RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) makes wireless identification and communication possible. But are RFID vs. NFC opposing technologies? Although sometimes referred to as different concepts, RFID and NFC are not opposing technologies.

In this article, we will delve into a detailed comparison of UHF and NFC tags, exploring their advantages and limitations to help you make an informed decision for your specific needs.

What is RFID?

RFID is the umbrella term encompassing various technologies that employ radio waves to identify and track objects. RFID technology includes a wide range of frequencies, each with its own characteristics and applications:

  • Low Frequency (LF) operates in the low frequency range but penetrates better in dense materials such as water or metal. LF is often used in applications such as asset tracking in harsh environments.
  • High Frequency (HF) operates in a higher frequency range, allowing for slightly longer read distances and faster data transfer speeds. HF is widely used in contactless payment systems.
  • Ultra High Frequency (UHF) operates in the higher frequency range, and offers the longest read distances, but is more susceptible to interference from water or metal. UHF is ideal for applications requiring long-range tracking, such as inventory management in warehouses.

What is NFC?

NFC (Near Field Communication) is a specific technology of high frequency RFID that enables wireless communication at short distances, commonly a few centimeters. Allows information to be exchanged between 2 devices. That means that all NFC tags are RFID tags, but not all RFID tags are NFC.

After understanding what RFID and NFC are, now the question you may be asking is: UHF tag or NFC tag, which one to choose? Here are 6 key features that we believe are essential when comparing one technology versus the other:

1.Range - How to master distance?

    • UHF: This technology is capable of reading tags from centimeters to tens of meters away, allowing for long-distance asset identification.
    • NFC: The magic of this technology occurs over very short distances, typically up to 10 cm, making it key in environments where the reader is very close to the tag.

2.Speed - Which one is faster?

    • UHF: Can read up to hundreds of tags per second without a line of sight.
    • NFC: this technology reads tags one by one as it requires close contact with the reader. It's ideal for contactless payments and quick data transfers.

3.Applications – How can we use them?

    • UHF: Widely used in supply chain management, asset tracking, inventory control, and access control. For example, UHF tags ensure quick and accurate audits, eliminating the need to manually count each item and streamlining the inventory reconciliation process. Alerts can also be set up for products nearing their expiration date, enabling proactive management and reducing waste.
    • NFC: Mainly used in contactless payment systems, building access, public transportation, and data transfer between mobile devices, customer interactivity as most mobile phones have NFC readers built in.

4.Compatibility – What are the keys to implementing it?

    • UHF: This technological advancement requires dedicated UHF readers and integrates seamlessly with devices ideal for retail and industrial environments, ensuring an optimal workplace experience.
    • NFC: Fully compatible with NFC-enabled devices like smartphones and tablets, facilitating integration into mobile applications and payment systems.

5.Security - What will be the key to protecting?

    • UHF: Recent UHF technologies have implemented advanced security measures, such as data encryption, providing robust protection against cloning and unauthorized scanning.
    • NFC: It uses secure communication protocols, making it ideal for payment applications and sensitive data transfer, authentication of products.

6.Memory Capacity - What will the memory be like?

    • UHF: The size of UHF chips is restricted, generally only a single serialized EPC is stored on them. This EPC is then translated back into a database containing product information such as color, size, price, date of manufacture, and country of origin.
    • NFC: It is designed primarily to engage the consumer, offering greater memory capacity to store more complex data, such as URL links, contact information and transaction data, security keys which facilitate user interaction and engagement.

Integrating UHF and NFC technologies for enhanced business solution

While UHF and NFC technologies may appear distinct due to their unique characteristics and applications, it is important to recognize that they are not mutually exclusive options. Instead, they have complimentary qualities that work well together to satisfy a range of business needs.

By integrating both UHF and NFC technologies into your operations, you can take advantage of a complete solution that covers a wide range of needs, from logistical efficiency to enhanced customer experiences.

A crucial aspect is the existence of dual-technology tags, such as Checkpoint’s DUÉ mini, which combine UHF and NFC in a single application. This type of tag, integrating both technologies, allows brands to engage with customers via NFC while efficiently managing inventory through UHF RFID. This inlay can be placed in a variety of solutions to meet branding and trim requirements, from pocket tags to price stickers. Applying a single tag saves time and money during the production process and makes it easier to attach to garments.

Embracing the interoperability of UHF and NFC enables organizations to unlock new possibilities for innovation and success in the digital era. For example, in the case of stores such as apparel stores, Self Check Outs (SCO) allows you to have both technologies. When the customer places the product,  inside the check out, thanks to UHF RFID it reads the tags and identifies which item is being purchased, and then when it is time to pay, the smartphone can be used to pay at the POS thanks to NFC.

All in all, combining the long-range capabilities of UHF with the fast data transfer of NFC, unlocks new possibilities for innovation and success in the digital era.