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RFID Tags, a closer look to them and to their configuration



An RFID tag is a WIFI 802.11 device equipped with a transmitter and an antenna. It does not associate to access points so it is not acting like other wireless clients. An RFID tag transmits information on a regular basis. This information can be called beacons. The Nature of the beacons is multicast traffic sent at low rates. Every X amount of seconds the RFID tag sends Y amount of beacons on its configured channels. When completing a cycle across all configured channels, the RFID tag sits on standby and waits for the next round to do the same actions over and over again.


When deploying RFID for asset tracking in WIFI, you may want to consider the following:


1.How many beacons per channel will the RFID Send?



Due to the nature of Multicast traffic, shoot and forget, no ACK, increasing the amount of beacons per channel is a good practice.


Under clean RF environment Access points will receive tag updates and report it to their WLC even if the tag is configured to send one beacon per channel.


However, under challenging RF environment, there is a possibility to miss a tag update on a certain Access Point. Missing a tag update on an important nearby AP can lead into inacurate location. By increasing the beacon amount per channel to two or three instead of one, we will be lowering down the possibility of the tag update not to be heard by the Access Points around it.


You have to take into consideration the Battery life affected by the extra transmission for your RFID tags from the vendor.

2. Which Channels?


In 2.4 GHz deployment, channels 1, 6 and 11 are the non overlapping channels in the spectrum. The recommended channels to be configured on an RFID tag will be 1,6 and 11. Note that in some scenarios, an Access Point will be able to hear RFID tag updates on a channel that is different from the one it is operating on. By design, the Access Point will drop these updates and will not forward them to the WLC.


3. How much time between Iterations?



Configuring the Beaconing interval plays an important role for Location Tracking since it is defining how much time separates every location calculation. For stationary tags you may want to define a beaconing interval of 60 seconds.


Keep in mind that when a tag moves you need more real time information to base the calculation upon. For this enable motion beaconing on the RFID tag for it to beacon every 10 seconds.


4. How much time does an RFID wait between each packet transmission?



Time between each packet transmission can be configured on an RFID tag. Example configuring: 1 packet per channel with 512 msec spacing results in having 1.5 seconds required for an RFID to finish a complete iteration on all three channels.


Further more, there is a factor that could add up additional time for an RFID tag to complete all 3 channels updates. It is called CCA (Clear Channel Assessment). Most of the RFID tags do carrier sensing before transmitting. If the medium is busy they back off for additional time and refrain from transmission. After some time, if the medium is clear they will transmit and move to the next channel. If the medium is still busy then they will not transmit on that channel during that iteration and they will move to the next channel. The maximum amount of time for the back off is not a fixed and may vary from vendor to vendor.

Leo Laohoo
VIP Community Legend

Nice post.  Do you have more documentations about this?

Serge Yasmine
Cisco Employee

Hello and thank you, yes, i'll be putting some online soon.


Hi Serge,

As you have mentioned RFID tag is a 802.11 device.

So when we License in MSE which is for Tags and clients, Are we talking about RFID tag devices.

Can you post a link for any one RFID device from any vendor, just want to see it.

Serge Yasmine
Cisco Employee

Hi, here is an example:


Thank you.

This post is very useful.

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