The Shocking Price of RFID Tags

Posted by on Sep 11, 2016 5:39:52 PM


With RFID technology becoming more affordable by the day, many business owners are considering RFID tags and readers as a way to reduce the time and cost of tracking assets. But how much do these systems really cost? And is RFID technology the right choice for your business? In this article, we'll explore the different types of RFID systems and how much you can expect to pay for them.

Types of RFID Systems 

There are two main types of RFID systems: active and passive. RFID systems are also categorized by the radio frequency in which they operate: low frequency (LH), high frequency (HF), and ultra-high frequency (UHF). In the sections below, we'll take a closer look at the different RFID types and frequencies.  

RFID Frequencies 


The LF band ranges from 30 KHz to 300 KHz. Most LF RFID systems operate at 125 KHz. With a short read range of only 10 centimeters, LF RFID systems are most practical in livestock tracking and access control applications. While it has a slower read speed than the higher frequencies, the LF band is less sensitive to radio signal interference than the HF and UHF bands.


The HF band covers frequencies form 3 to 30 MHz and has a read range between 10 centimetres and one meter. HF RFID systems are frequently used in payment, data transfer, and ticketing applications.  


The UHF band covers frequencies from 300 MHz o 3 GHz and has a read range of up to 12 meters. UHF RFID systems have a faster read rate than LF or HF RFID systems, making them ideal in a wide variety of applications, including retail inventory managements, wireless device configuration, and anti-counterfeiting applications. UHF tags are generally cheaper and easier to manufacture than LF and HF tags, but are more sensitive to radio interference.

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Active and Passive RFID Systems 

Active RFID systems

Active RFID systems are typically used for large applications, such as railway cars, reusable containers, and other objects that need to be monitored over long distances. In most cases, an active RFID system will operate on the ultra-high frequency (UHF) band, which offers a range of up to 100 meters. Active RFID tags fall into two categories: transponders and beacons. 

.   Transponders - Transponders do nor actively radiate radio signals. Instead, they are activated when a radio signal is received and respond by sending a signal back. Because they do nor radiate radio signals constantly, transponders tend to have a longer battery life.

.   Beacons - Unlike transponders, beacons are not activated by a reader's signal. Instead, beacons transmit radio signals at pre-determined intervals. Depending on the level of tracking accuracy required, beacons can be programmed to transmit signals every few seconds, or once a day. Beacons are used to continuously track the exact location of an asset. 

Both types of active RFID tags have their own power source (usually a battery) and transmitter. Active tags emit their own signal to send the information stored on their microchips. 

 Passive RFID systems 

Passive RFID systems can be used in LF, HF, and UHF radio bands. Passive RFID tags tend to be smaller and less expensive than active tags, as they do not require a power source or transmitter. Instead, passive systems use a tag chip and antenna to transmit a radio signal to the RFID system. The passive RFID tag powers on when a radio signal is received, and reflects the signal back to the reader.

Passive RFID systems are commonly used to track inventory assets in retail applications, to monitor goods in a supply chain, to identify products such as pharmaceuticals, and to add RFID capability to a wide range of devices. Passive RFID tags can also be set up to monitor asset movement in distribution centers and warehouses.

RFID Systems: How Much Do They Cost? 

So, which type of RFID system is the most cost effective? The answer, of course, is: it depends. In order to perform a true cost-benefit analysis of the different systems, you'll need to take into account your labor costs and real-time data needs. Generally speaking, the more expensive an RFID system, the more automation you'll get. If real-time data isn't important to you, and your labor costs are low, passive RFID tags and readers are the most economical solution. If your labor costs are high and real-time data is needed, you'll want to invest in an active RFID system. Below is a breakdown of the costs for the different  RFID tags and readers.


The cost of passive RFID tags range from $0.10 for basic passive RFID tags to $20 USD for Active RFID tags.

.   Basic passive RFID tags - Basic passive tags cost $0.10 USD each, and can be used for paper, non-metal, and liquid materials. 

.   Metal passive RFID tags - These tags are larger than basic passive RFID tags and can be used on metal assets. Metal passive tags cost $1 USD each. 

.   Active RFID tags - Active RFID tags require no human intervention -- they are completely automated. These tags are also the most expensive at $15 to $20 apiece.


Handheld RFID readers can cost anywhere between $1,250 to $20,000 each, depending on the level of automation offered. Active RFID readers are the least expensive option at 1,250 to $1,500 each. Passive and handheld RFID readers are more expensive, with costs ranging from $3,000 to $20,000 each.

The Bottom Line 

Each RFID system has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on your asset tracking and management needs. Using the above information to perform your own analysis will help you decide which RFID system is likely to provide the best return on your investment.


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