How to Select a Correct RFID Tag – Passive vs. Active


RFID tags come in various shapes, designs, and sizes. You can design RFID tags for a specific application. Depending on your requirements, you may contact an RFID manufacturer for custom-made tags.

But before everything else, let’s discuss a crucial topic for most businesses: how to select a correct RFID tag – passive vs. active? Tags are generally classified into four categories. These are passive, active, semi-passive, and semi-active tags.

The criteria for categorization depend on how they obtain power, frequency, protocol, and functionalities for which they are made.

All About Passive Tags

Passive RFID tags do not have their power source. Since they do not have a built-in battery, they get power from radio waves. The amount of power they get is just enough to energize its IC.

Because of this, passive tag functionalities are limited. One limitation is that it cannot support an active transmitter to communicate with the interrogator. Hence, they only function to carry and transmit a small amount of data.

Passive RFID tags are simple and inexpensive compared with active and semi-passive tags. They are most commonly used as adhesive labels. Moreover, they are very easy to attach. Due to their inexpensive nature, they are well suited in applications where tags are not used again. 

Supply chains use passive RFID tags to track their goods. These tags are attached to the goods. After the case is removed, the tags are discarded. The cost of tags is included in the operations budget. Since they are extremely low cost, it doesn’t hurt too much to throw them away after a single use.


  • The size is small.
  • It is very lightweight.
  • It is a less expensive option for supply chain tracking. Bulk buying may help you save more.
  • Since it does not operate on a battery, it has less radio noise.
  • It can last for at least 20 years making it very efficient.
  • Most RFID tags are resistant to harsh weather conditions and extreme environments.


  • It needs an interrogator to work.
  • The amount of data storage is relatively small.
  • It requires higher power interrogators to function well.
  • It has a low read range at about a few inches to 20 feet only.

All About Active RFID Tags

Active RFID tags have a built-in power source. Unlike passive RFID, they have a batter and an active transmitter. They also have more processing power to add more functionalities such as data manipulation. 

 Since active RFID tags have a battery, they don’t need an interrogator and don’t emit power from radio waves. Depending on the battery, it can have a longer or shorter read range. On average RFID tags have a 300 to 750 feet read range.

The advantage of active RFIDs is that they can process data before broadcast. Thanks to the onboard sensors. However, these tags also have their specific use. Also, take note that active tags can only communicate with active tags and not vice versa. 

Active RFID tags are commonly used as beacons in logistics and tracking. It can gather real-time data of asset location in a high-speed environment. Automated toll collection systems, for example, use RFID systems.

Using RFID toll operators get data from vehicles. Drivers do not need to alight vehicles because active RFID can read data from a distance. As a result, drivers only need to scan their RFID and pass toll gates.


  1. It has more memory and can store more data.
  2. It doesn’t need an interrogator.
  3. It can operate in a longer read range up to 100 feet or more.


  1. Since they use batteries they contribute to radio noises.
  2. Active RFID tags are sensitive to harsh environments.
  3. They have a limited battery life – mostly 2 to 7 years only.
  4. They are more expensive than passive RFID tags.
  5. They have larger sizes compared with passive RFID tags.

Factors Affecting Your Choice for RFID Tags

So how do you know which choice to make? The following are some popular criteria that you can use when choosing the best RFID tag for your RFID solution.

Tag Frequency

The selection of tag frequency depends on factors such as read range requirements and materials to be tagged. You also need to clarify the type of application. Access control and payment systems, for example, require a very small read range. This way, you may use passive RFID tags.

Passive RFID tags are also ideal for tagging pallets in the supply chain. The read range required is 5 to 10 feet.

Tag Type

Next, identify the sensor requirement, read range, cost, and size. Passive tags are cheaper than active tags. Applications greatly affect the type of tag of choice. If you want to use RFID tags for a tote or plastic containers, you may use semi-passive tags. They are less costly than their active counterparts.

Environmental Conditions

As RFID tags can function in different environmental conditions you need to assess the environmental factors surrounding your application. If your workplace is always exposed to high temperatures and pressures you may want to use passive RFID. 

Note that environmental conditions can affect the RFID read range. The substrate may absorb moisture or become brittle. Moisture may also destroy the adhesive causing it to fall off. Manufacturing processes with vibration and constant flexing also require a sturdy RFID.

Tag Orientation and Location

Tag performance is affected by the orientation of the tag. For the best orientation, the tagging plane and antenna plane must be parallel to each other. With these tags we get the maximum power.  

The location of the tag within the IZ also affects the performance of the tag. When the tag moves away from the interrogator the power that it receives becomes lesser. The tag will continue to lose power as it receives a signal. To remedy this situation, the tag may need two axis points.

RFID Standards Compliance

Tags need to comply with certain standards. This is why you also need to find the right manufacturer. You don’t want to end up with low-cost RFID that compromises quality.

When it comes to standards, look for something that is ISO-certified. It is good to follow popular standards because nowadays there are many fake manufacturing companies. Moreover, these products may be cheaper because of the higher volume and support for them.

So study the different RFID standards. Equip yourself with knowledge before purchasing to avoid scams.

Tag Placement

The last but not least consideration is the tag placement. RFID tags may lose their efficiency depending on where you place them. Note that there is a specific RFID for every application. The right manufacturer can give you advice on this matter.

More considerations should be given importance when tags are placed in products with an aqueous liquid. This includes wine bottles, shampoo bottles, and medicines. You can have your RFID tag in a way that the antenna is pointing away from the liquid.

Why Do You Need RFID Tags?

RFID tags are highly flexible technology. It has many applications in every business. We have seen how it works wonders in controlling manufacturing processes, maintenance, and inspection of equipment.

If you have not made a shift in your business, it is time you do today. RFID systems offer benefits for businesses of all sizes. It allows you to swiftly improve efficiency and reduce cost through automation. It saves time and enhances the utilization of assets.

RFID systems promote effective asset management and are the heart of the Internet of Things. The following are some reasons why you need RFID tags.

You want to track assets and manage inventory

Are you engaged in the logistics industry? Integrating RFID tags in goods helps keep track of assets and materials. The ability to track assets and manage inventory has been a challenge for many organizations.

We have seen businesses struggle with missing high-value equipment. With RFID, it is easier for businesses to monitor the movement of deliveries and dispatches.

Your business is suffering from operational costs due to delays

Manual tracking is prone to human error. Sometimes, when the volume of incoming and outgoing goods is high workers may have a hard time checking on them. Would you continue filling up the spreadsheet?

While RFID tags are another investment, it is aimed at protecting bigger assets. If you are losing money because of delays, misdelivery, and incomplete product fulfillment to consignees, it is time you get RFID tags.

The use of RFID tags can save even more time. In the production industry, for example, it removes the need for manual intervention.

You want to improve your data accuracy and availability

RFID tags can help you collect and upload data electronically. It avoids transcription errors and duplication. You can also utilize it to avoid missed items. This makes it a good solution for businesses involved in large data processing. 

You want to enhance health and safety

RFID systems allow companies to check when vehicles need checking. Car rental services can benefit from this technology. When renting several cars, it is hard to keep up with their routine maintenance.

Upon RFID integration it is easier to track which vehicles need cleaning. The same goes for equipment inspection. RFID technology offers an efficient way to manage inspection and reporting. As a result, it can restrict use if certain conditions are not met for specific equipment.

RFID provides satisfaction for insurers or regulatory bodies that processes are being followed.

You want to increase revenue

When you improve your inventory management, your customer satisfaction also increases. Installing RFID systems can provide competitive services that make your business a standout.

You want to simplify processes

RFID technologies can be integrated with other manufacturing technologies. For example, you can integrate it in pallet handling or stock picking. It will help you to reduce the time from order to delivery.

RFID helps you transmit information in real-time. If any problems occur in your process, you can monitor the situation right away. Besides speeding up the process, it offers a way to offer client-specific information about deliveries faster.

It makes responding to situations a lot easier. Therefore, it also helps you save costs on operations. If you want to make business processes easier, you can integrate RFID technology for your business. Note that RFID is not only helpful for companies engaged in logistics. The tourism industry is also utilizing this technology. Hotels and resorts, for example, use RFID keys to customize entry.

You want to capture critical data for research and development

Fortunately, you can also use RFID technology to identify and capture data. Critical data can be used to process and transmit information to other systems. This data can be turned into insightful information. You can use them to make wise decisions. With better knowledge, you can improve the way you make decisions.

Whenever new opportunities come, you know whether to take them or not. You will know which option would improve company profitability and which will not. You can also track data to spy on opportunities and develop operations.

Passive vs. Active RFID: Selecting the Best

It is no surprise that RFID helps automate processes. This way you can relocate resources to more productive work. There is no need to use employee’s time in manual registrations, checking, tracking, or monitoring.

RFID technology can bring a lot of advantages to businesses. Eventually, your choice between passive or active RFID must be based on how you want to use it for. Other factors like placement, read range, and environmental condition should also be taken into consideration.

We understand that choosing the most suitable RFID format for your business can be hard. This is true if it is your first time dealing with this technology. It is easy to get lost in the technical language and the confusing issue with sizes.

This is why you also need to find a good manufacturing company to tailor your RFID tags. Iot Gallop should be able to advise what will work best for your business.

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