Are they expensive?
It depends on the type of radio frequency identification technology you are using, as well as the features you want in the device. Let me tackle those issues separately.
Passive high-frequency (HF) readers tend to be cheaper than passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) readers. You can find models for under $200 each on the Internet. There are also inexpensive handheld readers that cost $300 or so.
Passive UHF readers run from $500 to $3,000 apiece. These might have a single built-in antenna or multiple external antennas, cables and so forth. UHF readers are typically full-blown computers that can run Linux or another operating system, enabling them to filter tag reads prior to passing data along to back-end systems. In some cases, the readers run complex programs allowing them to interrogate, say, only tags from a certain company. Passive UHF handheld readers tend to cost $1500 and up, with cradle and batteries.
Recently, many companies have introduced scaled-down versions of both HF and UHF readers. In some cases, these are handhelds with limited functionality (they can simply interrogate tags and pass the collected data to a PC via a Bluetooth connection), or they can plug into a USB port on a computer or handheld. I’ve seen HF readers that can be as low as $50 and UHF readers as low as $200. No doubt, all of these prices will come down as the technology providers begin selling more of them.
Incidentally, devices that communicate with RFID tags are called readers or interrogators, not scanners. (That’s a bar-code term.)
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal