RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. RFID technology makes use of electromagnetic waves to capture and read data. The information is electronically stored on a tag that is attached to an object or the carrier. The tags can be detected from several feet away by the receiver.

RFID technology is popularly employed in access control systems to allow entry of authentic and authorized personnel only. 

RFID technology has application in several areas such as:

  • Identification of personnel
  • Access based security systems
  • Parking facilities including gate control
  • Tracking of consumer goods 

RFID in Access Control Management System

The most common use of an RFID system is in access control and door entry systems for personnel. The basic principle upon which RFID tags are employed is the identification badge of the workers of any company or industry. The RFID applications for personnel identification uses normally quite low frequency, at 125 KHz, for badge detection. This means that the RFID access card will have a chip that transmits at 125KHz, and the RFID reader will be able to interpret radio waves at a frequency of 125KHz.

Let’s take a deeper dive to understand how RFID technology works in the access control systems. An RFID system is composed of the following main components:

  • The RFID Card or Tag
  • The RFID Reader
  • Card Access Management Software
  • Access Control Panel
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RFID Card / Tag

RFID cards contain an RFID chip. The RFID chip contains an antenna coil that receives electromagnetic radiation from the active RFID reader, which in turn creates a current that activates the RFID card’s chip. This will communicate with the other device in the RFID system, generally the RFID reader, and will transmit the relevant authentication information.

All the authentication information of the person, object or the carrier is electronically stored in the chip RFID cards/tags. Given the relative size restriction, this chip can only contain contain a small amount of information, like a short string of characters that will uniquely identify the RFID card carrier. This is often enough, though, as the rest of the responsibility for authenticating and communicating with the internet can be delegated to the reader, which will have more space to store a larger chip and more internal RFID components.

RFID Door Reader

The RFID reader has an antenna which sends the radio waves to detect any RFID tag or card within its range. This range can vary for the RFID readers depending upon the frequency of emitted radio waves. When contact is established with an RFID smart card, a system is created, and the door reader prompts the card to transmit its authentication information, as described above.

The RFID reader decodes the uniquely stored information in the RFID card/tag. Then, based on the way that the RFID system is set up, it will generally transmit the information either through ethernet wiring or WiFi connectivity to a central hub, which will manage the rest of the processing of the information.


Software / Infrastructure

The software system reads the signal received from RFID reader and grants or rejects the access of system to the person.

Access Control Panel

Access control panel is not a basic part of RFID system. Access control panel hardware is needed to open the lock or door, when the access is granted to the authorized personnel.

RFID card access control
RFID access control management system

The access panel is wired to the RFID system through the access reader. When the RFID smart card transmits information to the reader, it is relayed to the panel, which in modern systems is connected to the cloud. It will then transmit information back and forth from the central servers of the access provider, and determine whether the particular RFID smart card has access to the reader. If so, it will prompt the reader to unlock the door.

Pros and Cons of RFID Technology

Every technology comes with a pro and a flip side. Same goes for the RFID technology. 

RFID technology offer the following benefits:

The first advantage of RFID chips is their relatively small size. On top of fitting inside any sort of smart card, RFID chips are small enough to be implanted underneath a person’s skin without the possibility of any sort of discomfort! This technology can be used to track fugitives, and store the medical and health data of a person and use it, if required. RFID chips are robust when compared with the bar codes. There is no fear of wear and tear, as the RFID card will still be able to transmit information as long as the loop and RFID chip are not broken. RFID tags can function virtually in any kind of situation or weather.

However, RFID systems have inherent shortcomings:

The main issue with RFID is information privacy and security — there arises a problem of uncertainty and unreliability when dealing with RFID cards and RFID technology. Third party RFID readers are getting more and more common, and anybody with access to one could theoretically pick up on random RFID signals being broadcasted, and intercept them. This is because, as a general rule, any technology that creates a wireless connection can be hacked. Usually, RFID readers have small range. This range can be boosted by using boosters, but the system remains prone to electromagnetic interference in amidst of electronic equipment. In addition, RFID cards are very easily cloned. If someone has a handheld device such that it can read signals being broadcasted, they can clone the information using a transponder.

Pioneers of RFID technology

RFID technology is widely used technology in today’s market. There are many companies that are manufacturers of RFID tags and RFID readers. These companies have a huge monopoly among RFID technology based product vendors. One of the largest manufacturers of UHF (ultra-high frequency) RFID readers is Motorola. Other manufacturers are CAEN RIFD, Impinj, Mojix, Alien Technology, Applied Wireless RFID, and GAO RFID. RFID tag manufacturers include Metal craft I.D. Plates & Labels, wave trend, zebra and many more.