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From the last article, we collected some questions relating to RFID technology and how it works. Here is the relevant information regarding RFID chips and the technology embedded in them;

1. What is an RFID chip and an RFID-enabled credit card?

As you use your credit cards, do you check whether they are chip credit cards or not? Probably, most of you don’t recognize that there is an RFID chip in your credit cards. Here’s a short chronology of what a chip credit card is; Briefly, an RFID chip is another term used to define an RFID tag. It is a tag, label or card that can exchange data with a reader using radio frequency (RF) signals. It usually has a built-in antenna and an integrated circuit IC. The antenna can send and receive radio waves, while the IC takes care of modulating and demodulating the radio signals, as well as processing and storing data. Also, unlike a bar code reader/label pair, which has to be really close (about a few centimeters), some RFID reader/chip pairs can function from a few meters out. Furthermore, while a bar code label can only be read by a single reader at a time, an RFID chip can transmit data to multiple readers simultaneously.RFID-enabled cards, they are standard-sized plastic debit or credit card that contains an embedded microchip as well as a traditional magnetic stripe. The chip encrypts information to help increase data security when making transactions at terminals or ATMs that are chip-enabled.

2.When was the RFID chip invented?

When it comes to RFID chip’s history, a full comprehension calls for an explanation surpassing several sentences. Here, we’ve picked the main progress to explain to you as succinctly as possible;

In the late 1940’s:

Radar technology was first used to distinguish between enemy and friendly aircraft. Technically this was the first used to RFID

In 1948:

A scientist and inventor Harry Stockman created RFID and was credited with the futuristic invention. He also wrote a famous scholarly article about this new technology entitled, “Communication by Means of Reflected Power”

In the 1950’s:

During this decade, scientists explored the possibilities of advancing Radio Frequency Identification. This new technology was intriguing and people wanted to see what else could possibly come out of it. Also, inventor DB Harris created a different variation of the technology with a passive responding chip.

In 1959:

The IFF long-range RFID system became fully functional and production commenced soon after.

RFID tags were invented in1969 and later patented in 1973; it’s only now that they’re becoming commercially and technologically viable, with microchips growing essentially tinier and better. Some are only 1/3 of a millimeter across. These chips act as transponders (transmitters/responders), always listening for a radio signal sent by transceivers or RFID readers.

When a transponder receives a certain radio query, it responds by transmitting its unique ID code, perhaps a 128-bit number, back to the transceiver. Most RFID tags don’t have batteries (How could they? They’re 1/3 of a millimeter!). Instead, they are powered by the radio signal which wakes them up requesting an answer.

3. Who invented RFID chips and how are RFID chips used?

Charlie Walton, the inventor of a ubiquitous wireless technology known as RFID, lived in Los Gatos. The chips that he invented can go into the access controls of devices, allowing you to slap a badge across a reader to open the door to an office for instance. They are also used in car locks and on shipping pallets so that companies can track expensive goods. Also, the chips are used in;

• Access control

• Car immobilization

• Electronic toll collection

• Electronic document identification

• Dog tags• Asset management

• Baggage handling

• Cargo tracking

• Contactless payments and ticketing

• Supply chain management

4.How does the chip on credit cards work?

We can know that an RFID chip is another term used to define an RFID tag. How does the chip work? First, we need to know about the functional principle of RFID tags.

In the last article, we introduced that RFID is an acronym for “radio-frequency identification” and refers to a technology whereby digital data encoded in RFID tags or smart labels (defined below) are captured by a reader via radio waves. RFID is similar to bar-coding where data from a tag or label is captured by a device that stores it in a database.

RFID methods utilize radio waves to accomplish this. At a simple level, RFID systems consist of three components: an RFID tag or smart label, an RFID reader, and an antenna. RFID tags contain an integrated circuit and an antenna used to transmit data to the RFID reader (also called an interrogator). The reader then converts the radio waves to a more usable form of data. Information collected from the tags is then transferred through a communications interface to a host computer system, where the data can be stored in a database and analyzed at a later time.

Every credit card holder in America knows the “swipe and sign” checkout ritual. With chip and PIN cards, the credit card data is stored on a tiny computer chip — not a magnetic stripe — and customers punch in a four-digit PIN (personal identification number) instead of signing the screen.

5.Do I have an RFID credit card?

According to the latest estimates, more than 1 billion credit cards and IDs have been released with an RFID chip in the recent past. But how do you know whether your credit card has RFID or not?

To find out whether a credit card has an RFID chip, you can look at the card to tell if it does or not. If you see the marked symbol on the image below, it supports RFID. Also, if the card says PayPass, payWave, or blink, it also has RFID capabilities.

6.How far can an RFID chip transmit?

Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Passive RFID Tags or chips- minimum read distance of over 1 meter or 3 feet. Gen2 tags can have a read range of up to 12 meters or 37 feet, however, a new generation of IC’s plus antenna designs are now pushing this distance to over 15 meters! And what’s the Maximum Range?

Even within one type of RFID, however, there can be a wide array of reading ranges. A passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) handheld reader has a range of about 10 feet, while a model using a beam-steerable phased-array antenna can interrogate passive tags at a distance of 600 feet or more.

7. Can you track an RFID chip?

The answer is yes. But it has limitation. Most countries have assigned the 125 or 134 kHz areas of the spectrum for low-frequency RFID systems, and 13.56 MHz is generally used around the world for high-frequency RFID systems. UHF RFID systems have only been around since the mid-1990s and countries have not agreed on a single area of the UHF spectrum for RFID.

Since most RFID chips or tags are passive, meaning they contain no battery power and can transmit data only when zapped with a reader. A group of hackers at the 2005 DefCon technology convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, used an antenna attached to an RFID reader to scan the information on a tag nearly 70 feet away. In this distance and appropriate frequency range, absolutely you can track an RFID chip.

8.Do US passports have RFID chip and protection?

Since August 2007, all U.S. passports have come embedded with an RFID chip, intended to deter fraud and improve security. The chip contains the same information as on the passport’s picture page, including a digital version of your passport photograph. (You can still use a pre-2007 passport that doesn’t contain a chip. Once your passport expires, a new one will contain an RFID chip.)

According to the federal Bureau of Consular Affairs, the passport chip is designed with security features to thwart unauthorized access. Also, it can be “read” only when the passport book is open. When the cover is shut, the information on the chip supposedly can’t be scanned by an RFID device.

Separately, a newer U.S. travel document, a wallet-sized passport card, also has a chip. It contains only an identification number, not personal information from the card itself. However, “To address concerns that passport card bearers can be tracked by this technology,” the consular bureau’s website says, “We are requiring that the vendor provide a sleeve that will prevent the (passport) card from being read while inside it.”

9.How are RFID Chips Blocked/Killed

Luckily RFID tag signals can easily be blocked. This means that you will have the option to use the tag whenever you want, and prevent others from being able to read it.

The signal sent out by an RFID tag is easily blocked by metal. This means that placing the RFID tag inside of a Faraday cage will prevent the information from being read.
There are already two Instructables on how to build RFID blocking containers:

RFID Secure Wallet

Make an RFID Shielding Pouch Out of Trash

Alternatively, if you would rather spend money on something you could build, head over to Think Geek for their RFID blocking wallet and RFID blocking Passport Holder.


After reading this article, are you getting familiar with RFID chips and technology? If you require any further guidance, we implore you to get in touch with us; you will be attended to right away.  If you think it’s useful for you, please share it with your friends. Thanks!


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