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MQTT Protocol: RFID becoming IoT

  • Abhishek Shukla
  • Oct 17, 2023
  • RFID
MQTT Protocol: RFID becoming IoT

RFID technology has been around for a long time however the commercial success of RFID is relatively new. Internet of Things (IoT) also got the attention of the world only when Kevin Ashton (Kevin independently coined the word IoT around 1999) and Sanjay Sarma (Sanjay worked on EPC with Daniel L. Brock) along with various retail brands such as Walmart, P&G, Gillette, Unilever, etc. came together to develop solutions for business applications. By 2010 we had Internet of Things devices, more in numbers than the population of the world at the moment, a sort of everyday thing. IoT had become the internet of everything. However, IoT and RFID have some basic differences. IoT is an umbrella term for a network of physical devices, connected over the internet with the help of gateways and network standards, sharing data with each other via communication standards such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, BLE, etc. RFID tagged items, however, cannot share data via various network standards just as Internet of Things do.

How RFID becomes IOT, then?

RFID has only RFID tags, RFID readers, antennas, and software to remotely capture data from RFID-tagged objects, resulting in identification and tracking. That is what RFID is known for. But how does RFID share data over the internet, each time an RFID tag is interrogated?

This is where the MQTT protocol comes into play.

MQTT Protocol: RFID Tags and Readers as IoT

The MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) protocol is a lightweight messaging protocol designed for efficient communication between devices in IoT applications. It is based on a publish-subscribe model, where devices publish messages to topics, and other devices subscribe to those topics to receive the messages.

Now MQTT protocol can be used with RFID readers and tags, RFID becoming full-fledged IoT.

MQTT is well-suited for IoT applications due to its low bandwidth and power requirements, making it ideal for resource-constrained devices. It operates over TCP/IP and can be used with various network technologies, including Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and cellular networks.

When it comes to integrating MQTT with RFID tags and readers, it enables RFID to function as a full-fledged IoT device with the help of an MQTT broker. MQTT can be used as the communication protocol between them and other devices in the IoT ecosystem.


RFID tags are small electronic devices that consist of a microchip to store data and an antenna to transmit and receive the RF signals, housed together in a abs plastic or polyester substrate. They can be attached to objects and used to identify and track them wirelessly. Various types of RFID tags are suitable for various applications. Based on the power source there are active RFID tags (with batteries), passive RFID tags, and battery-assisted passive RFID tags. RFID tags work over a wide range of radio frequencies starting with Low Frequency (LF, 125 KHz), High Frequency (HF, 13.56 MHz), and Ultra High Frequency (UHF, 860-960 MHz).

RFID Readers

RFID readers are devices that emit radio waves and receive signals from RFID tags. They can communicate with RFID tags in close proximity and retrieve information stored on the tags. UHF RFID readers can interrogate a UHF passive RFID Tag from a distance of up to 15m.

MQTT for RFID: Explained

Message Queuing Telemetry Transport or MQTT protocol is a publish/subscribe-based communication protocol that can be used to integrate UHF RFID Tags and Readers into the IoT domain and enable IPv6 communication and networking.

The MQTT is an asynchronous messaging protocol and it is best for RFID tag and reader communication where data is sent at irregular intervals of time, an event-based system. 

The communication protocol comprises of an MQTT broker, RFID reader, RFID tag, and other devices in the IoT system subscribing to the MQTT broker.

MQTT Broker

An MQTT broker acts as a central hub for message distribution in an MQTT network. It receives messages published by devices and routes them to the appropriate subscribers.

In the case of RFID tags and readers, an MQTT broker can receive data from RFID readers and distribute it to other devices or applications that have subscribed to the relevant topics.

Publishing RFID Data

RFID readers can be configured to publish RFID data to specific MQTT topics. This data can include information such as tag IDs, timestamps, and sensor readings (if the RFID tag has additional sensors). Once we publish this data to MQTT topics, it becomes accessible to other devices or applications that have subscribed to those topics. Many IoT devices can thus connect with RFID. 

Subscribing to RFID Data

Other devices or applications in the IoT ecosystem can subscribe to the MQTT topics where RFID data is published. IoT devices, thus, can receive real-time updates and access the RFID data for further processing or analysis.

To conclude, The MQTT protocol provides a lightweight and efficient communication mechanism for IoT applications. MQTT as the communication protocol allows RFID tags, and readers to seamlessly integrate into an IoT ecosystem and share data with other devices, applications, or cloud services, enabling real-time monitoring, analytics, and automation based on the RFID data.

Integrating MQTT with RFID tags and readers, RFID can be transformed into a full-fledged IoT. MQTT enables RFID data to be published to MQTT topics and subscribed to by other devices or applications, facilitating real-time monitoring, analytics, and automation in IoT ecosystems.

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 Oct 17, 2023

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