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Can I Track Items at Long Distances Using RFID?

Posted By RFID Journal, 09.14.2012
As a follow-up question to your answer concerning the impracticality of utilizing an RFID-enabled smartphone to locate a golf ball (see Could a Smartphone Track a Miniature RFID Tag Placed on a Golf Ball?), is the technology suitable for locating an item that is, say, 50 feet away?

—Name withheld

Unfortunately, no.

Near Field Communication (NFC) readers currently used in smartphones are designed for short-range reading only. Even if you were to place an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) reader in a smartphone, there would not be enough energy available to locate a tag from that distance, because the phone manufacturers limit the amount of power available to peripherals in order to prevent a peripheral from draining the battery. Even if those restrictions were lifted, you would still not be able to read a passive tag from that range.

It might be possible to create a proprietary phone add-on that could interrogate an active (battery-powered) tag. That way, the tag would broadcast a signal and the phone reader would be able to pick it up. But that would also raise tag cost to around the $50-per-tag range, which would make it useless for most consumer applications.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor,
RFID Journal

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