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RFID, Sensors and the Internet of Things
May 09, 2018

RFID, Sensors and the Internet of Things

The use of a wide variety of terms to describe RFID technologies—and the lack of precision among those terms—confuses companies seeking solutions to their business problems.


IOT

 

What’s the difference among RFID,SENSORS,AND IOT?


Articles in the mainstream press often conflate all these concepts. Writers sometimes refer to RFID transponders as "sensors" or "wireless sensors," either to avoid the use of radio frequency identification, which seems like jargon to editors, or perhaps because they aren't sure what the different terms actually mean.


Last November, there was an article about General Electric's efforts to gather data from the many items it manufactures "Today, GE is putting sensors on everything, be it a gas turbine or a hospital bed," the article said. It included no explanation of the different types of sensors. Actually ,the "sensor" on the hospital bed is most likely an active RFID tag that broadcasts the identity of the object and its location.


Whether RFID tags are sensors is open to debate. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a sensor as "a device which detects or measures a physical property and records, indicates, or otherwise responds to it."A basic RFID tag detects the presence of an object and can tell you its identity. It could be argued that this makes an RFID tag a sensor because it can detect something about the physical world remotely and by proxy."


But passive RFID can also be used simply as a tool for counting objects, such as clothing items on store shelves. When used like a bar code, RFID does not seem like a sensor.

 

RFID


There are active RFID tags with on-board sensors that can detect humidity, moisture, motion, pressure and temperature. There are also battery-assisted and a few passive tags with sensors. RFID is certainly part of a broader ecosystem of data-capture technologies, and the many forms of RFID will exist alongside and in conjunction with sensors that monitor environmental and other conditions.


Basic RFID transponders, whether active or passive, are not sensors—they are RFID tags or transponders. Their purpose is to identify an object and determine its location. Tags are often used to count objects in known locations.

Wireless sensors, whether they communicate via mesh networks or conventional RFID readers, are RFID sensors—provided they include an ID that allows you to differentiate one sensor from another. Some argue that mesh-networking nodes, sometimes called motes, are not RFID because they have a central processing unit and run an operating system. That's like saying a laptop isn't a computer because it isn't a mainframe.


The Internet of Things is a used to refer to the broad set of wired and wireless systems that enable objects and machines to connect to the Internet and share information.


We believe that clarity in the use of these terms, even if some might consider our definitions arbitrary, will help companies seeking to use these technologies determine precisely what they need.





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