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Bada Laundry: Automation-Difference Between RFID, NFC & BLE

Bada Laundry: Automation-Difference Between-  RFID, NFC & BLE ( 2020) Bada Laundry: Automation-Difference Between RFID, NFC & BLE


Today we will be discussing the differences between RFID, NFC, and BLE. By the way, you must be knowing what RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is. And if you are not entirely sure what these acronyms stand for that is fine, just hang in there and you will be clear through this article as it is completed. It is clear that not all the wireless is the same just because a thing does not require wires to do something, does not mean that they operate in the same frequency on the same channels and use the same data transport mechanism.

As loosely described BLE, RFID and NFC could be called wireless technologies because they all operate by sending data without using wires, now like any wireless technology, the whole idea is to move information from one point to another without any physical contact or wired connection. Wireless technologies rely on electromagnetic waves that travel from the transmitter to the receiver information is modulated onto a carrier at the transmitter and demodulated from the carrier to be used at the receiver. But there is a vast difference between the three different technologies.


A typical RFID system contains all the basic RF front-end components there is an antenna a receiver a transmitter a modulator a de-modulator and all the other elements, you might expect it to find in a radio system now you probably already noticed that some of these blocks have unfamiliar names, for example, the transmitter in the system might be called a tag or a transponder and instead of a receiver we might talk about a reader and don't be confused all these familiar elements are there just maybe they are renamed a bit in some RFID systems you will have a transmitter and a receiver on the one or both sides and we will see you how these systems work as they come up okay this is a good time to talk about what we actually mean by RFID and NFC and the differences between them.

RFID stands for radio frequency identification RFID refers to any system that uses radio waves to read and capture information stored on a tag that can be attached to an object or a person. An RFID tag can be read from up to several feet away and does not need to be within direct line-of-sight of the reader to be read.

RFID is something that you have definitely come across, you have come across the little inlay tags, the little white paper stickers that are used to be placed inside DVDs or CDs or any kind of merchandise that is in a store and that is an RFID solution to deter theft. The security gates like things that you walk through when you come out through a store, this big thing that may be covered up with advertising, these are everywhere in all retail environments there is one of these at the entrance and which is also at the exit of the store this could also be described as an RFID exciter.

I say that because this device here triggers the tag to send out a chirp geocaching beacon to react to being triggered, and that reaction or data that is sent from the tag when it is excited or triggered by this device here, this are exciter, then is what turns on the alarm to let the cashiers or the store security know that a device has left the store that was not deactivated meaning it is probably something being stolen.

RFID tags can come in all different kinds of shapes and sizes, they can look like key (Chains) tags, they can look like little glass tubes, they can look like employee badges and the types of devices that you are going to come across most frequently are the passive RFID tags.

Passive RFID tags do not have a battery, they only have a single antenna which means they only can transmit data on a low-frequency network. But the passive tags are less expensive and they are more robust since they do not require a battery to operate.

An active RFID tag on the other hand does contain a battery that introduces a few issues, that a designer has to consider space for the battery environment, accommodations for the battery operating life cost, but the advantages are many the tags can have larger memories and you can read them from a greater distance in addition an active tag can announce its presence by transmitting a periodic beacon.

Here we can take an example, that a cart has been tagged with an RFID tag and as it passes through this doorway has an installation of an RFID exciter so that this tag will send information when it passes through this exciter and that information from this our active RFID tag is sent across the 802 11 wireless networks so the tag is triggered on the low frequency and the data that it sends out into the air is transmitted from it when it is excited by this exciter is sent across the 802 2.11 2.4 gigahertz frequency and that is picked up by the wireless infrastructure that is also installed in this an environment where the active RFID deployment is deployed.

NFC stands for Near Field Communications, now NFC is best thought of as a subcategory within the RFID universe while the broad definition of RFID spans many RF technologies. NFC is defined by very specific standards for operating frequency types of modulation emitted power range and bitrate. Now, in short, NFC is more focused on secure systems that govern operations like payment and access control for confidentiality and data protection is essential. 

The bottom line is this you can think of NFC as a specialized instance of RFID, now not all tags are created equal. In other words: NFC is an international transmission standard for the contactless exchange of data through wireless technology over short distances of a few centimeters. It is easy, fast, and works automatically.

In NFC communication is always carried out between two devices only. Here, the device that starts the communication known as - Initiator, and the device that the initiator wants to communicate with is known as - target. Further, it is differentiated as per communication mode: active and passive. This describes whether an NFC device itself generates the RF field or uses the RF field generated by another NFC device.

NFC uses the thirteen point five six megahertz high frequency band and amplitude shift keying for its communications.

RFID systems can use a variety of bands from sub 100 kilohertz all the way up to microwave bands and lots of different modulation techniques.

But there is one thing you just cannot get around: NFC only works at short distances of less than about centimeters. 

Many RFID techniques will work at around a meter for passive tags and as much as kilometers for active tags. 

NFC can be more secure than generic RFID simply because it is more difficult for an attacker to eavesdrop (SPY) on communications and that security makes NFC much more suitable for payment and access control than generic RFID.

NOW, the main takeaway here is that RFID occupies the same short-range networking space as ZigBee Bluetooth and to some degree Wi-Fi but at a much lower data rate.

NFC can support slightly faster data rates, the short range makes it really unsuitable for general networking purposes, and the short-range and modest data rates are ideal for the low-power small data packet world of payments and access control. 

Now with this frequency the transmitter and receiver are always in the near field and you will usually see systems operating in this frequency in applications like waste sorting medical ID and alarm systems, the high frequency range centers around thirteen point five six megahertz now this is the world of NFC .

Here you will find a wide range of applications for NFC that include contact-less payment cards, mobile wallets, ticketing and fare coordination systems for public transport, automated baggage management and airports and systems to assist caregivers and wellness and healthcare applications.

The UHF range includes 433 megahertz bands for its region, one that is mostly European, and 900 megahertz band for itu region, two that are mostly the Americas now these bands are frequently used to locate shipping containers and in manufacturing to track material.

Finally, the microwave region falls in the 2.45 gigahertz and 5.8 gigahertz is M bands and these bands the wavelength is on the order of a few centimetres, so you are generally operating in the far field you will see tags operating in this frequency range frequently used in automatic highway toll systems.

RFID Applications:

The range of applications for RFID is nearly infinite in every domain that involves items that need to be identified located or tracked within a limited range from a few centimeters to a few hundred meters. 

RFID based solution think about it like vehicle tracking, factory automation, access control animal identification and tracking and so many other applications all of these are areas that can benefit from RFID systems think about factory automation put an RFID tag on raw materials work in progress and finished goods and now you can easily identify locate and track the goods as they move within the factory and between buildings and in addition every step of manufacturing, fabrication, packaging, weighing tests can be recorded at each step and there is one more benefit with RFID at each stage management now has a complete view in real-time of every item in the factory with its actual status they armed with that information management can make the proper business decision to optimize the flow of goods from raw material delivery to placement into finished goods.

There is currently one application that you know has not seen a lot of adoption yet and that is implanting passive RFID tags under the skin. Now nevertheless there appears to be a trend in US hospitals to apply this technology and particularly with patients with debilitating conditions like Alzheimer's disease or advanced diabetes and these applications medical professionals can ensure that the right medication is administered in the proper dose even if the patient cannot reply.

Non-medical applications for implantable RFID tags include access control and an RFID tag can be used as a smart key that cannot be stolen or duplicated for situations where access to sensitive information or materials dictates the highest level of security.

NFC Applications:

NFC applications typically have to work within the range constraints of the NFC, typically a few centimeters, but it is a mistake to think of this as a limitation. The short range makes NFC especially well-suited for communication between paired devices that only need to communicate when they're in close proximity, and where security concerns preclude longer range solutions, then you know the best example of this is Payment Systems, there is just no reason to broadcast your credit card information to anyone who might be listening. But payment is not the only application. 

Consider exchanging contact information access control to a building office or safe ticket management for public transport even something as seemingly frivolous as interactive toys, all of these devices can use NFC to exchange information and improve the user experience. Contact-free payments alone are becoming huge, both merchants and customers are adopting it because it is more convenient and more secure. Just tap the credit card on your phone or your watch and you are ready to go.

You know one can envision a future in which it will be difficult to shop, dine or write on public transport without an NFC system and a credit card or a mobile device.

Now let us talk about security NFC is ideal as smart electronic key codes can be exchanged with a lock to guarantee access only to authorized parties. Think about hotels, workplaces, really any place, access control is needed and do not run past the security aspects of NFC, because this is a two-way exchange of data. It is not difficult to implement a cryptographically strong challenge response system and remember maxim has a long history that goes back three decades providing data protection solutions and secure devices.

The most common tag form is the flat square multiple copper coil antenna with a tag in the middle, you have seen them everywhere there is just ubiquitous. But there is also a paper tag on one side is the printed antenna and the tag chip and on the other side is a traditional barcode. Products bearing this kind of tag can be read by either a barcode reader or an RFID reader. 

And just as there are many different kinds of RFID tags, RFID readers and eventually RFID writers as well can take different forms from, an anti-theft system that stands guard at the exit doors of department stores, it is some portable payment terminals for on-the-spot point-of-sale when all the way up to peer-to-peer communication device is embedded in mobile phones that act as both reader and transponder. Now in this latter case two people can exchange data like business cards pictures financial information all just by bringing their devices close to one another. 

Now is the time to get down to the technical details of how RFID works.  Frequencies below a hundred megahertz with wavelengths longer than about three meters are called inductive frequencies and frequencies above about a hundred megahertz with wavelengths shorter than about three meters are called radiative frequencies.

Now, here is why at low frequencies there is a strong interaction between the transmitting antenna and the receiving antenna. Their proximity relative to the wavelength of the carrier effectively means the transmitter and receiver behave as though they were coupled by means of an air core transformer and this coupling when in close proximity is called the near field effect. 

But when there is a great distance between the transmitting and receiving antennas relative to the wavelength the receiving antenna is not directly coupled to the transmitting antenna instead the transmitting antenna is expected to couple the transmitted energy to free space and the receiving antenna is expected to interface the RF front end of the receiver to free space. Under these circumstances the receiving antenna is said to be in the far field of the transmitter, now most RFID systems operate in the near field. 

The coupling between the sending and receiving systems is generally inductive, like the coupling observed in an air core transformer, this coupling dictates most of behavior observed in RFID systems. The frequencies most often used by RFID systems fall into several broadly defined bands: the low frequency bands cantered around 125 and 134 kilohertz, the high frequency thirteen point five six megahertz band uhf(Ultra High Frequency) bands in the 860 to 960 megahertz frequency range and the 2.4 gigahertz microwave band and contrast NFC systems use only the thirteen point five six megahertz high frequency band.

Maxwell's equations govern the behaviour of electromagnetic fields and waves and they describe a distance at which the near field effects become less significant and the far field effects start to dominate this distance is given by the wavelength divided by two pi at the NFC operating frequency of thirteen point five six megahertz the wavelength is about twenty two meters that places the near far field boundary at about three point five meters the near-field region can be further differentiated into two sub regions the reactive region where their receiving antenna has a significant impact on the performance of the transmitting antenna and the Fresnel region where the inductive effects of the receiving antenna have less effect on the transmitter.

The specifics about exactly how antenna placement affects system performance are pretty far outside the scope of this discussion. To go further now the coupling that occurs between the reader and the tag in the reactive near-field is very much like the coupling that occurs between the primary and secondary windings of a transformer. The only difference is that in NFC there is no iron core connecting the magnetic lines of force, but like a transformer a change in the load impedance on the secondary side that is in the tag will be observed as a change in the primary side current that is in the reader. 

Now this fact is what allows two-way communication between the reader and a passive tag Once the tag has been powered up it can receive data from the reader by demodulating the carrier signal and it can send data back to the reader by just varying the load impedance that the reader sees. Now, if you've ever taken a peek inside a radio transceiver, the components are going to look really familiar: there is an RF oscillator, a power amplifier in the transmitter, a low noise amplifier, a filter, a mixer and a de-modulator in the receiver signal chain . Now obviously all the real smarts have to be in the reader, it is the master in the relationship and it has to manage wake-up initialization. 

Synchronization with a data stream, demodulation of the received data stream and managing the base-band. Now notice, in this RFID reader there is no forward data stream towards the tag the reader just generates the RF field that the RFID tag is going to use for power. Now in the tag there is frequently a memory device an EEPROM if the data needs to be changed from time to time or a ROM if the data is fixed the memory is generally pretty small a few kilobytes at most and it might contain an identifier a bit of program code. Temperature records, Fabrication records, location information, eight really it could be anything but not all readers are quite as simple as the one that we just saw. 

It is also possible for the reader to send information to the tag to be stored or to govern its operating characteristics. One modulation technique, a pulse interval encoding the digital logic that drives the modulator, generates a high level to turn on the modulator and a low level to gate the modulator off. In pulse interval encoding a zero bit is represented by a short on time followed by a short off time and a 1 bit is represented by a longer on time followed by a short off time now the modulator.

BLE: (Bluetooth Low-Energy)

A Bluetooth low-energy device is a small device, a little plastic housing that holds a battery, a little RF chip that transmits on Bluetooth frequencies which is in the 2.4 spectrum and all this device does when it is deployed is send out information at a predetermined rate in the area where it is installed and it just transmits it is universally unique identifier. It transmits a UUID so that is all a Bluetooth beacon does. The beacon does not do anything like nothing happens until the end user enters the environment with their smartphone with their customer loyalty app whatever the app is that is going to be able to do something when it detects.

UUID (Universally Unique Identifier) is being broadcast in its environment when the smartphone detects the blue tooth beat and tells it to UUID. This information can then be relayed through a third-party app, the application that is on the end-user smartphone. This information can then be sent to the customer loyalty back-end database and then based upon that information an actionable thing can happen. The end user will receive a coupon, they can receive points for coming into the store or being in the location. Something can happen based upon this: the end user coming in with their smartphone with a data connection so either the cellphone connection or the cellular connection of the end-user smartphone or they would have joined the store's guest Wi-Fi network there needs to be a transport mechanism to get that information back to the server back-end database before anything can happen to the end-user’s device.

Let me repeat this again, the person who comes into the store retail is the simplest example for a BLE beacon. When people enter the store and have the customer loyalty app already installed, they have logged into it with their username and password. The customer loyalty app may automatically onboard this person to the guest Wi-Fi, so that they do not have to accept the EULA (End Users License Agreement) they do not have to click through anything they just are automatically onboard to the guest Wi-Fi.

Even if they did not have a guest Wi-Fi the data network from that cell phone would be used to transmit the information from the phone saying I heard you UID blah blah blah  and that data would go across the internet into the back-end database to the CRM database of the store, that wrote the app in order to put two and two together. This MAC address and then the back-end database could say oh that is our frequent shopper XYZ. so-and-so and they left this device or this thing in their cart and they did not complete their checkout, send them a coupon to see if we can get them to complete that transaction.

Bluetooth beacons are just a device that is installed, that sends out data into its local area, it just beacons information. Nothing happens to this information if the end user comes into the store and their smartphone has their Wi-Fi off or their blue tooth off, so if Bluetooth is off on the phone, this device is never going to get detected.

With UUID being beaconed if the user comes into the store and they have a weak cell phone signal, there is not going to be a transport mechanism to send that information up to the internet that the app on the phone is detected a UUID that it knows about. Bluetooth Low Energy operates on the 2.4 gigahertz frequency is that if it is a frequency hopping device so that means it does not adversely affect anyone. The 802 Dot Eleven channel because of the nature of its operation, it hops from channel to channel, so therefore it does not adversely affect any one channel for any extended length of time, because it hops from frequency to frequency near field communication, or NFC is a technology that just requires two devices to be within proximity to each other and to elaborate on this. 

If you have ever worked somewhere, we have had an employee badge that had a door lock system installed so that you could use your badge to get into areas, maybe get into a data center. If you hold your badge near proximity, either the door opens or it is not based upon entries in your database about whether or not the employee is allowed access or not allowed access into that area. This is a very common NFC example that has been around for a really long time.

New uses of the technology include creating interactive two-dimensional signs or posters, where you can hold your phone up to the poster and either receive the restaurant menu or it will launch a feedback form in order to provide feedback to a given situation or given customer or whatever the use case might be. There have also been marketing campaigns that were launched to place your phone here to receive a free download of a song, a free download of an app and near field communication operations over the thirteen point five six megahertz frequency. The use of NFC has been made through using Apple Pay, Google Wallet or Android pay with your smartphone that is NFC enabled, it has an NFC chip in it, therefore you can use that smart phone to complete transactions at retail establishments.

Similarly, in the way that you would just hold your employee badge up to the proximity card reader it is the same type of technology the use case is just a little bit different. So the key takeaway is that a Bluetooth beacon is a device that is battery-powered, that is designed to simply transmit a universally unique identifier. The Bluetooth receiver smartphone is a device that does something with that universally unique identifier (UUID) information: the range of a Bluetooth device is quite small, it does operate in a 2.4 gigahertz frequency.

The distance between a Bluetooth beacon and the receiving device meaning the smartphone is categorized into three distinct ranges is immediately a few centimeters away, near is within a couple of meters and far is greater than ten meters away. Standard Bluetooth beacons have an approximate range of about 70 meters an active RFID solution is one in which non Wi-Fi devices are tagged with an active RFID tag.

In this example it is an infant that has an active RFID bracelet attached to the infant so that we can trigger an alarm, if the infant is removed from the neonatal unit of the hospital the alarm is triggered when the tag passes through the doorway that is configured with an exciter the exciter triggers the tag the tag beacons over the wireless network and therefore actionable information can be taken to call security to sound an alarm do something because a tag has passed through an exciter NFC or proximity card readers can do things like grant access to physical doorways again lock and unlock doors it can enable you to complete cashless payment transactions.

This is despite the proximity of a device to the NFC reader meaning a badge to the proximity reader at the door or your smartphone to a proximity reader at a retail establishment. Active RFID tags are typically deployed to track expensive non Wi-Fi devices and I would say expensive because your typical active RFID tag list price is about $75 so think medical equipment or any kind of equipment which may require periodic servicing therefore needing to find the device within a large building think expensive things that should not move. Say digital media signage can be tagged with an active RFID tag and you can trigger the tag to start beaconing when it moves and therefore you know if a thing is moving that should not be moving you can take action to find out why it is moving.

So think of employees, students and infants in cases in which you would want to know whether or not all employees or students have left the building. Think fire alarm activation, you can make sure that the building has been completely cleared of people because the employee badges and the student badges are also RFID tags. If you wanted to secure the neonatal unit of a hospital you could tag all of the infants with active RFID tags and then create business use cases so that if a tag was triggered you could have security deployed to that floor to determine why the tag went through a doorway that it should not have or the infant went through a doorway that it should not have passive RFID tags are typically deployed to track inexpensive non Wi-Fi devices. I say inexpensive devices because passive RFID tags, if purchased in large enough quantities, can be as inexpensive as a penny apiece.

So think inventory of pallets where their pallet is piled full of boxes that need to be inventoried quickly and accurately and if you have the pallet tagged with a passive RFID tag that contains the inventory list then you can just scan that tag on the pallet instead of having to scan a barcode for each box that is part of the pallet. BLE beacons are typically deployed to engage with an end user via their smartphone app and when they enter a predetermined area of interest at a customer location you can also consider interactive displays at a museum a museum may have partnered with a third-party app developer to develop an application for download and use at their museum. As you approach points of interest within the museum, the application can then launch additional audio feeds or visuals or something to create a more robust interactive experience for the end user. It is in the museum to see that things that are on display BLE beacons can also be deployed densely enough to enable you to order refreshments at your seat.

When you go to a stadium to watch a game or a concert the stadium has an application that you download, you can log in to it and tie it to some sort of some form of payment and there you can and thereby can order beer, food, refreshments to come to you instead of you going to the refreshment stand.

At the stadium there is enough location information in the area meaning access points can detect your MAC address or BLE beacons that can detect your location, so that you can have the food come to you. Near-field technology is typically deployed to enable cashless payments, at least nowadays in previous iterations the most common was to allow access to locked doors. So think Apple pay Android pay Google Wallet think proximity badge readers and think of interactive signage in order to interact with the end-user smartphone in a way that was not typically available with just a simple two-dimensional sign.

Hope that it was helpful and understood the difference between (wireless technologies) RFID, NFC and BLE.



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