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RFID Tag Memory Types: RFID Data Encoding and Storage

  • Abhishek Shukla
  • Sep 19, 2023
  • RFID
RFID Tag Memory Types

“An RFID tag can be encoded with tag identifier, product identifier, product details and passwords in various memory banks namely TID, EPC, User, and Reserve respectively.”

As an AIDC technology, Radio Frequency Identification is known for its efficiency and accuracy in automatic data capture and automatic remote identification of a tagged item. Like barcodes, RFID technology is also not new. It has been around for decades but it wasn’t commercially used or popular as was barcoding. You can see barcodes on every day to day items including groceries, appliances, and FMCG but that is not the case with RFID tags/ labels as of now.

RFID technology offers several advantages over barcoding technology including more data storage capacity, various memory types and data encoding options, remote, wireless reading of tags, real-time tracking, etc. 

Before we know more about RFID memory, data encoding, and storage, let’s first explore what RFID technology is and how it works.

What is RFID and how it Works?

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a wireless technology that employs a set of RFID tags, an RFID reader, and a software system to wireless identify RFID-tagged items and individuals without a clear line of sight. Depending upon the RFID system being used, the read range could be up to 100m. To automatically identify and track objects you need to tag items with RFID labels or tags and encode these tags with relevant data such as item name, and other information. When you wirelessly interrogate these tags with an RFID reader, the reader will transmit RF signals which are captured by the tag antenna. 

In a passive RFID system, RFID tags don’t contain batteries and tags use the radio wave signals coming from the reader to transmit the encoded data as RF signals. The tag antenna captures the signal and powers up the microchip inside the tag. The encoded data is then transmitted back to the reader for end-users.

Active RFID tags come with batteries and don’t require the reader signals to transmit data. Instead, an active tag transmits data periodically, acting as a beacon. UHF Active RFID tags can provide a read range of up to 100m as the RF signals transmitting from active RFID tags are strong, unlike passive RFID tags.

What are the different types of memory in RFID tags?

RFID tags can store significantly more data than UPC-12 or EAN-13 barcodes. GS1 defines the EPC (Electronic Product Code) tag data standards including the data that is encoded in EPC-encoded RAIN RFID tags namely the EPC, User Memory data, control information, and tag manufacture information.

An RFID tag can store up to 128 bits of data but depending upon the manufacturer and the type of the RFID tag, 256 bits of data can be stored in large storage capacity tags. These tags are available in read-only, write-once-read-many, or read/write formats. 

In AIDC-based solutions, various businesses have distinct requirements in terms of encoded data including expiry dates and batch number/lot number. Businesses that deal with perishable items need the expiry date to remove expired products and ship older products first. In recall operations, batch no. or lot no. is required.

An RFID tag memory is therefore divided into three parts namely the TID, the EPC, and the user memory. Some RFID tags also come with reserve memory.

TID (Tag Identifier) Memory

TID memory is read-only (non-editable) and the length of TID no. is 32 to 120 bits which contains the unique identification no. of the tag manufacturer. It identifies the chipset and differentiates one tag from another. 

EPC Memory

The EPC memory in an RFID tag contains the electronic product code data which is generally 16 bytes or 128 bits. You can edit the EPC code with a product identifier like a bottle of milk or a shoe.

User Memory  

The user memory in an RFID tag is provided to add extra information about the product such as expiry or color/size. The size of user memory could be anything between 0 to 128 bytes (0-1024 bits) and the higher the tag, the higher the storage capacity. The user memory is only readable by consumers and can be edited by authorized persons only.

Reserved memory 

Some RFID tags also have reserved memory banks (32 bits) to store kill passwords and access passwords. The access password is used to prevent people from changing the EPC and reconfiguring the tag information whereas the kill password is used to irrevocably disable a tag which is often required in retail and grocery stores. 

To conclude, RFID tags have way more sophisticated data storage scheme than a barcode which does not have a microchip. A barcode, like a UPC barcode and EAN barcode, has limited storage capacity and can be read by all while a RAIN RFID tag can hold different types of data in various memory banks namely TID, EPC, USER, and Reserve memory banks which have varied data storage capacity.

In the last few years, RAIN RFID tags have become the industry favorite AIDC solution when it comes to product identification and tracking, and with the advent of chipless RFID, the cost of RFID tags will come down to below 0.01 US cents, replacing barcodes in retail and FMCG, etc.

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 Sep 15, 2023

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