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Difference between Active and Passive RFID Tags

  • Mahesh Tiwari
  • Nov 24, 2023
  • RFID
Difference between Active and Passive RFID Tags

Ever since the advent of RFID technology, it has seen exponential growth & use in a wide variety of industries. And since then, it’s been implemented in manufacturing & retail businesses. Leading to a remarkable decrease in problems like stock shrinkage, errors during inventory management, etc.

A simple yet effective solution for security issues, this technology has proven itself to not only prevent loss but also increase the profitability of a business.

What is the Basic Principle Behind RFID Technology?

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification, which is a system used to relay a small amount of data like Product Code, Location, Specifications, etc between two systems without physical contact.

An RFID system consists of 4-basic components, namely – RFID Chip, Reader, Antenna and Software. Together, these components can host one-way/two-way communication of data, by using radio waves.

Since the advent of RFID, there has been remarkable development in technology, to the point where there are a vast variety of RFID appliances. However, primarily, there are two ways to classify RFID tags, namely – Active & Passive. So, let’s talk about them in some detail.

Active vs. Passive RFID Tags: What is the Difference?

As stated above, RFID technology can primarily be differentiated into two classes – Active & Passive. These systems use slightly different types of tags, and that’s precisely what we’ll discuss here.

Active RFID Tag

Active RFID tags have an integrated power source and broadcast a pre-programmed signal in a particular frequency range. This signal can then be picked up by an RFID reader within the broadcast range of the tag. Active Tags can further be divided into two classes – Transponder and Beacon. 

A transponder tag will remain shut off unless it detects an incoming radio signal from an RFID reader. Once it receives a signal, it’ll start broadcasting.

On the other hand, a beacon will continuously broadcast its signals, even when not in the range of a reader. A great example of this type of tag is the Low Energy Bluetooth (LEB) Beacon.

Due to broadcasting continuously, a beacon has a far shorter operating lifespan than a transponder. Active RFID tags can operate anywhere from 433 MHz to 2.45 GHz. 

Passive RFID tag

A Passive RFID tag does not have an independent power source. It is completely dependent on the radio signal from an RFID reader to operate. Once a passive tag is in the range of an RFID reader, it will start receiving radio signals. These signals will power up the tag, and it’ll start broadcasting back for the reader to receive.

Passive tags are usually broadcast in three main frequency ranges.

• Low Frequency (LF) - 125-135 KHz

• High Frequency (HF) - 13.56 MHz

• Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) - 868-930 MHz

Based on the information discussed above, there are some key points of difference between Active & Passive RFID Tags.

Passive RFID Tag

Active RFID Tag

Lacks a power supply.

Consists of an integrated power supply.

Rely on the radio signal from the reader to broadcast.

Create their broadcasting signal.

Operates on frequency ranges from 125 KHz to 930 MHz.

Can Broadcast Signals from 433 MHz to 2.45 GHz.

Due to no wearing part or a power source, it can virtually last indefinitely.

Has an average lifespan of 3 to 5 years, without a battery change (if allowed).

Have a maximum readability range of 3 to 8 meters. Although it can be extended using larger transponders.

Can have a maximum range of more than 100 meters.

Applications of Passive & Active RFID Tags

Broadcast Range

The main functional difference between active & passive tags is the operating range. Passive RFID tags have a limited range of up to 3 –6 meters (20 feet), this can be extended using a bigger transponder inside the tag, but it’s not possible for small RFID tags. On the other hand, Active RFID tags in ideal circumstances can have a range north of 100 m, depending on the size and broadcast frequency of the tag.

Therefore, Passive tags are generally used in small spaces like retail stores. They can be used at the billing counter, display counters, etc. Active tags are used in bigger spaces like logistics, automobile manufacturing, hospitals, etc. Where their main purpose is to track items within a large area.

Expense & Lifespan

Another factor that counts is cost, active tags are generally more expensive than passive ones. Therefore, in small operations with a large number of items, we always use passive tags, due to their reduced cost & longer operating lifespan.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is for general information purposes only and true to best of our understanding. Users are requested to use any information as per their own understanding and knowledge. Before using any of the information, please refer to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.


  • Created on Mar 15, 2023

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