History of RFID technology

How did the RFID technology begin?

Many scientist and technology developments started as military uses and the History of RFID technology wasn’t the exception.

During World War II, radars were used to warn the approaching of planes. But the problem was that radars couldn’t identify if the detected plane was enemy or it belonged to own or allied army.

As a sort of first passive RFID system, Royal Air Force (RAF) members noticed that if their pilots rolled the planes while they were approaching, the radar signal reflected back changed. This way they could to know if these planes were friends or enemies.

At the same time, the inventor of the radar, the Scottish physicist Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt, also developed the first system to identify friends or foes (IFF). Thanks to this system, the British settled a transmitter on every British plane. These transmitters received the signals from the radar, and afterwards, they broadcasted a signal which identified them as a friend. This is the basic idea that the RFID works on.

That way History of RFID technology was began

The basis of RFID technology was the combination of radio broadcasting technology and radar. Basically, the process is: a transmitter sends a signal which is reflected back by a transponder in the passive RFID system. Or, this transponder answers broadcasting a signal into an active RFID system.

But, more scientist developments were needed for RFID technology became what it is nowadays. RFID technology became an essential part of many processes thanks to the changes in the commercial models, and also because of the ways of doing business.

In 1948, Harry Stockman published “Communications by Means of Reflected Power” in the Proceedings of the IREThis paper can be considered as the birth of RFID.

RFID explosion

Advances in radio frequency and radar communications continued. During the decade of the ’50s, many studies oriented to create safe systems for their application in coal mines, oil explorations and nuclear installations, and also access controls or anti-theft systems, were carried out.

In the late ’60s, the first commercial activities began when Sensormatic and Checkpoint were founded. They developed a surveillance equipment anti-intrusion electronics called Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS).

EAS was the first RFID development and it meant the prelude to the explosion of this technology in the ’70s.

Finally, in 1973, the first RFID patents were created. First, Mario W. Cardullo obtained a patent for his active RFID tag with rewritable memory. In the same year, Charles Walton received the patent for his passive transponder used to unlock doors without keys.

During the ’70s and ’80s, RFID technology was developed in many related directions. From a system for tracking trucks loaded with nuclear materials, which would become the toll gate control system, developed in Los Alamos National Laboratory for the US Government. To a system for tracking persons in buildings, like patients at hospitals or employees at company offices.

In 90’s IBM patented the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) RFID system. This development meant the next revolution in the RFID technology and RFID tags, and we will write about it in the coming articles.