If I had an interrogator from one vendor, would it be able to read and write to RFID tags from two other suppliers? And what would be required for this to happen?
You would need to employ one of the air-interface protocols created by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Air-interface protocols establish rules of communication between a tag and a reader. There are standards for passive high-frequency (HF), ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) and active 433 MHz RFID systems.
The two main standards for HF are ISO 15693 (for vicinity cards) and ISO 14443 (for proximity cards). ISO 15693 has a read range of approximately 3 feet to 5 feet, and is used primarily for access-control and inventory-management applications. ISO 14443 has a shorter read range (to prevent eavesdropping, or cards being mistakenly read by a nearby interrogator), and is used in credit cards and other transactional devices, such as key fobs.
There are three UHF air-interface protocols: ISO 18000-6A, ISO 18000-6B and ISO 18000-6C. Of these, ISO 18000-6C is, by far, the most common. It is known informally as the EPC Gen 2 protocol, and is used in supply chain, manufacturing, retail and many other applications. It has a read range of 20 feet to 30 feet, depending on the environmental conditions and material of the object being tagged.
ISO 18000-7 is the air-interface protocol for active RFID systems operating at 433 MHz. The transponders utilizing this standard have a power source and broadcast a signal, so they have a longer read range—typically, 300 feet (91 meters) or more. These systems are usually used on shipping containers in the supply chain, but can be employed to track many high-value objects or vehicles over longer distances.
There are many companies that produce tags and readers based on these standards. You can search for them on RFID Connect.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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