With a global market share estimated at $36.3 billion, more and more companies are recognizing the importance of digitizing their asset-tracking processes. The passive RFID tag is the more common one on the market, but it may not always be suitable for your product. So how to choose between the three RFID labels? You have to prepare enough budget and know them all. Next, I will introduce active RFID tags and the difference between active and passive RFD. Of course, I have also explained in detail the costs that may arise from using RFID tags.

What are Active RFID Tags?

Active RFID tag is an active form of identification. It contains an internal onboard power supply that actively collects data and transmits it to the reader through radio waves. It can communicate only at low signal strengths. Under certain circumstances, it can communicate up to hundreds of meters.
RFID Active tags can classify into three types: Beaconing RFID tags, Transponding RFID tags, and Intelligent RFID tags.

Different types of active RFID tags
Different types of Active RFID tags

More common is the Beaconing RFID tag, as it is a reasonably simple system. It is commonly used for real-time location systems. Depending on the preset time, the beacon will emit a signal every few seconds or days. The signal from the beacon will contain specific information. This information includes the unique ID of the tag and the positioning information.

The information it emits is generally encrypted and requires a specific key exchange to decrypt it. And these issued signals are received and stored by the readers in the surrounding monitoring area. At the same time, the received data will also be uploaded to the system database for staff to view. Depending on the company’s requirements for beacon RFID, it ranges in price from $5-$100. It is rugged, waterproof, and shockproof.

Transponding RFID tags have the same characteristics as passive and active RFID tag. It does not actively signal when close to the reader and always remains silent. It will respond when it receives a call from the reader, and its response capability is much stronger than passive RFID. It has a long life span, typically ten years or more. Most toll station management prefers to use this type of tag. It may be best for you if you want to use relatively little infrastructure and do not require a high read range and accuracy.

Intelligent RFID tags are a hybrid of Beaconing RFID and Transponding RFID. It has the best of both worlds and comes out on top. It wakes up and scans the nearby fixed reference point beacons within the time set by the staff. Based on the information received from the scan, it calculates its own positioning and actively sends it to the reader. The origin of its intelligence also comes from its tag-centric calculation method.

It can provide more accurate positioning than beacon RFID. It transmits data based on the position of a reference point beacon. The reader receives the location data information when its location is at the specified beacon position.

If you are using it, you only need one reader and several reference beacons to receive location information for particular items. But if you use beacon RFID, you may need to install readers at each location. It may be easier to understand if you assume the usage scenario is a hospital. Depending on the company’s label needs, it may apply to any industry.

How RFID Active Tags Work?

RFID systems usually consist of RFID tags, antennas, and RFID readers. This RFID tag can be RFID active, RFID passive, and RFID semi-passive . When the RFID reader is close to the RFID active tag, the two are to produce electromagnetic induction.

RFID Active tag will transmit data through radio waves signal to the RFID reader. The reader will then decode the received radio wave signal and upload it to the specified database in the form of data. Assuming that the staff will store all the data in the database, they can view and manage it at any time.

Active RFID tags generally operate in higher frequency bands such as 900MHz, 2045GHz, and 5.8GHz. It has a high transmission speed and can send data over a long distance. If an active RFID tag is a location at a distance of nearly 100 meters from the reader, they can communicate with each other normally. During the communication process, the reader can read data at a rate of up to 1,700 reads/sec.

The Difference Between Passive and Active RFID Tags

Passive and Active RFID Tags: Similarities

  • They need the same equipment. The equipment necessary to make up an RFID system are tags, antennas, readers, and data centers.
  • They use the same process.
    1. First, store the relevant data on the tag.
    2. Associate the label with the asset and attach it to it.
    3. The antenna scans the nearby tag signal (passive / active).
    4. The reader receives the signal transmitted by the antenna and starts decoding and storing data.
    5. The reader sends the received data to the system database.

Passive RFID Tags VS Active RFID Tags: Differences

Active RFID TagsPassive RFID Tags
Energy SourceInternally supplied (batteries)Externally provided (reader)
Signal RangeHundreds of meters10 cm to several meters
Operating frequencyGenerally run under UHFOperates at LF/HF/UHF
Data storage capacityStore more dataLimited data storage
MaintenanceLow, typically 2-5 years (limited by battery life)High, typically over 10 years (maintenance free)
Production costExpensiveInexpensive (depending on the quantity)
Tag SizeLarge and bulkySmall and lightweight
Radio noiseYesNo
EnvironmentSensitive to harsh environmentsResistant to harsh environments
Additional FeatureWith additional functions such as sensorsNot applicable
Passive vs Active RFID Tag Comparison Table

What Costs to Consider When Purchasing an RFID System?

The price of RFID tags is affected by direct factors such as the durability of the tag, frequency of use, and the number of identification purchased. Even the cost of buying a label can be affected by macro factors such as the market and inflation. It also shows that each RFID tag’s price is unstable and will not be the same. Usually, passive RFID tags are less expensive than active and semi-passive tags. You need to prepare enough budget.

Tags Cost

Passive RFID Tags VS Active RFID Tags
Passive RFID Tags VS Active RFID Tags

Active RFID tags typically cost as little as $25 or more than $100. Some active RFID tags also come with additional features. Its additional features may be onboard sensors that track environmental parameters, etc.

And thus will be relatively more expensive. But if compared with infrared, WiFi, and other alternatives, it is instead the most cost-effective one. Semi-passive RFID tags are in the range of $10 – $25. Passive RFID tags are the cheapest relative to the other two, ranging from $0.1 to $1.5.

Costs of Equipment Required

You can easily find different types of active RFID tag readers in the market
You can easily find different types of active RFID tag readers in the market

After selecting the tags, you must buy the appropriate equipment according to your needs. Choosing a passive RFID system, you will need to buy RFID readers in addition to the cost of cables and antennas. Depending on the reader, the cost can range from $1,250 to $20,000 each. Depending on the granularity of the location to be acquired, you may also need a dense network of readers. Passive RFID devices are often supplied with Power over Ethernet to operate, which adds to the cost of your equipment.

In a typical production environment, staff will have RFID readers at all entrances and exits and in material storage areas. Assuming that they are only installed in individual places, there is a risk that they will not be found when placed in other places. Items are not placed in these places, resulting in a lot of staff time wasted in “searching.” For example, if an employee places a marked item in another location, the reader will not be able to locate the item. Then you need to “find” through multiple parties, such as monitoring or scanning using a handheld reader.

Active RFID systems are much cheaper than passive RFID systems in the equipment required. It is because it requires relatively simple reader functions. However, the equipment required is more expensive if you want to use an ultra – wideband (UWB) system. The advantages of using a UWB system are also clear – the positioning is very accurate, down to a few centimeters.

Installation Costs

Testing whether your active RFID tag can be used normally will help you use it better
Testing whether your active RFID tag can be used normally will help you use it better

Passive RFID systems are expensive to install. It requires a professional visit to the home to adjust the equipment, guide the antenna and configure it, and other essential settings. Passive RFID also requires special antennas to be installed and calibrated. The costs associated with this result in high installation costs for passive REID.

Active RFID systems are simple to install, so the installation cost is much lower. Usually, the reader is placed in the most convenient location, and the location requirements are not high. In most cases, it can be installed within one day. Of course, if you want to install a UWB system, it may cost more to install than passive RFID.
Their maintenance costs are essentially the same. It includes problems such as devices that need to be unplugged for certain situations or network drops.

Software Costs

Operators view the information on uploaded active RFID tags through software
Operators view the information on uploaded Active RFID tags through software

When the above equipment is ready, you also need powerful asset management software. Without it, the money you spend upfront means nothing. Usually, the more powerful and complex the software is, the more expensive it is. If you need a simple understanding of your assets, then many simple systems on the market will fit your needs.

Besides the above, you will need to consider other costs you may incur based on the actual labels you purchase. Of course, passive RFID tags are undoubtedly the cheapest option if you think about the price of the tag. But buying a tag is not just about the price. It’s about the product used and the environment in which it is made. How to buy a really “cheap” tag depends on your actual requirements.

Choosing the right type facilitates the best application. Active RFID tags are used to track large and high-value assets. It is better than passive RFID tags. It has more additional features. It can carry sensors, LEDs, and buttons and perform various functions. It is suitable for use in demanding environments such as cold chain transport and laboratories. Assuming your product is particular and needs to be stored for a long time in an exceptional setting, you may want to consider active RFID tags.

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