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Basic RFID Components

The world of radio-frequency ID (RFID) technology is rapidly evolving, with new players joining the market and new services being offered. Here is a glossary of important terms that you need to know.   Find the latest BEEF survey of RFID providers here.

Transponder — This is the electronic identification (EID) tag itself, often serving as the female button attachment for a traditional visual identification tag. Transponders for radio-frequency identification (RFID) in the beef industry are passive responders. This means they possess no power source of their own. Instead, it's the charge provided by the transceiver (reader) that enables the transponder to emit a signal back to the transceiver.

The transponder contains an integrated electronic circuit (the chip) and a capacitor, which captures and uses energy from the transceiver in order to send a signal back. Electronic circuits in the transponder can be programmed as Read Only (R/O), meaning that information contained in the chip — in this case, a unique 12-digit number — can only be read. Chips can also be programmed as Read/Write, which enables information to be added, warehoused and transferred to them.

Transceiver — Also known as the reader or the interrogator, transceivers send the electronic signal to the transponder that provides the power for the transponder to send the signal back to the transceiver with the information contained in the transponder's electronic circuit. Transceivers can be powered by batteries or plugged into a traditional power supply.

The transceiver is either tethered (physically attached to the data accumulator such as laptop or scale head) or it transmits data to the accumulator wirelessly. Transceiver units are usually comprised of a transmitter/receiver, antennae, control unit, power unit, coupling element and an electronic interface enabling it to communicate with the data accumulator.

Transceiver antennae can be incorporated into hand-held units (as in the case of reader wands used at chute-side, or within stationery units such as panel readers that are placed permanently to read tags as cattle flow by a certain physical location.

Data Accumulator — This is any device, such as a laptop computer, an electronic scale head or a hand-held computer, that is capable of communicating with a transceiver and accepting the information from it.

Software — Considered by many to be the heart and soul of a comprehensive RFID system. The transference of data between transponder and transceiver, and between transceiver and data accumulation, is electronic (mechanical, if you will). It's the software that allows you to actually tie electronic identity to production and management information, massage the data and share the information with others.

Data Warehouse/Management — This is where you store all the data you receive it and manage it. It can be part of a central database or a decentralized one.

You can store data on your own, but value increases with volume. Thus, many producers use third-party service providers in order to exploit this advantage, as well as to save the time and hardware cost of creating and maintaining their own database.