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What Protocols Are Used to Communicate Between an RFID Reader and a Tag?

Posted By RFID Journal, 10.29.2013

Can you please explain what each standard is for?

—Name withheld


The protocols are called the air-interface protocols, and there are many "standards" for such protocols, depending on the type of RFID system used. Here are a few of the most common air-interface protocol standards ratified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO):

ISO 14443: This high-frequency (HF) standard is designed to have a short read range and include encryption, since it was created for proximity cards. What that means is that it was created for secure payments.

ISO 15693: This HF standard was developed for vicinity cards. It has no encryption and a longer read range than ISO 14443-based systems. It is used in many access-control systems, but has also been employed for inventory management and other applications.

ISO 18000-3: This HF standard, developed for item management, has never really caught on. Most companies simply use ISO 15693 for item management.

Near Field Communication: While not an official ISO standard, NFC is based on ISO 14443 and adds some additional capabilities, such as the ability of a reader to emulate a tag. NFC will also incorporate ISO 15693 over time, so you will be able to use an NFC-enabled phone to enter a building.

ISO 18000-6C: This ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) standard is based on the EPC Gen 3 air-interface protocol. Although there is an ISO 1800-6A and an ISO 1800-6B, it is ISO 18000-6C that is widely used for passive UHF systems.

ISO 24730: This protocol governs the communication of active RFID transponders operating at 2.45 GHz, and is used in real-time location systems.

There are other standard and proprietary air-interface protocols, but these are the main ones currently being used.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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