National Consumers League


NCL Technology Issues

Radio frequency identification: glossary of terms

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The following are some of the key terms consumers will come across as they research RFID.


Active RFID tag: has its own small battery or other source of power and doesn’t require power from the reader to send a signal to it.

Computer system: receives information about the item that is stored in the RFID tag.

Encrypting: turns information into a code that only authorized users can translate.

EPC: the Electronic Product Code. It’s a unique identification code that is stored in the chip on an RFID tag as a product goes through the supply chain.

Interrogator: another word for a reader.

Passive RFID tags: don’t have their own power source. The reader powers up the tag by sending it a radio signal, and the tag responds by sending radio signals back with the information about the item that the chip contains.

Reader: a device that is designed to pick up the radio signals from the RFID tag and deliver the information it contains to the computer system.

RFID: a wireless technology that is used to identify things.

RFID tag: consists of a microchip and a radio antenna. The chip in the tag contains information about the item that it is either attached to or embedded in. The tag transmits that information to the reader using radio signals.

Supply chains: the movement of products from a manufacturer to a distributor to a retailer and any points in between.

Transponder: another name for the RFID tag.