A guide of a large set of available RFID chips

How to select the best RFID chips for your application?

10. January 2021
Are you designing an innovative solution and need RFID cards to identify users or make cashless payments? Have you heard about 125 kHz chips, NFC, or Mifare, and would like to know the difference? In this article, you will learn about the differences between different kinds of RF chips to help you find the best chip for your project.
RFID cards, key fobs, NFC stickers, tags, etc., are basically passive RFID transponders containing Radio Frequency Identification chips and antennas. When the RFID transponder comes within a reader range, it emits the electromagnetic signal and the reader reads it. The most frequent passive RFID transponders operate on frequencies 125 kHz, 13.56 MHz, and 860~960 MHz.  The individual chips then differ in the amount of memory, read distance, additional protection, or other functionalities.

125 kHz chips

125 kHz chips are more common in older RFID solutions. The reading distance could be slightly bigger than 13.56 MHz cards, but the usual distance is up to 10 cm. There are some special readers that can achieve a reading distance of up to 90 cm, but these systems are quite expensive when compared to regular 125 kHz readers
The most popular 125 kHz chips are EM4200 read-only chips, which is the latest version of the very popular EM4100 and EM4102 chips. The EM4200’s biggest competitor is the TK4100 chip, which works almost the same but has a reading distance that is slightly smaller. Both kinds of chips have a preprogramed ID code which cannot be altered, and are used as a user or asset identifier. 

In the last decade, the small and inexpensive devices called ‘cloners’ have become widely available that can copy the EM4200 or TK4100 chip ID to a chip T5577, and therefore allow users to make their own copies of the cards and tags. This is something you need to take into consideration when designing new solutions or choosing the best technology for your access control system. Beside the T5577, there are other kinds of 125 kHz read/write chips also available like the EM4550 (or older EM4450), Hitag and others. The most popular 125 kHz readers are desktop readers that work as a keyboard emulator (reading the chip ID and placing it inside the Excel table, Notepad, website, application input field, etc.), and wall-mounted readers for access control. They use a Wiegand protocol and are called ‘Wiegand readers’ or ‘stand-alone access control devices’ that have an ability to store users and open electronic locks. Handheld 125 kHz readers with Bluetooth are very rare. 

13.56 MHz chips

The 13.56 MHz frequency range covers bigger sets of chips and multiple protocols.
A subset of 13.56 MHz chips are NFC chips which are becoming popular in mobile devices like mobile phones and tablets. With NFC devices, you can read and write onto NFC tags (cards, stickers, key fobs); check the NFC chip type, manufacturer and other information; you can use it for cashless payments, etc.

The difference between RFID chips and NFC chips is that NFC chips are defined by additional protocols. For example, the very popular 13.56 MHz chip Mifare Classic® can be read with an NFC device, but it is not compatible with all NFC protocols and therefore is not fully supported by NFC devices.
The individual 13.56 MHz chips differ in the amount of memory, read distance, supported protocols, additional protection, or other functionalities. The most popular RFID/NFC chips are: Mifare Classic® EV1, Mifare DESFire, NTAG213, NTAG215, NTAG216, ICODE® SLIX, Mifare Ultralight, Fudan F08, etc. 

13.56 MHz chips are called ‘proximity chips,’ which means that they are designed for small distances (up to 5 cm). 13.56 MHz chips usually contain a preprogramed 4–7 bytes long chip ID number which is usually used as an identifier in many applications and a programmable memory. The usual amount of RFID chip memory is very small and it goes from 64 bytes to 8 kB. The memory can be locked with custom keys or encrypted (DESFire chips). 
The most popular 13.56 MHz readers are desktop and wall-mounted readers which read the chip ID, stand-alone access control devices, PC/SC devices which can read and write onto chips, NFC mobile phones and tablets, and other handheld devices with Bluetooth. 

UHF chips

UHF chips operate at frequency 860~960 MHz and are usually used in parking systems and asset management and tracking systems, inventory solutions, and other solutions which require longer reading distances. Some readers can read the UHF cards at a distance up to 12 meters. The UHF chips are defined by the global standard EPC Gen2 ISO/IEC 18000-6C. Some of the UHF chips are EM4425, Alien Higgs-3, UCODE®, Impinj Monza . . .. The long-distance readers for UHF chips are composed by an UHF antenna and a controlling unit. UHF antennas are big boxes with the dimension 50x50 cm or even more. For inventory purposes, handheld UHF readers with displays and standard operating systems like Android, Linux, etc. are very popular. For user management, there are UHF readers like v which works as a keyboard emulator but can be set in different modes too. 

Do you need some help choosing the right RFID chip?

As you can see, the field of RFID chips is very extensive and complex, and if you need help send an email to info@rfidspecialist.eu or call +38641 884 124 and we will be happy to help you.
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