RFID, NFC, and Inlays FAQs

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RFID (radio frequency identification) is wireless communication technology that powers the Internet of Things (IoT). RFID tags are attached to or embedded into a physical object, providing a digital identity to the now-connected item. An unpowered RFID tag can provide information when scanned by a powered RFID reader, typically at distances between a few centimeters (high frequency) and a few meters (ultra high frequency), and without the necessity of a direct line of sight. The tags themselves are available as passive (meaning they must be powered by a separate device) or active (meaning they are powered and can transmit data). Technological requirements — like surrounding environment, temperature, etc. — and business requirements — like privacy, convenience, speed, etc. — impact the choices made in designing the solution suitable for a specific use case.
NFC (near field communication) is wireless communication technology that powers the IoT. A subset of RFID, NFC does share some of the same properties — i.e., one-way communication without a direct line of sight — yet there are some distinct differentiators.
RFID is ready to be embedded into everyday objects, including medical devices, perishable food items and pharmaceuticals, transit and event tickets, toys, books, and athletic apparel — anything our customers can imagine — bringing smart identities and security to objects in the IoT. Today, RFID is most commonly used in situations requiring asset tracking.
Unlike RFID, NFC is actually capable of a two-way conversation (and this can be used for more complex, secure interactions). NFC is limited to close-proximity communication, typically up to 10 centimeters. Also, only one NFC tag can be scanned at a time. These factors make it the ideal choice for contactless payments. The prime advantage of NFC is that most modern mobile devices are now NFC-enabled and can be used as a mobile reader device, so no extra reader infrastructure is necessary. Due to the ability of communicating with smart phones, NFC tags can automatically trigger certain functions in NFC-enabled devices without any user interaction required, such as opening a web site, storing contacts in an address book, and more.
Consisting of an antenna and a contactless-enabled microchip, inlays are the data carriers of an RFID system. Identiv’s portfolio of 13.56 MHz high-frequency (HF) and ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID inlays are completely customizable, are available as dry or wet inlays, and come in various shapes and sizes. Identiv’s RFID Inlays offer up multiple designs integrating various materials, chip technologies, and frequencies for metal and non-metal environments. We produce our inlays using advanced flip-chip technology and state-of-the-art, high-volume die-bonding processes with integrated inline quality and process control to guarantee superior quality performance.
Dry (chip + antenna + epoxy glue + [PET] film) or wet (dry inlay + adhesive backing) inlays can be directly embedded into third-party products or converted into finished products.
An RFID label is a blank, printed, or transparent RFID sticker for metallic or non-metallic surfaces. RFID labels can be graphically branded, custom encoded, multi-frequency tuned, or domed for enhanced protection.
No. Standard RFID tags are not designed for metal, which interferes with the radio frequency signals. The technology behind Identiv’s RFID Tag on Metal (TOM®) Labels is unique. These HF labels (ISO/IEC 14443 or 15693) are equipped with a shielding technology that provides an optimum read range when applied to metallic surfaces.
Yes. Combined with Identiv’s inlay portfolio, Identiv’s RFID labels are available in a huge range of sizes, can be rectangular, square, or even round, and can support ISO/IEC 15693, ISO/IEC 14443, ISO/IEC18000-3, or ISO18006-C EPC Gen2, including NFC Type 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
Identiv’s transponders are available with all major chips, including NXP, Infineon, ST Microelectronics, EM Microelectronics, Texas Instruments, Impinj, Sony Felica, and more.
Identiv’s new family of labels leverages NXP® NTAG® 424 DNA chips, strengthening Identiv’s RFID offerings that provide security for IoT. The tags are designed for anti-counterfeiting for brand protection, document authentication, secure supply chain traceability (i.e., product origin and provenance), authorized data access, and trusted customer engagement, including loyalty programs.

NFC support in mobile phones has come a long way since Nokia announced NFC in its Nokia 6131 NFC in 2007. Today, it is almost easier to ask which phone doesn’t support NFC in some way. So the short answer is: almost every smart phone supports NFC. A comprehensive — and frequently updated — list by NFC World can be found here.

But the relevant answer is not simply dividing all phones into a “yes” or “no” bucket. Depending on the application, you may need different NFC capabilities, as in, “phone as a credential” or “phone as a reader” and “phone as a writer”. (An additional mode is “peer-to-peer”, but it is less prominent at this point in time).

Most Android phones support all modes of NFC, that means you can use the phone as a credential (i.e., in payment applications with Google Pay), as well as using the phone as a reader (i.e., when interacting with the physical world in tags, smart posters, smart sensors, etc.) and using the phone as a writer (i.e., programming tags). This can be tried using an Android phone and Identiv’s NFC Tag Starter Kit.

Apple iPhones have gradually added more support for NFC, starting with an NFC chip in the iPhone 6 in 2014 and later models. In the beginning, Apple restricted NFC capabilities to principally one use case: using the phone as a credential to pay (i.e., Apple Pay). With the release of iOS 11 in 2017, the iPhone's NFC chip capabilities have been extended beyond Apple Pay, and now include reading tags’ NDEF messages. Just recently, with the release of iOS 13 in 2019, Apple has opened up NFC capabilities even further, allowing payment transactions with Apple Pay by simply tapping an NFC tag and without downloading specific apps. This means that product companies can expect more and more of their target customer audience to be able to interact with NFC-enabled products, be it for consumer engagement, receiving more information, or proving the product’s authenticity (i.e., anti-counterfeiting).

Ultra-high frequency (UHF) refers to frequencies ranging from 300 MHz to 3 GHz on the electromagnetic spectrum, with UHF Gen2 standard systems utilizing the 860 to 960 MHz band. Through use of these higher frequency bands, UHF tags feature high-performance RFID designs for applications requiring long read distances. UHF transponder technology allows reading distances of several meters (equivalent to several dozen feet), depending on the size of the tags and the operating power transmitted by the UHF reader. Identiv’s UHF designs leverage the company’s extensive expertise in RFID deployments, are designed to outperform existing solutions available on the market, and are frequency-tuned for specific environmental constraints. Identiv also offers dual-frequency tags (UHF+HF) for a variety of applications. For example, one inlay supports asset tracking and inventory tracking before a product is sold to the consumer, who can then engage with the purchased product using NFC to verify authenticity. Dual-frequency tags are available in single-chip and dual-chip solutions.
Applications include the IoT, NFC smart posters and billboards, libraries, event and transportation ticketing, automotive and chemical industries, logistics and supply chain, asset management, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, device authentication and counterfeit protection, electronic games, event management, wearable technology, customer loyalty programs, and more.