RFID technology

RFID and NFC are two closely related wireless communication technologies. They are used globally for a vast number of applications such as supply chain management, logistics, access control, identification, authentication, asset tracking and contactless payments.

Logos Symbole RFID NFCWatch out for this symbols: NFC cards, payment terminal, RFID passport

What is RFID?

RFID is a type of communication technology in which data between RFID readers/payment terminals and RFID tags (RFID transponder) of a smart card or passport are exchanged using radio transmission within a distance and without any contact.

A RFID system uses radio waves to communicate (wireless data transmission).

So RFID enables a one way wireless communication, typically between an unpowered RFID tag and a powered RFID reader (interrogator) without establishing physical contact and beyond the line of sight.

The transmission between RFID tag (with RFID chip) and RFID reader passes through the air on a given transmission frequency (LF, HF, UHF).


air interface RFID

Source: Christian Floerkemeier, Elgar Fleisch, "RFID Applications: Interfacing with Readers", IEEE Software, vol.25, no. 3, pp.67-70, May/June 2008, doi:10.1109/MS.2008.71


The RFID tags embedded in contactless smart cards and passports store data which they broadcast 24/7/365 to all RFID readers in its surrounding.

They hold personal data, biometric and financial informations as for example:

Expiration date; account number, serial number.

Prename, last name, date of birth, nationality, fingerprints.

These RFID transponders are passive and so do not have their own power source for emitting RFID signals.

Instead, they are powered by the electromagnetic energy transmitted from the RFID reader for communication.

They can thereby be scanned at distances for radio data transmission, even by unauthorized RFID readers.

RFID operates at a range of radio frequencies each with their own set standards, protocols and scan distance, for example:

  • 125 KHz LF (low frequency)
  • 13.56 MHz HF (high frequency)
  • 800-950 MHz UHF (ultra high frequency)

Each frequency range is assigned to a radio frequency band (LF, HF, UHF).

Further components of RFID systems are often software and IT-systems, for example RFID middleware and servers with a database as backend (to process for example payment transactions or verifications).

For more informations: www.rfid-off.com

What is NFC?

NFC stands for Near Field Communication.

NFC is a based on the RFID technology transmission standard for contactless exchange of data on specific distances using wireless technology.

NFC is an extension of HF RFID standards. NFC therefore shares many properties with RFID for example the communication without a direct line of sight.

There are however key differences:

  1. NFC is capable of two way communication and can therefore be used for more complex interactions. It communicates both ways making data transferable to and from the chip.
  2. NFC is limited to communication and interaction at close proximity (but this distance depends for example also of the power of the RFID reader).
  3. Normally only a single NFC tag can be scanned at one time (single interaction; but there is still a risk of interferences, tag collisions and automatic payment transactions).

Security of RFID systems

The security of RFID systems is dependent upon the cryptographic security mechanisms used, such as procedures for authentication, encryption, pseudonymization, integrity protection and access protection.


For more informations: www.rfid-off.com


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