Eleven Considerations for Embedded-System RFID Readers

Here are some specific questions to ask product managers, embedded system engineers and solution architects when choosing an RFID design-in module solution.
Published: August 23, 2020

This article is the first in a series of considerations regarding embedded RFID readers for engineers, solution architects and product managers.

These days, RFID readers can be found in numerous devices requiring user authentication, authorization and access control, ranging from doors to multifunction printers to point-of-sale terminals to computers and more. RFID is a simple, secure and convenient access-control solution for end users and original equipment manufacturers. RFID reader-writers come with a broad range of form factors, capabilities and configurations.

When choosing a reader to embed into a system or device, it is important to make sure it fully meets all of your design specifications. You also need to make sure it will continue to meet your needs for years to come as device specification and end-user requirements change. Here are 11 considerations, including some specific questions to ask, for product managers, embedded system engineers and solution architects when choosing an RFID design-in module solution:

  1. Transponder Technologies
  • Does the reader support all of the card technologies used by your customers?
  • How much diversity exists in card technologies used by your client base?
  • How many clients need to support multiple card technologies across their organizations?
  1. Mobile Device Access
  • Does the reader support smartphone authentication for users wanting mobile device access?
  • Do you anticipate your client base shifting to smartphone authentication in the future?
  1. Adding Transponder Technologies
  • Do you anticipate needing to add new transponder technologies in coming years?
  • Does the reader support addition of new transponder technologies after installation?
  1. Post-Installation Reconfiguration
  • How easy is it to reconfigure the reader after installation?
  • Does the reader support contactless upgrades and configuration in installed devices?
  • Does the reader support remote configuration?
  1. Customization
  • Does the reader have reconfiguration flexibility for integration?
  • How does the reader integrate with hardware systems or back-end software?
  • Can the communication or security protocols be customized?
  • Does the reader have the ability to control user feedback (e.g., lights or sounds)?
  1. Hardware Communication Interface
  • Is the communication interface for the reader compatible with the requirements of your system?
  • How much flexibility do you have in choosing a hardware interface?
  1. Form Factor
  • Does the reader fit into the form factor of your device?
  • Will the size or form factor of the reader require design alternations to accommodate?
  1. Internal vs. External Antenna
  • Do you intend to develop your own external antenna with an RFID engine or module, or do you need a finished product with embedded antennas?
  • When do you choose a device that has integrated antennas over developing an external custom RF antenna?
  • How can RFID modules without antennas be integrated?
  1. Operating Power and Consumption Requirements
  • Does the reader meet voltage requirements for your device?
  • How much power does the reader consume when in use?
  • How much power does the reader consume when not active?
  1. Security
  • Does the reader support advanced encryption to reduce the risk of card cloning or data interception?
  • Are encryption keys stored securely?
  • Is the API customizable for your evolving security requirements?
  1. Certifications and Compliance
  • What kinds of certifications and standards must your device meet to sell into your target markets?
  • Does the reader meet all certification and compliance requirements?


Kiran Vasishta is a field application engineer at ELATEC. He is responsible for engineering, applications and technical customer support from the company’s headquarters in Palm City, Fla. Vasishta and his team of technical specialists provide consultation and support to OEMs, software developers and systems integrators. He has a Master of Science degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of California, Riverside, and a Bachelor of Engineering, Electronics and Communications degree from the RNS Institute of Technology in Bangalore, India.