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Glossary Transponder introduction (LC)

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Glossary - Transponder

As experts in security and identification technology, EBV can help you to recognise the most common terms and abbreviations in the areas of RFID, Reader, Transponder and standardisation bodies:

Card operating system


The software program stored in the smart card IC, which manages the basic functions of the card, such as communication with the terminal, security management and data management in the smart card file system.




In data communication terms, the smallest duration of a pseudo-random code sequence used in spread spectrum communication systems.


Chipless RFID tag


An RFID tag that doesn't depend on a silicon microchip. Some chipless tags use plastic or conductive polymers instead of silicon-based microchips. Other chipless tags use materials that reflect back a portion of the radio waves beamed at them. A computer takes a snapshot of the waves beamed back and uses it like a fingerprint to identify the object with the tag. Companies are experimenting with embedding RF reflecting fibers in paper to prevent unauthorized photocopying of certain documents. Chipless tags that use embedded fibers have one drawback for supply chain uses—only one tag can be read at a time.




The process of moving from one chip to another in a spread spectrum transmission process, each chip being representative of a different spectral component or tone in the spread spectrum band.


Code Plate


An alternative colloquial term for transponder or tag.


Commissioning a tag


This term is sometime used to refer to the process of writing a serial number to a tag (or programming a tag) and associating that number with the product it is put on in a database.




A material, such as aluminum and copper, which readily conducts electricity. Conductors have a significant impact on the performance of RFID tags. Conductors near tags can reflect RF energy in a way that reduces tag performance, and they can also detune the tag.


Contactless smart card


An awkward name for a credit card or loyalty card that contains an RFID chip to transmit information to a reader without having to be swiped through a reader. Such cards can speed checkout, providing consumers with more convenience.


Data carrier


A medium that holds machine-readable data. Bar codes and RFID tags are types of data carriers. The term is also applied to a carrier frequency used to transmit data.


Data retention


The ability of a microchip to maintain the information stored in EEPROM. RFID tags and other microchips can typically retain data for 10 years or more, but data retention depends on temperature, humidity and other factors.


Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memor


A method of storing data on microchips. Usually bytes can be erased and reprogrammed individually. RFID tags that use EEPROM are more expensive than factory programmed tags, where the number is written into the silicon when the chip is made, but they offer more flexibility because the end user can write an ID number to the tag at the time the tag is going to be used.


Electronic article surveillance


Simple electronic tags that can be turned on or off. When an item is purchased (or borrowed from a library), the tag is turned off. When someone passes a gate area holding an item with a tag that hasn't been turned off, an alarm sounds. EAS tags are embedded in the packaging of most pharmaceuticals. They can be RF-based, or acousto-magnetic.


Electronic Label


An alternative colloquial term for a transponder.


Electronic pedigree


A secure file that stores data about each move a product makes through the supply chain. Pedigrees can help to reduce counterfeiting of drugs and other products.


Electronic Product Code


A serial, created by the Auto-ID Center, which will complement barcodes. The EPC has digits to identify the manufacturer, product category and the individual item.


Electronic Seal


A method of sealing a digital document in a manner similar to that used for electronic signatures. Electronic seals enable computers to authenticate that documents or electronic messages have not been altered, providing a level of security in digital communications.


Factory Programming


The entering of data into a transponder as part of the manufacturing process, resulting in a read-only tag.




This is generally considered to be from 3 MHz to 30 MHz. HF RFID tags typically operate at 13.56 MHz. They can be read from less than 3 feet away and transmit data faster than low-frequency tags. But they consume more power than low-frequency tags.


Hybrid card


A smart card that has both a contactless IC and a contact IC. Unlike a dual interface card, a hybrid card acts as two separate cards.




A term used to describe the tagging of individual products, as opposed to case-level and pallet-level tagging.


Label applicator


A device that applies labels to cases or other items. Some label applicators can print bar codes on and encode RFID transponders in labels before applying the labels.


License plate


This term generally applies to a simple RFID that has only a serial number that is associated with information in a database. The Auto-ID Center promoted the concept as a way to simplify the tag and reduce the cost.




From 30 kHz to 300 kHz. Low-frequency tags typical operate at 125 kHz or 134 kHz. The main disadvantages of low-frequency tags are they have to be read from within three feet and the rate of data transfer is slow. But they are less subject to interference than UHF tags.


Manufacturers Tag ID (MfrTagID)


A reference number which uniquely identifies the tag.




A means of storing data in electronic form. A variety of random access (RAM), read-only (ROM), Write Once-Read Many (WORM) and read/write (RW) memory devices can be distinguished. In RFID terms, it’s the amount of data that can be stored on the microchip in an RFID tag. It can range from 64 bits to 2 kilobytes or more on passive tags.


Memory block


Memory on the microchip in an RFID tag is usually divided into sections, which can be read or written to individually. Some blocks might be locked, so data can't be overwritten, while others are not.


Microwave tags


A term that is sometimes used to refer to RFID tags that operate at 5.8 GHz. They have very high transfer rates and can be read from as far as 30 feet away, but they use a lot of power and are expensive. (Some people refer to any tag that operates above about 415 MHz as a microwave tag.)


Passive Transponder (Tag)


A battery-free data carrying device that reacts to a specific, reader produced, inductively coupled or radiated electromagnetic field, by delivering a data modulated radio frequency response. Having no internal power source, passive transponders derive the power they require to respond from the reader/interrogator's electromagnetic field.


Radio Frequency Tag


Alternative term for a transponder.


RF Tag


Alternative, short hand term for a transponder.


SAW (Surface Acoustic Wave) devices


Devices using a transponder technology in which low power microwave signals are converted to ultrasonic waves by and on the surface of a piezoelectric crystal material forming the tag. Surface applied ‘finger’ transducers determine the form and data content of the reflected return signal.


SRD (Short range Device)


A tag that is used at short range (less than 100mm)


Unitised active tag


An active tag or transponder in which the batteries are replaceable or sealed within the device.