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RAIN RFID FAQ: The Truth About Security, Tracking, and More

How does RAIN RFID work? How secure are RAIN RFID systems? We take a deep dive into frequently asked questions and dispel some myths about RAIN RFID.

Like many people, I find my way around the world as a blue dot on a map on my phone and tap to pay for my morning coffee. There are a range of commonly used wireless communication and location technologies that have set expectations and raised concerns around electronic tracking and privacy. RAIN RFID is another type of wireless technology that works differently from maps or payments on mobile phones. In this article, we’re debunking misconceptions about RAIN RFID, clearing up privacy issues around its use, and answering some common questions about how it works.  

What is RAIN RFID? 

RAIN RFID refers to a type of RFID technology that operates on the ultra-high frequency (UHF) band. It is a passive, battery-free IoT technology that can identify up to 1,000 items per second within a range of a few centimeters up to 10 meters — all without requiring a direct line of sight. RAIN RFID is used today to enhance customer experiences, improve healthcare systems, optimize supply chains, and change how businesses manage assets and track inventory in all kinds of environments across myriad industries.  

RAIN RFID connects billions of everyday items — from socks to strawberries to shipping pallets — to the internet. It allows businesses and consumers to discover, engage, and protect connected items, and provides access to real-time data and historical insight about those items. By providing connectivity to, and real-time information about, everyday items such as apparel, medical supplies, automobile parts, food, and even golf balls, RAIN RFID truly enables the Internet of Things

How does RAIN RFID work? 

RAIN RFID works by using radio waves to identify and track items wirelessly and without batteries. A RAIN RFID tag – which is made up of a tiny RAIN RFID tag chip and an antenna – is attached to a product, component, or other item. (An example of this is a hangtag attached to a pair of jeans at a clothing store). Each tag chip is pre-programmed with a unique tracking identifier that RAIN RFID readers can pick up. These readers transmit radio waves, powering the tags and collecting identifying data. Software connects data from RAIN RFID systems to applications, providing people with information -- such as location and quantity -- about individual or groups of tagged items.   

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Do RAIN RFID tags use my personal information?  

RAIN RFID tags do not gather or provide access to anyone’s personal information. RAIN RFID tags use what’s called an Electronic Product Code (EPC). This is a string of numbers that essentially serves as a digital fingerprint for each tagged item — not the person who buys it. The tag’s EPC can be linked to a database containing more detailed and relevant information about the item, such as item size, color, or batch number. Depending on the tag’s capabilities and use case, it may also include additional item-specific data such as the date of manufacture or expiration date. 

RAIN RFID readers read all this information and provide all the context needed for various applications. For instance, RAIN RFID helps retailers keep accurate track of inventory in a particular store, which enables them to set timelines for restocking, update their online stores, and more. The ability to hold and process specific data makes RAIN RFID an invaluable tool for real-time inventory management, product authentication, and tracking and tracing items like food products. 

How secure is RAIN RFID? 

For someone to be able to detect your RAIN RFID-tagged item after you have left a store, they would have to have access to a RAIN RFID reader and use it to read your item – which is unlikely. Even if the tag could be read by a malicious person with a RAIN RFID reader, what they’d see is the tag’s EPC number – and it's not likely that information would be all that useful.  

Still, there are several ways to prevent unauthorized readers from reading a tagged item. One method is to deactivate, or “kill” a tag so that tag can no longer be read by any RAIN RFID reader. Another, often better, method is to control when and where tagged items are read. Impinj Protected Mode is a secure, flexible, easily reversible, and high-speed method to make tag data invisible to unauthorized RAIN RFID readers. It requires readers to transmit a secure passcode before a tag responds. Impinj Protected Mode is used in retail point-of-sales applications or in applications where security is a concern.

Is RAIN RFID used in cell phones? 

Today, many mobile phones use a type of RFID called near-field communications, or NFC. RAIN and NFC are based on similar technology, but they differ in their capabilities and use cases.  

RAIN RFID operates in the ultra-high frequency (UHF) radio band and enables long-range (up to 10 meters) and bulk (up to 1,000 items per second) identification and tracking. NFC operates in the high-frequency (HF) radio band, and has a significantly shorter read range, typically within a few centimeters. You are using NFC if you tap your phone to make a payment, enter a concert or movie, or scan an item’s NFC tag to learn more about it.  

What are the applications and benefits of RAIN RFID?  

The versatility, security, and ease of use that RAIN RFID offers have led to its widespread adoption across various industries. RAIN RFID enables end-to-end, real-time visibility of items throughout a supply chain, from manufacturing to distribution to retail. It is also used for item-level inventory tracking, reducing manual errors, preventing theft, and optimizing stock levels. Other applications include asset tracking in industries like healthcare, manufacturing, and agriculture.   

With real-time tracking and monitoring, businesses are seeing increased efficiency because of quick and accurate data collection and processing and enhanced visibility into inventory and assets. This operational efficiency, led by streamlined processes, minimized errors, and reduced losses, leads to considerable cost savings. RAIN RFID benefits retail customers by enabling automated self-checkout for hassle-free checkout and seamless returns and enables omnichannel fulfillment so customers can know exactly what items are available whether they’re purchasing online or in-store. RAIN RFID keeps patients safe in hospitals and doctors’ offices by ensuring staff have the supplies they need, when they need them, for patient care. And when RAIN RFID is used to track and manage medications, the risk of expired or out-of-stock medications is greatly reduced. 

As we build a world where connectivity matters more than ever, RAIN RFID will continue revolutionizing the way businesses operate. It ensures robust safety and security throughout the supply chain, especially for consumers – bridging the gap between the physical and the digital and making life more convenient and secure for all.  

For more information about the Impinj platform, Impinj products, and the Impinj partner ecosystem, you can reach out to Impinj, view our informational resources, or subscribe to the Impinj blog.  

Article tagged as:

Airlines & Airports Asset Management Authentication Automated Checkout Baggage Tracking Blog Brand Protection Food & Beverage Healthcare Impinj Readers Retail Supply Chain & Logistics Impinj Tag Chips Partner Fixed Readers

Monday, June 3, 2024



Gaylene Meyer

Impinj Vice President of Global Marketing and Communications

Gaylene Meyer leads a team focused on delivering world-class marketing and communications that engage partners and customers worldwide.