Deploying a radio frequency identification system that delivers true business value involves much more than purchasing the right tags and installing the right readers. To get business value from the all of the information collected, companies also need middleware to filter the collected raw tag data.
Tags and Readers
Tags and readers are the main components of an RFID system. There are two basic types of tags, active and passive. Active RFID tags have a transmitter and their own power source (typically a battery). The power source is used to run the microchip's circuitry and to broadcast a signal to a reader (the way a cell phone transmits signals to a base station). Passive tags have no battery. Instead, they draw power from the reader, which sends out electromagnetic waves that induce a current in the tag's antenna. Semi-passive tags use a battery to run the chip's circuitry, but communicate by reflecting power from the reader.
Readers can house internal or external antennas. Readers with external antennas can have one or more ports for connecting additional antennas. Readers can also have input/output ports for connecting to external devices. An input port might be connected to an electric eye that activates the reader when something passes through its field of view. An output port might connect to a programmable logic controller, conveyor sorter or other device controlled by the reader. Readers also have ports for connecting to a computer or network.
Middleware is a generic term used to describe software that resides between the RFID reader and enterprise applications. The middleware takes raw data from the reader (which might read the same tag 100 times per second), filters it and passes on the useful event data to back-end systems. Middleware can play a key role in getting the right information to the right application at the right time.