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Can I Read Data From 20 Feet Away Using a Cell Phone?

Posted By RFID Journal, 03.29.2011
I am planning a project that would require an RFID scanner to read an extremely minimal amount of information (just a 10-digit number) on an RFID tag from a distance of approximately 20 feet. I would like to use cell phones with RFID chips to accomplish this. Is this possible?

—Name withheld

Cell phones are equipped with RFID readers that employ a technology known as Near Field Communication, or NFC. This technology is designed to be short-range (only a foot or so) since it can be used for financial transactions, and to share information between a phone and another device. There is a Korean company that has developed a passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) reader for cell phones, but even that device is relatively short-range.

An industrial handheld UHF interrogator can read tags from about 10 feet away. So reading even a small amount of data from 20 feet would not be possible using a light-weight reader designed to be utilized by a consumer.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor,
RFID Journal

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