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A Brief History of RFID
May 14, 2018

A Brief History of RFID


Radio-frequency technology has come far from its roots at the beginning of the twentieth century. Russian physicist Leon   Theremin is commonly attributed as having created the first RFID device in 1946 (Scanlon, 2003). While Theremin may be recognized for the first successful application of the technology, RFID has earlier roots. 


RFID is a combination of radar and radio broadcast technology. Radar was developed in the 1920s . Scholars noted the relationship between electricity and magnetism, which is a foundation of radio broadcasting, at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Harry Stockman wrote a seminal paper in 1948, identifying the vast amount of research and development still needed before “reflected-power communications” could be used in applications. 


Interest in implementing RFID in libraries is on the rise. RFID technology has been used to raise efficiency in transport, business and theft-monitoring systems. The evolution of RFID described below suggests that libraries may well benefit from widespread use of this technology.


1920s   Foundation Established

Radar was developed as a technology in the 1920s.


1930s   Progress

Britain used a related technology, an IFF transponder, to distinguish enemy aircraft during WWII.  


1940s   RFID Invented

Radar is refined. 


1950s   Time of Research and Development

Technologies related to RFID were explored in laboratories. 


1960s   Applications Abound

During the 1960s inventors began applying radio frequency technology to devices aimed at markets beyond the military 


1970s   Hard at Work

Academic institutions, government laboratories companies and independent researchers are all working to develop RFID technology.  


1980s   Commercial Expansion

RFID technology is fully implemented. 


1990s   RFID Becomes Commonplace

RFID uses are so widespread that standards begin to emerge.  

RFID is widely used by consumers and companies globally.  


2000s    RFID Enhancements

Improved technology leads to miniaturization.  

Cost of RFID continues to fall. 

Private authentication develops as key concern in library implementation





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