Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology has become much more common across a number of industries, but there are a variety of different types of RFID technology, tags, and readers — each uniquely suited to different types of applications.

RFID tags can be classified by the radio frequency range they use to communicate (low, high, or ultra-high), and the way the tag communicates with the reader (active or passive).

RFID tags can be grouped into three categories based on the range of frequencies they use to communicate data: low frequency (LF), high frequency (HF) and ultra-high frequency (UHF). Generally speaking, the lower the frequency of the RFID system, the shorter the read range and slower the data read rate.

The High Frequency (HF) band is the frequency range from 3 to 30 MHz. RFID systems that operate in this frequency band are called High Frequency (HF) RFID Systems. HF RFID tags/readers usually operate at frequencies from 1.75 MHz to 13.56 MHz. NFC (Near Field Communications) is a sub-set of RFID and also operates in the high frequency (HF) band.

HF RFID tags are based on inductive coupling technology which means that the RFID reader induces a current in the RFID tag which then powers the RFID tag and sends out some basic identification information to the RFID reader. These tags are usually passive and do not require a power source or battery. They have anti-collision capabilities that allow a single reader to read multiple tags simultaneously. The range of these systems is usually under 1 meter ( larger than LF).

The typical application frequency of HF tag is 13.56MHZ. At this frequency, a Tag’s coil need not be made of hard copper wrappings. The coil can actually be a printed ink on a paper like substrate. During the mid to late 1990’s, 13.56 MHz was the vogue technology that many experts saw as a path to addressing high quantity applications necessitating low Tag costs.

Typical applications include:

Library books.
Laundry identification.
Access Control.
OEM applications.

Typical Tag costs range from 50 cents to $1 unpackaged. Tag prices can dip to the 20 cent level if custom eeprom silicon can be committed to by the user. Read range are typically inches to several feet.

Metal poses a serious source of interference and loss of performance. Mounting Tags on metal can pose very challenging. The advent of UHF technologies and new manufacturing capabilities at the 125 KHz spectrum have lowered the anticipated explosion of 13.56 MHz as an accepted technology, however 13.56 MHz will always have its niche applications especially in the OEM market.

As UHF solidifies its position as the global standard and preferred RFID technology across vertical markets, tag prices continue to drop. In 2017, UHF RFID tags cost approximately $.05 to $.15 per tag, whereas HF tags range from $.50 to $2.00 per tag.

If you are trying to choose between HF and UHF, I would definitely recommend doing some extra research on this topic, Below, I’ve provided a kind of assessment that will hopefully help you decide which RFID frequency is most beneficial to your organization and that will help you quickly understand some of the differences between HF and UHF RFID technology. So here you go.

1) Do you need the ability to read and write data over a distance greater than ~50 cm?

Yes → UHF might be a better option, allowing you to transfer data over several meters, while HF can only transfer data up to about 50 cm.

No → HF might be better for you because its range is shorter, making it more reliable.

 

2) Will your RFID tags be placed near liquids, metals, carbon substances, or other dielectric and conducting objects?

Yes → HF would probably work better because it is less vulnerable to interferences from surroundings. However, there are some manufacturers that have designed UHF tags that will work in these environments as well.

No → HF and UHF would both work well.

 

3) Do you need to store more than ~110 bytes of data on your RFID tags?

Yes → HF would probably be better because these tags can store between 64 bytes and 8 kilobytes of data, while UHF tags can only store 24-110 bytes of data.

No → Both HF and UHF would work—at this point you’d probably want to choose the most cost-effective option.

 

4) Do you need to read more than 20 RFID tags at one time?

Yes → UHF might be better for you since it can read up to 200 tags at a time, whereas HF can only read up to 20 tags at a time.

No → Both HF and UHF would work. However, if you’re planning to narrow down on one tag at a time, HF would probably be better since UHF might pick up multiple readings.

 

5) Will your tags be located in an area with a high amount of Electromagnetic Interference (EMI)? EMI is emitted by motors, robots on assembly lines, conveyors with nylon belts, etc.

Yes → HF would probably be best because it is less susceptible to inaccuracies due to EMI.

No → HF and UHF would both work.

 

6) Does your application require faster data transfer?

Yes → UHF would probably be better because it transfers data faster than HF.

No → HF and UHF would both work.

 

7) Is power usage an important consideration for your application?

Yes → HF might be better because it uses less power than UHF.

No → HF and UHF would both work.

 

8) Are there inhibiting UHF restrictions in your geographic location that would interfere with your use of UHF RFID?

Yes → HF might be better because the same HF technology is accepted worldwide, whereas UHF restrictions vary according to region.

No → HF and UHF would both be fine.

 

HF RFID Tag Properties
Tag Type Passive
Frequency 13.56 MHz (1.75 MHz to 13.56 MHz)
Read Rage 10 cm to 1 meter
Read Speed Slow/Medium
Read Multiple Tags Simultaneously Yes
Works with Metal Yes
Works with Liquids Yes
Cost Low
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