Passive vs. Active RFID for Events

Alliance Tech announced some big news recently. We have entered into an agreement in which Alliance Tech assumes FISH’s business (and the use of their technology) in the trade show and conference industry. FISH made a strategic decision to focus on experiential events that include business to consumer events, amusement parks, branded events, and other closed environments. Alliance Tech will continue to focus on trade shows, associations and conferences.

What the press release didn’t say was that although Alliance Tech and FISH both offer RFID (radio frequency identification) solutions, they differ in features. Alliance Tech will continue with its passive RFID platform and add FISH’s active RFID capabilities. The combination will be more than any other company is currently providing in the events industry—in B-to-B trade shows, conferences and corporate meetings.

Although passive and active RFID uses tags (to relay information), antennas (to receive the information), and transceivers (to interpret the information), function at greater distances than barcodes, and don’t require a direct line of sight between the tag and the antenna or scanner, there are differences between the two:

Passive

  • Passive tags do not contain batteries—they draw power from the transceiver and transmit the information that is encoded in the tag’s memory.
  • Passive tags are smaller and much less expensive than active tags.
  • Passive tags are equally as accurate as active tags—from 15 to 30 feet.

Active

  • Active tags are considerably more expensive than passive tags ($20-$50 per tag).
  • Active tags can be read at long distances—up to 150 feet.
  • Active tags are larger than passive tags and contain a battery.

In the context of face-to-face events, passive tags are a lower cost, highly effective option for gathering behavioral data and attendee metrics inside a booth or a conference room. Active tags can be thought of as being more like a GPS—able to pinpoint the location of individuals at long distances. They are more suitable for experiential events of up to 1,000 people. Although passive tags are equally as accurate as active tags, the latter are more expensive and must be returned at end of the event. These technologies are a powerful measurement platform for event organizers, exhibitors and corporate planners.