Short for radio frequency identification, a technology similar in theory to bar code identification. With RFID, the electromagnetic or electrostatic coupling in the RF portion of the electromagnetic spectrum is used to transmit signals. An RFID system consists of an antenna and a transceiver, which read the radio frequency and transfer the information to a processing device, and a transponder, or tag, which is an integrated circuit containing the RF circuitry and information to be transmitted.
RFID systems can be used just about anywhere, from clothing tags to missiles to pet tags to food -- anywhere that a unique identification system is needed. The tag can carry information as simple as a pet owners name and address or the cleaning instruction on a sweater to as complex as instructions on how to assemble a car. Some auto manufacturers use RFID systems to move cars through an assembly line. At each successive stage of production, the RFID tag tells the computers what the next step of automated assembly is.
One of the key differences between RFID and bar code technology is RFID eliminates the need for line-of-sight reading that bar coding depends on. Also, RFID scanning can be done at greater distances than bar code scanning. High frequency RFID systems (850 MHz to 950 MHz and 2.4 GHz to 2.5 GHz) offer transmission ranges of more than 90 feet, although wavelengths in the 2.4 GHz range are absorbed by water (the human body) and therefore has limitations.