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A Brief History Of RFID

By Owen Jones

As you perhaps already know, RFID is an acronym for ‘Radio Frequency Identification’ – it is the thing that makes ID tags work – but you probably only started hearing about it over the last couple of years. So, how much do you know about RFID? In this piece of writing, I want to take a short look at the history of this seemingly new invention, which has entered almost every facet of a city-dweller’s life and that of many livestock farmers as well.

The start of it all was in 1915, say some, when the British come up with a system called IFF, which is short for ‘Identification: Friend or Foe’. Whoever invented it, the first known installation of the IFF transponder was into the FuG German aircraft in 1940 in the course of the Second World War.

However, IFF does not distinguish enemy aircraft, it can only distinguish friendly aircraft. All others have to be treated with misgivings. The same type of technology is still in use in military and civilian airplanes today. The British managed to decode the FuG’s signals and reply properly, giving them a false positive, which gave them the advantage in a dog fight.

At the end of the war and the commencement of the Cold War, Leon Theremin invented a device for the Soviet Union which retransmitted incident radio waves and other audio details. It is not genuine RFID, but it is accredited with being a forerunner of RFID, because it was a passive device which was activated by an outside resource.

In 1948, Harry Stockman wrote a paper entitled: “Communication by Means of Reflected Power”, in which he stated: “… considerable research and development work has to be done before the remaining basic problems in reflected-power communication are solved, and before the field of useful applications is explored”.

This was accurate. The difficulties were essentially threefold: the devices needed a lot of power to work properly; they were too large for use in anything but big items like aircraft and they were very costly. However, people could already imagine uses for the technology when these three problems had been overcome.

(In 2009, researchers at Bristol University glued RFID devices to live ants to track their behaviour).

The first modern predecessor of the RFID device was something that Mario Cardullo demonstrated to the New York Port Authority in 1971. It was a passive transponder which transmitted information employing power supplied by an external source. It’s proposed use was to identify ships to the Port Authority for the intention of collecting toll fees.

Steven Depp, Alfred Koelle, and Robert Freyman demonstrated a system in 1974 which employed RFID tags. This has become the foundation of the system which is now extensively used all around the world to collect toll fees on motorways and in car parks.

Charles Walton was granted the first patent to include the acronym RFID in 1983.

The principal user of RFID tags is the US Department of Defense and after that the civil aviation industry, although the manufacturing industry is catching up quickly with RFID tags being used to track goods from manufacture to point-of-sale.

Owen Jones, the writer of this piece writes on several topics, but is currently involved with the best RFID printer. If you would like to know more, please go to our website at Active RFID Management.

categories: rfid,radio,products,food,stock,animals,pets,technology,equipment,computer,gps,hardware,software,other

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Jones, Owen "A Brief History Of RFID." A Brief History Of RFID. 17 Aug. 2010. 12 Sep 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Jones, O (2010, August 17). A Brief History Of RFID. Retrieved September 12, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Jones, Owen "A Brief History Of RFID"

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