Active RFID Tags VS. Passive RFID Tags

If you are a novice to RFID technology, perhaps you’ve been a little confused over the differences between active and passive RFID tags. The difference is actually simple, but that difference makes the two kinds of tags very different when applying them to businesses and industries.

RFID is automated identification technology. RFID tags contain electronically stored information, which can be looked up simply by scanning the tag with a RFID tag reader. But, you probably already knew that! What you may not know is that there are some RFID tags that can give you information. That’s right – there are some RFID tags that can communication information outwardly to other machines. This is commonly used to locate high value items, or items that may get easily lost. The tag can act as a homing beacon.

Active RFID tags are battery powered, so they can give a very strong signal back, allowing readers to identify the tag easily even at large distances, without the need to draw power from a reader. And, since they are battery powered, active RFID tags can use additional sensors in order to identify its surrounding’s temperature, motion speed, etc. Active RFID definitely is a great innovation for situations where tags can’t wait to be scanned.

Now, you may think active RFID tags sound way better than passive, right? But, consider the fact that every time an active RFID tag chirps out information, they utilize a certain amount of battery power. Every RFID battery has a capacity of how many times they can scan or communicate. Eventually the battery will need to get replaced.

Passive, on the other hand does not use a battery at all. They only require the power from a reader in order for their information to be read. Their read range is not as strong as an active RFID tag, too.

There is a third kind of tag known as semi-passive. These are battery operated, but do not offer an active transmitter. So, semi-passive tags still rely on activation from scanners, like passive tags. However, their battery is used in order to power other applications with the tag such as sensors.



Active: EZ Pass tags on your car.

Passive: Tags on a package of Hanes undershirts.

Semi-Passive: Tags placed in a grocery store’s stockroom meant to observe temperature.