RFID AND IoT JARGON BUSTER

3GPP - 3rd generation partnership project: Umbrella term for a number of standards organisations which develop protocols for mobile telecommunications.

Active RFID - The tag / sensor requires a source of power to keep it active, normally a built in battery. The tag will broadcast actively without waiting for something to interrogate it.

Anchor - A fixed position receiver of RFID data broadcast from tags, used to determine both their presence and location. Commonly referred to in ultra-wideband real time location systems.

AoA - Angle of Arrival. A signal phase measurement technique built into the Bluetooth 5 specification and used by BLE tag readers to improve location accuracy.

AoD - Angle of Departure. A signal phase measurement technique built into the Bluetooth 5 specification used to improve the accuracy of tracking smart devices such as mobile phones operating an app that supports the feature.

BAP - Battery assisted passive (tag), where an internal battery is added to a passive tag to improve the read range.

BLEBluetooth low energy: A special variant of Bluetooth protocol specific to very low power tags and sensors where pairing is not required and small packets of data are broadcast at regular intervals. The data can be picked up by suitable listening devices including anchors and smartphones.

GPS - Global positioning system: A generic term for a system of satellite signals that can be picked up by tags and sensors to report their precise outdoor location. The most commonly used system is still GPS developed by the USA but other systems are being more widely adopted, including GLONASS (Russia), Galileo (Europe), Beidou (China), NavIC (India) and Michibiki (Japan).

GPRS - General packet radio service: Digital data communication system built into second and third generation cell phone networks. A modernised system, LTE, is used in newer generations of phone networks including 4G and 5G.

 

HF - High frequency:  In this context, refers to a worldwide license free frequency band centred around 13.56 MHz, for identification and digital data communication using different protocols, including ISO14443 for contactless payment cards, ISO15693 generally used in access control, and ISO18092 which defines Near Field Communications (NFC), increasingly used to identify assets or to point to asset resources. 

IoT - Internet of things: Rapidly expanding ecosystem of sensors and devices that can communicate small packets of digital data over the internet, where it can be selectively picked up and used by interested applications. 

LF - Low frequency:  In this context , referring to segments of the low frequency 'kilometre band', typically using 124.2 and 134.2  KHz for general asset identification, with the ISO 11784/5 protocol used specifically for animal identification. 

LoRa - 'long range': Low power data communication system adopted by some countries for communicating small packets of data from IoT sensors for example. Some countries like France have full coverage, making it a viable alternative to cellular networks for IoT device communication. In the UK it can be used for localised data collection over a few km, enough to cover a university campus for example.

LPWAN - Low power wide area network: A generic term for low power small data packet networks used to communicate data from IoT sensors. Examples include LoRa, Sigfox, LTE-M and NB-IoT.

LTE - Long term evolution: A standard for data communication of connected things developed by 3GPP.

LTE-M - A subset of LTE specifically aimed at remote monitoring of machines.

NB-IoTNarrow band internet of things: Another standard developed by 3GPP for low power, very narrow band data communication for IoT sensors.

NFCNear field communications: High frequency data communication protocol intended for use with consumer devices, mobiles, PCs, assets and asset resources. NFC reader technology is now built in to smart phones as standard, and can be used by apps. The 'NFC Forum' promotes implementation and standardization of NFC technology to ensure interoperability. The latest tags are used in physical-web applications like smart posters, asset tracking, access control, identity authentication, and gaming.

 

Passive RFIDThe tag / sensor does not have a source of power. It can only communicate when it is interrogated with a reader that provides sufficient RF power to energise the tag. For this reason read distances are quite small, typically from contact to a few metres. Examples of passive tags include NFC and UHF.  Passive RFID is alleged to have grown out of a covert listening device developed by Russian inventor Leon Theremin and implanted in 'The Thing', a wooden plaque replica of the 'Great Seal of the United States', gifted by the Soviet Union to US Ambassador Averell Harriman in 1945. With no power source and activated only when required using radio energy generated from outside the residence it remained undetected for seven years.

RFID - Radio frequency identification: An RFID system consists of a tiny radio transponder, a radio receiver and transmitter. When triggered by an electromagnetic interrogation pulse from a nearby RFID reader device, the tag transmits digital data, usually an identifying inventory number, back to the reader.

RTLS - Real time location system: Generic term referring to systems that can track the location of  multiple RFID-tagged assets in real time. UHF, BLE and UWB technologies have been used for RTLS, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. 

Sigfox - Low power data communication system similar to LoRa adopted by some countries for communicating small packets of data from IoT sensors. Unlike LoRa, Sigfox is always a subscription based service.

SolarTag Active RFID tags and sensors that do not have batteries, powered instead by a small photocell. Recent advances are such that solar powered tags can now operate from indoor lighting.

UHF - Ultra high frequency: RFID technology using license free frequencies in the range 860 - 930 MHz, widely adopted in retail as an enhancement of bar codes governed by the GS1 organisation. Billions of Passive UHF RFID tags are now manufactured every year, allowing large numbers of relatively low value items to be tracked and transacted.

UWB - Ultra-wideband: RFID technology operating in the frequency range 3 - 10.6 GHz, used in real time location systems. Its low power and high bandwidth means it does not interfere with other technologies using some of the same frequency range such as WiFi.

WiFi - In this context, refers to tags that use triangulation and other techniques between WiFi access points to determine location.