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RFID Cards – Part 1

Contactless cards, tags and key fobs make life easier for millions of people by providing a fast and convenient way to open locked doors, enable cashless payment at gas pumps and point-of-sale (POS) stations, and eliminate the need to scrounge for tickets or exact change for public transit fares. These applications have also created misconceptions about what contactless card technology is and what it can do.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) cards do not need to be within a few inches of the reader to work, as is the case in most cashless payment and access control applications. Traditional contactless card technology is very reliable and effective but is limited, primarily because of the actual range of the radio frequency (RF) signal. As the RF range of ID cards increases, so does the potential application space.

Many users and system designers may not realize that ID cards are readable from up to 50 feet away with secure, standardized Gen 2 ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID technology. Only recently has it become convenient and practical for organizations to print and encode long-range cards in house—and now adoption is flourishing. Long-range identification is especially useful for many security, patron management, customer service, and asset tracking applications.

Gen 2 and other UHF technologies remove many of the limitations traditionally associated with contactless ID cards but create new system-planning challenges. Gen 2 technology holds an ironic position in the world of ID cards. While not widely used for personal identification, it is the technology behind some of the largest, highest profile and most secure ID card programs in the world. For example, the United States Passport Card program uses Gen 2 RFID to increase speed, efficiency and security at U.S. land and sea border crossings and in potentially millions more state-issued driver’s licenses.

Gen 2 contains all the elements for successful ID card technology—it is secure, is standardized, supports high throughput and is widely supported. Some of the largest companies and public sector organizations in the world use Gen 2 RFID systems for mission-critical operations. Applications for personal identification continue to grow rapidly for two main reasons. First, organizations now have convenient options for producing and issuing Gen 2-based ID cards.Second, many people now realize they have a choice of RFID card technologies and understand Gen 2 capabilities.

Gen 2 sees widespread use for asset management and product identification applications, where RFID systems routinely identify and record an entire pallet of goods automatically from unattended dock door readers mounted 10 or 20 feet away. In fact, the standard specification supports identification of more than 1,000 tags per second. Gen 2’s range and fast identification capabilities bring significant benefits to ID card applications. For example, Gen 2 range and speed eliminate the need for single-file, one-at-a-time card reads. Groups of people can move through large, open entry and exit points, rather than having to pass through narrow doorways, gates or turnstiles. Gen 2 technical capabilities also support many new processes that can improve security and convenience.


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