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UWB vs RFID | Difference between UWB and RFID

This page compares UWB vs RFID and mentions difference between UWB and RFID with respect to various comparison parameters.

What is UWB ?

UWB (Ultra Wide Band) technology uses spectrum larger than 500 MHz. In the year 2002, FCC has approved use of unlicensed spectrum within 3.1 to 10.6 GHz for UWB applications. It uses short duration EM (Electro-Magnetic) pulses for high speed data transfer over wide bandwidth (BW). UWB follows IEEE standard 802.15.4a/z. Due to its wide bandwidth it can be used for high data rate (~27 Mbps) communication. It is also popular due to its lower latency, low power consumption and high immunity to various interferences.

UWB Network

The figure depicts UWB network consisting of UWB anchors installed at various places. These anchors communicate with UWB tags and UWB smartphones, UWB lights and WiFi AP. The WiFi AP or router is interfaced with cloud via gateway. UWB technology is used for target sensor data collection from motion sensor, temperature sensor, light sensor etc. It can be used for precise location and tracking applications.

What is RFID ?

RFID is the short form of Radio Frequency Identification. It uses radio frequency waves to identify objects or track objects. Here objects can be books in a library or any items which we are buying from shopping mall or inventory in warehouse or car or office/student ID. It can be used to track animals or birds also. Hence RFID system finds use in many applications such as sports, access control, transportation and logistics, library, hospital, schools and colleges.

RFID Network

There are two parts in RFID system viz. RFID reader and RFID tags. Unlike barcode, it is a non line of sight (NLOS) technology and hence multiple objects can be tracked simultaneously using RFID readers. The RFID tags are tied with objects or things or animals or birds or people to be tracked and monitored. RFID tags are classified into active tag, passive tag or semi passive tag. RFID reader consists of microcontroller, RF signal generator and signal detector. RFID tag consists of transponder, controller, rectifier circuit and memory. RFID operates on three frequencies viz. LF (125 KHz or 134 KHz), HF (13.56 MHz) and UHF (860-960 MHz).

Difference between UWB and RFID

Following table mentions difference between UWB and RFID with respect to various parameters.

Features UWB RFID
Standard IEEE 802.15.4 (802.15.4a/802.15.4z) ISO/IEC/IEEE 21451-7:2011
Frequency sub GHz (500 MHz), lower band (3.5 to 4.5 GHz) and higher band (6.5 GHz to 10 GHz) Sub GHz bands viz. LF (100-500 KHz), HF (10-15 MHz) and UHF (850-950 MHz)
Range/Coverage 70 meters (Typical), 250 meters (Max.) 1 meters to 5 meters
Data rate Upto 27 Mbps Bit rate is very low (in Kbps) and depends on FM0 or Miller encoding schemes
Accuracy in centimeters in centimeters to 1 meter
Secure ranging Very secure (Distance Time Bounded Protocol) Can be spoofed using relay attack
Location service latency Less than 1 milliseconds (Typically) 1 seconds (Typically)
Scalability or density > 10's of thousands of tags Unlimited
Infrastructure, tag and maintenance cost Less More
Directional communication Two way One way

Summary: Both RFID and UWB offer strong immunity to multi-path and interference. UWB is ideal for accurate position tracking, low latency multimedia and high data rate applications. RFID can be used to collect the data from thousands of tags using single RFID reader. Activa RFID supports higher coverage range (~ 100 meters) compare to passive RFID system (~ 3 meters). RFID is mainly used location tracking (of kids) and attendance purpose in schools, colleges and offices. RFID tags are also used in tracking of goods in inventory control.

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