  • To identify a card, add a photo in order to recognize the owner of the card or print a hologram to authenticate the card.

Also, not all chips are legible at the same distance and under the same conditions. Wave transmission is limited through certain walls and metals. Some metals may, for example, protect the RFID chip from all fraud.

This technology still leaves a lot to be desired. The possibilities of use are immense whatever the business area. Chips can be encoded by RFID printers or RFID readers to change information (identifiers, sensitive data).

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