The Difference Between Active and Passive RFID Tags

The primary difference between active and passive tags is that active tags have their own power source (typically an embedded battery) and passive tags rely on the RFID reader's propagation signal to power the tag. From this primary distinction stems a variety of considerations to make when deciding between the two types of tags. This article aims to help aid you in deciding which type of tag — active or passive — is best for your business application by laying out some of the most pivotal factors you should consider.

  Active Tags Passive Tags
Power source  Internal power source (typically a battery) No internal power source (powered by the RFID reader)
Read range  Considerably longer read ranges Shorter read ranges
Cost  More expensive Less expensive

3-5 year lifespan* (must be disposed of and replaced when the battery dies)

*Unless built with a replaceable battery.

Indefinite lifespan, depending on environmental factors (typically 10+ years)
Signal availability  Always on (optional) Responds when powered by the RFID reader
Size Larger and bulkier than passive tags due to the embedded battery Smaller than active tags
Embeddable  Cannot be easily embedded due to size Can be easily embedded