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RFID stands for Radio Frequency IDentification, an automatic identification technology that uses radio waves to transfer digital information between a tag and a reader.

What are the key components of an RFID system?
RFID systems are composed of many common elements, and include tags (also knows as transponders or inlays), readers, antennas, and application software. However, depending on the requirements of the application, the actual make-up of these components can vary greatly in size, form, factor, and cost.

How does RFID work?
All RFID systems transmit digital data between a reader and transponder via radio waves. PDC Healthcare is focused on passive RFID systems in which an inlay - a combination of microchip and antenna - receives and transmits data only when coupled with a reader and antenna, typically at a range of five inches or less. The reader is controlled by a host computer or on-board microprocessor and determines the appropriate read or write operation. Active RFID systems use transponders with an on-board battery to boost the effective operating range of the tag, and are often used for real-time location systems or environmental sensing and storage. This added functionality comes at a significant cost vs. typical passive systems.

What is Smart Band®? Smart Band® describes PDC Healthcare's patented product line of RFID wristband products, widely used today in a growing number of hospitality and healthcare applications. Each Smart Band® wristband contains an RFID inlay with a unique, factory-programmed serial number (UID number) which can be linked in a host database to the wearer. This electronic link, coupled with additional data stored to the inlay memory, enables a limitless variety of RFID enabled applications.

PDC Healthcare offers a wide range of RFID wristband products to meet the unique needs of many applications. Please contact PDC Healthcare's Customer Care at 866.403.6526 or 818.897.1111 x.1320 to help you determine the best product(s) for your specific application.

What are the advantages of RFID over bar codes?
RFID is not likely to completely replace bar codes, but RFID has specific advantages over bar codes that make it the technology of choice for a growing number of applications. Benefits include:

  • RFID does not require line-of-sight to communicate between tag and reader. This feature improves efficiency and also enables RFID to be used in harsh or dirty environments. In a healthcare setting, RFID wristbands can be read without disturbing the patient.

  • RFID is a dynamic data carrier. Many RFID devices are read/write capable, which enable updates to the encoded data in the tag. With bar codes, any changes to the data require printing a new bar code.

  • RFID provides increased security over bar codes, which are easy to copy and duplicate. With RFID, different levels of security are possible depending on the sensitivity of the data stored or accessed by the RFID tag. Data encryption techniques, secure or private communication protocols, or public/private keys are proven techniques to safeguard the security of an RFID system.

  • The first time read rate of an RFID tag is higher than a bar code, which improves the efficiency of a system. Unlike bar codes, RFID is not sensitive to sunlight, making it the ideal credential for outdoor parks or resorts. Also, curvature, especially in a wristband, has minimal impact on reading an RFID tag, whereas curvature in a bar code can render it useless, depending on the symbology or orientation.

What applications currently benefit from RFID?
Originally adapted during World War II to identify "friendly" aircraft, RFID has proliferated into other applications such as automatic toll payments, supply chain management, animal identification, library inventory, cashless payments, rail pass ticketing, brand authentication, access control, and many more.

Can RFID be used as a tracking device?
Since passive RFID transponders must be closely coupled with a reader to transmit information, the read distance is generally limited to short distances, rendering passive RFID tags impractical for tracking purposes. A passive RFID system may be configured to provide 'last known location' based on the last read of the transponder at a specific location, but it cannot provide real-time tracking.
Active transponders use a battery to power the chip's circuitry and broadcast a signal to the reader. Transmission distances can reach 100 feet or more, enabling active systems to track items or people in closed-loop environments.

Are there any health risks associated with RFID and radio waves?
No. RFID utilizes the low-end of the electromagnetic spectrum. The waves emitted from readers are no more dangerous than radio waves signaled to your car stereo.

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