RFID Technology History

How did the RFID technology begin?

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

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

As a sort of first passive RFID system, the Germans noticed that the radar signal reflected back by their aircrafts changed if the pilots rolled the planes while they were approaching. This way they could to know if these planes were friends or enemies.

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

The basis of RFID technology was the combination between radio broadcast 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 in active RFID system.

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

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

RFID explosion

Advances in radio frequency and radar communications continued. During the decade of the 50’s were carried out 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.

In late 60’s, 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 70’s.

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

During 70’s and 80’s, 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 a 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 we will write about it in coming articles.

*Photo by Sebastian Grochowicz on Unsplash.
How did the RFID technology begin?
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