HF or UHF

Selecting the right RFID frequency, HF (high frequency) or UHF (ultra-high frequency) will help you get the most value from your RFID system.  It’s important to learn about the different frequency considerations, examine your business processes and consider future needs or expansion of RFID uses when making this important decision.  For those of you thinking of RFID implementation, I’d like to provide a brief overview of both HF and UHF as well as discuss their capabilities.

High Frequency RFID

HF RFID technology communicates via the electromagnetic field at 13.56 MHz.  Maximum approximate range for 13.56 MHz technology is 3 feet.  HF has long been considered the frequency of choice for item-level tagging and use around liquids or metal.  But these rules are changing as RFID technology matures, so it’s important to consider more than just these traditional beliefs.  Some common uses for HF RFID include:

  • Electronic ticketing
  • Contactless payment
  • Access control
  • Sample tracking

Ultra-High Frequency RFID

UHF tags like the one at left communicate by radio waves that offer a longer range than HF technology.  Radio wave propagation provides an approximate maximum range of 30 feet.  UHF is supported by numerous standards, including EPCglobal Gen 2 and has been commercialized between 858 to 960 MHz.  My post about Vail’s RFID-enabled Season Passes provides one example of how UHF technology is being used, but common uses include:

  • Compliance tagging
  • Case/pallet Identification
  • Work-in-Process tracking
  • Asset management

While it’s important to understand the capabilities of both HF and UHF, you want to design your RFID system around your business processes, not the technology.  It’s more important to fit the technology to your process rather than the other way around.  You’ll want to take a close look at your business to determine exactly what you need and what you want to accomplish.  Once this is achieved it’s much easier to determine what technology is best suited to help you reach your goals.  If you’d like more information about RFID systems or are looking for help implementing a system, please contact me at ehodges@barcode.com.