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From What Range Can RFID Tags Be Interrogated?

Posted By RFID Journal, 01.19.2015

What is the maximum read range of the tags and readers available to date?

—Name withheld


We are asked this question often, but the answer is complicated. Active tags typically have a read range of up to 1,000 meters (3,281 feet). Last year, we wrote about a California RFID technology startup called Iotera that was launching a new active radio frequency identification tag that could transmit location- and sensor-based data at a distance of up to four miles. The tag—part of Iotera's Wireless Sensing and Tracking Platform—includes a GPS unit, a temperature sensor and an accelerometer so that it can transmit its longitude and latitude to a reader, along with its temperature or movement status (see Iotera Develops Active RFID Tag With 4-Mile Read Range).

The read range of passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags depends on the tag antenna's size and the type of reader antenna being used. I have seen an ordinary reader interrogate Omni-ID's Ultra tag from 100 feet away. I have seen a beam-steerable phased-array antenna read an ordinary passive UHF tag, such as Alien Technology's Squiggle tag, at a distance of 60 feet. And I have seen a beam-steerable phased-array antenna read an ordinary tag from 600 feet away when the tag is powered by an exciter located within 20 feet. In other words, the send and receive function are separated and the antenna sending energy to the tag is close to the tag, while the antenna reading the tag is far away.

I hope that answers your question.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal


Mike Crudele 2015-01-20 09:10:51 AM
As a guy who has been intimately involved in supporting the Passive UHF RFID (902-928mhz) system integrator community for nearly 10 years, I also get this question often. I'll begin my saying that every combination of reader, reader power setting, tag, antenna and cable will result in a different range. However, my observations in the field are a bit different than Mark's. In my experience using typical passive RFID tags, here are the average read ranges that I see... Using a 5-7 dBic gain RFID panel antenna: 9-15 feet (3-5 meters) Using a 8-9 dBic gain RFID panel antenna: 12-21 feet (4-7 meters) There are cases where you can read tags from further away, but not with the consistency required in RFID applications. A good way to test this is to always have an antenna "mapper" on hand during installations. (http://www.arcadianinc.com/rfmax/RF-MAX-RFID-POWER-MAPPER) This type of device will help you determine the exact range of your antenna configuration. I hope this clarifies the "typical" read range on passive UHF RFID. -Mike Crudele, Arcadian Inc. www.arcadianinc.com
David Carta 2015-01-26 03:15:37 PM
A couple years ago, I wrote a blog article about read ranges for a variety of tags of different sizes and designs, specifically using the SmartAT870 handheld reader. You can see the results here: http://telaeris.com/2012/09/mr-rfid-i-sam/ One of the main items you will notice is that there is often a difference between consistent reads of a tag and the "I just got lucky that this tag powered up at this distance" range. For a handheld reader, the max range we found for a tag was about 20 feet.

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