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Understanding RFID systems: Storing data on RFID tags

An RFID tag identifies the item it is attached to and, as part of an RFID system, can track its movements and provide a lot of background information about the item including product details and a full history. However this data is not stored on the tag itself but rather on a central database.

Each time the item passes a specific point, the tag is matched to corresponding record on the database which is then updated. For example if a stillage is docked at a loading point to feed a production line, the tag is read and the database records the time and date of the operation. To find about the item, we need to scan the tag and access the database record.

People often ask why the information is held on the database. Would it not make more sense to keep it on the tag itself? After all, many RFID tags now have chips capable of holding around 2kb or so and, unlike barcodes, can be ‘written’ to as well as read from.

There are a number of reasons why this is not recommended:

  1. Security – data kept within a database can be controlled by established housekeeping routines for security, validation checks and so on.
  2. Accessibility – if data is held on the tag, it is only accessible by those with an RFID reader who are in range of the tag. When it is in a central database, it can be accessed by any authorised user in any location.
  3. Data recovery – there is no way of backing up the data held on tags and thus if the data is corrupted or lost then the information cannot be recovered, which can cause major problems if RFID forms part of a large, enterprise-wide system.

For all these reasons, it is good practice to only use the tag for holding static data, such as the ID, and certainly not for dynamic information which is continuously changing, where accuracy and security need to be assured and which needs to be available for viewing by different legitimate users.

To discuss your requirements please contact our specialist team manager Richard Harrison on 0845 071 0985 or email r.harrison@corerfid.com.