Technology is likely a two-edged sword. It brings up a sea of convenient things to make life easier whereas delivers more risks that requires us to be more careful, especially with our valuables and personal information. Might there be many people wondering about RFID Blocking Technology, the most common of which is the curious about whether it is necessary for our life.
Well, in this article, I will clear your mind.
What is RFID
RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification which is a technology working on radio frequency of radio waves. So, this technology is used to automatically identifying the objects or tracking the objects.
Now, here the objects could be anything. The objects could be books in the library or it could be anything that are purchasing from the shopping mall. Or it could be in inventory in the warehouse or it maybe it could be your own car.
And not only the objects but it can be used for tracking the animals as well as the birds. Hence, in this RFID Technology, the RFID tag is used to get attached to the objects which he wants to track.
This RFID reader is continuously sending radio waves. Thus, whenever this object is in the range of the reader then this RFID tag used to transmit its feedback signal to the reader.
It’s very similar to the technology which is used in the barcode. But in case of the barcode, the object and the scanner should be in line of sight.
As this RFID technology is not a line of sight technology, so as far as this object is within the range of the reader, object is able to identify the reader and it is able to send the feedback single back to the reader.
From that point, using this RFID technology, we even can track multiple objects at the same time.
Construction of RFID Technology
The system contains two components: RFID reader and RFID tag. Now, this RFID tags are also coming in many ways. This RFID tag could be an active tag or passive tag or semi passive tag. Such passive tag doesn’t have their own power supply. It relies on the radio waves which is coming from RFID reader for the source of energy.
Meanwhile the semi passive tag used to have their own power supply. But for transmitting the feedback signal to RFID reader they used to rely on the signal which is coming from RFID reader.
In terms of active tag, they used to have their own power supply. But for transmitting the feedback signal to the RFID reader also they are relying on their own power supply.
So, as this passive tag do not have their own power supply, hence, the range is less compared to the active and semi passive tags.
What’s inside RFID reader?
RFID reader comes in many sizes and shapes. For example, the handheld reader or as large as the size of the door which we normally see inside a shopping mall.
This RFID reader mainly consists of three components: microcontroller, RF signal generator and receiver/signal detector.
Going more in depth of the function of each component: RF signal generator is transmitted using the antenna. Meanwhile, the signal detector receives the feedback signals from the tag. And microcontroller helps to process the information which is being sent by RFID tag.
Many times, this reader is directly connected to the computer.
Talking about RFID tags, most of which nowadays are passive tags because of their affordable price compared to the active tags and no requirements for power source, which is quite compact.
Again, this passive tag ends up with many forms. It might arrive in the size of a key chain or a credit card or a form of a label.
What’s inside RFID tag?
There are four main components inside a RFID tag: controller, memory, rectifier circuit and transponder.
The first component of RFID tag is a transponder which is receives the radio waves from the reader and send the feedback signal back to the reader.
As the passive tags don’t have their own supply so that rely on the radio waves coming from the reader. That’s why they have to use the rectifier circuit for the energy from the radio waves which is stored across the capacitor.
And this energy is used as a supply for the controller as well as the memory element inside is RFID tag.
Operating Frequencies for the RFID Systems
Let’s see different frequencies at which this RFID tags are operated. Mainly, this RFID operates at three frequencies. The low frequency range (125 kHz or 134 kHz), the high frequency range (13.56 Mhz) and Ultra high frequency range (860-960 MHz).
These frequency ranges vary from country to country. But the majority of the country follow these frequencies for the operation for the RFID tags.
With low frequency range, signals can travel very short distance, which is up to 10cm. With the high frequency range, the distance is up to 1 meter and with the ultra-high range is even 10-15 meters.
Such different distances effect on the working principle of RFID tag.
With the low and high frequency range, it is based on the inductive coupling (near field coupling) whereas with the ultra-high range is due to the electromagnetic coupling (far field coupling).
Working principle of the low and high frequency range
Talking about the working principle of the low and high frequency range, the RFID reader will continuously send radio waves with a particular frequency. These radio waves serve 3 purposes: induce the enough power into the passive tag, provide synchronization clock to tag and act as a carrier to return data from tag.
The field which is generated by this RFID reader used to get couple with the antenna of a RFID tag. And because of this mutual coupling, the voltage will get induce across the coil of RFID tag. Now, some portions of this voltage are getting rectified and used as a power supply for the controller as well as the memory elements.
As the RFID reader is sending a radio waves of a particular frequency so the voltage induced across the coil is also of a particular frequency. hence, this induced voltage is also used to derive the synchronization clock for the controller. Now suppose that we connect a load of coil then current will start flowing through this load. And if we change the impedance of this load, the current will also get changed.
If we switch on or off this load and the current will also get switched on or off. From that point, the switching of current or rating of change of the current also generates a voltage in a RFID reader. This switching on and off the load is called load modulation.
If you switch on and off the load according to the data stored inside the RFID tag, then the data can be read by RFID reader in the form of a voltage. Thus, in this way, using the load modulation can change the voltage generated across RFID reader coil. And in this way, we generate modulation on carrier frequency.
Working principle of the ultra-high frequency range
Because the distance between the reader and the tag is a few meters, the coupling between the coil and the reader will be the far field coupling.
Thus, while the reader is continuously sending radio waves in a particular frequency to the tag, and in response, this tag will send a weak signal to RFID reader. Such weak signal is known as the back scattered signal, the intensity of which is due to the load matching across the coil.
If the load is matched exactly, then the intensity will be more. On the contrary, if the load isn’t matched all, the intensity will be less. By this way of changing the condition of a load, we can change the intensity of this back scattered signal. And if we change the condition of a load according to the data stored in RFID tag then the data can be sent back to the RFID reader.
Besides, the initial signal sent by the reader should be strong so the back scattered signal can be retrieved by RFID reader.
What is RFID Protection
Based on such working principle of RFID Technology, RFID Protection will use a special material to prevent radio waves of RFID reader. Thus, it can’t read the information in RFID tag or RFID chip, even if these tags or chips are in the range of RFID reader.
Is RFID Protection Necessary? Understanding the Risks & Realities
When the RFID chip was used in many cards in the US, many news agencies reported on the threat of ID thieves through RFID skimmers. In reality, security experts have shown that a person with an RFID skimmer in his jacket or bag might be able to activate the RFID chips embedded on bank cards and collect data.
The answer of this question is basically based on where you live. In the US, it’s not really an issue. Though RFID skimming is a real thing, there really aren’t any recorded cases of it. it’s likely due to the fact that there are still many easier ways to steal money and data from people. This involves tempering ATMs or fuel pumps in order to steal information.
And more importantly, in 2012, most credit card companies in the US quietly moved away from RFID and adopted the EMV standard security. (EMV stands for EuroPay MasterCard and Visa) They use the chip that is now standard in most credit cards and debit cards used in the US. Most of world has been using “pin and chip” for years and the US has been adopted it for a few years.
Even now in 2017, most chips used in the US are chip and signature, not the chip and pin anymore. So, you might be wondering that whether the EMV is vulnerable to the radio skimming or not.
The answer is no. This chip requires direct contact so it can’t be skimmed by RIFD reader. It doesn’t respond to radio signals.
However, it doesn’t mean that RFID chip has no longer existed in the US. There are! For examples, IDs, metro passes, badges and working passes. Also, they are still used in passport and driver license. From that point, for most US residents, RIFD protection is unnecessary. It’s possible that a theft can steal information off your passport and ID, but the value of such information is questionable and just more likely that they aim to easier targets.
For European residents, RFID protection is worth considering as this is one of the most popular scams, especially since the contactless payment cards are still being used and promoted. Most are restricted to small purchase amounts like under 25 pounds, but do not require a pin to complete the transaction.
To know whether it’s worth extra paying for RFID protection, consider these two things: first thing first is checking your credit cards and debit cards. Secondly, consider using individual sleeves. If you just have 1-2 card to protect then it’s worth buying an individual sleeve than a whole wallet. It’s a cheaper way to secure your RFID card but also not taking much space in your wallet.
In a word, RFID Blocking Technology is a great invention to help protect your private information against hi-tech thieves as well as avoid many unwanted worst cases happening to your money. Depend on each country that this Technology will be essential or optional for users. But if you are a careful person, spending extra payment for this wonderful function is worthy.