Which RFID Readers Go with Which Tags?

Decoding the Different Types of RFID

There are many different ISO standards, protocols, and physical differences between various RFID tag types.  Choosing compatible readers and tags can be tricky, especially for an RFID novice. For the purposes of this explanation, we’ll only focus on passive RFID, specifically, Low-Frequency (LF), High-Frequency (HF), Near Field Communication (NFC), and NFC Data Exchange Format (NDEF). For a little bit of background, here are some examples of how each type of RFID tag is used.

Passive RFID examples:
♦  Employee and / or Student Access control cards (LF or HF)
♦  Nametags / Badges / Wristbands / Tickets for conferences or events (NFC)
♦  Animal tagging (LF)
♦  Marketing posters that pull up a specific website when the tag is scanned (NDEF)

RFID Tag Technology

Within passive RFID, there are three main tag / reader technologies on the market today, named after their respective frequency bands: low-frequency (LF, 125 kHz or 134 kHz), high-frequency (HF, 13.56 MHz), and ultra-high-frequency (UHF, 860-960 MHz). In most instances, each type of passive RFID tag (LF, HF, or UHF) can only be read by the SAME type of passive RFID reader.  For instance, usually an LF reader will only be able to read an LF tag; it will not able to read an HF or a UHF tag.  However the idChamp® NF4 Reader-Writer, idChamp® RS4 Reader-Writer, and idChamp® RS3 Reader provide a unique solution through the innovation of the dual-antenna and allow users to read BOTH HF and LF tags.


  idChamp® NF4 & RS4  idChamp® RS3  idChamp®
Android Built-In iPhone Built-In
RFID Employee PROX Badges X X X
RFID Access Security Keys for Apts X X X
RFID Ticket Badge & Wristband Kiosk ~ ~
Cross-Platform Support: iOS, Android, Windows X X
Read High-Security Access Badges & Tags e.g. iClass,SEOS X X X
Bluetooth Smart HID® Mobile Access  X X X X
Load Security Certificate Keys X X ~ X
Write Data NDEF Data to RFID Tags X ~ X
Write Raw Data to RFID Tags X ~ X
4" Read Range ICODE CR80 X X X X
USB+BLE or USB only X X X X


RFID Standards

Further, within each passive RFID frequency band, there are a handful of ISO standards that need to be followed in order to facilitate reader to tag communication.  Here are the major standards for each passive RFID frequency band:

Low Frequency:
♦  ISO 14223
♦  ISO/IEC 18000-2

High Frequency:
♦  ISO 15693
♦  ISO/IEC 14443 A
♦  ISO/IEC 14443 B
♦  ISO/IEC 18092

What About NFC and NDEF?

Actually, NFC is HF RFID.

Near-Field Communication was developed by Sony and Philips Electronics in 2002, to enable communication between home electronics, cell phones and other devices at close-range. NFC operates at 13.56 MHz, and uses the HF RFID protocols, including ISO 14443 A and ISO 14443 B.

One big difference between NFC and conventional HF RFID is that an NFC reader can emulate an RFID tag, so if you have an NFC phone, you could wave it by a point-of-sale terminal to pay for goods, for instance. Whether NFC is better than a conventional HF system really depends on the particular application.1

NDEF, or NFC Data Exchange Format, tags are considered “smart NFC tags” due to their ability to perform specific functions based on how they are encoded.  These functions can range from making a phone call, sending an email message, sending a text message, or pulling up a specific URL or webpage.  While their applications or use is somewhat narrow, with the most common being Marketing Posters or Marketing Materials, NDEF tags usually are able to bypass the need for custom software in order to perform these specific tasks.  To learn about how NDEF works on iPhone 7, 8 and X - read our article "iOS Core NFC Supports Reading NDEF Data on 3rd Party Apps".

Not sure where to start when selecting an RFID Reader or Tags?  Contact Solutions Specialist today!