Alliance Activities : Publications : RF-Enabled Applications and Technology

RF-Enabled Applications and Technology: Comparing and Contrasting RFID and RF-Enabled Smart Cards

Many applications are now using radio frequency (RF) technology to automatically identify objects or verify the identity of people. These RF-enabled applications range from tracking animals and tagging goods for inventory control to enabling secure payment and identification. While these applications all use radio waves to communicate information, the RF technology used for each has different operational parameters, frequencies, read ranges and capabilities to support security and privacy features. For example:


RF-enabled applications have differing requirements in their use of RF technology, with RFID tag and RF-enabled smart card technologies providing very different capabilities. The figure below illustrates the range of security requirements of different RF-enabled applications and technologies.

RF Technology Security Requirements
RF Technology Security Requirements (click for larger view)

Understanding the differences between RFID and RF-enabled smart card technologies is critical in order to correctly assess each technology’s fit with a specific application’s security and privacy requirements. RFID and RF-enabled smart card technologies comply with different standards, have different operating ranges and widely varying ability to support security features needed by RF-enabled applications. The figure below shows key requirements for common RF-enabled applications and the typical RF technology used for the application.

RFID Standards
RFID Standards (click for larger view)

Example applications using RF-enabled contactless smart card technology include:

Smart Card Alliance industry councils provide a variety of resources to assist organizations in evaluating RF technologies and implementing RF-enabled applications.

Smart Card Alliance councils also provide additional reports and resources describing the use of smart card technology for different applications.