Passive and Active RFID tags are different technologies that are often evaluated together.  Both RFID tags use Radio Frequency (RF) energy to communicate between the tag and readers.

Active RFID tags use an internal power source (battery) to continuously power the tag.  Their lifespan is determined by the power of the battery, once the battery fails, so does the tag.  They have very low signal strengths to communicate with the readers. Since they are continuously powered, they can be read within a range of 100 feet.  Active tags have a high data transmission rate, allowing thousands of tags to be read in at once within their read-range.  They also have low orientation sensitivity, allowing the reader to pick up multiple orientations during its read-time.  Active RFID tags are cost-heavy, often starting at $10/tag.  Typically active RFID tags can be found in place like consumer goods, vehicles, postal items, and retail pallets.

Passive RFID tags do not contain an internal power source, but rather are powered by a reader. This gives passive tags an unlimited lifespan.  They require high signal strength from the reader to respond.  Their read range is low, up to 20 feet. A few hundred can be read within their range. These tags have high orientation sensitivity, meaning it’s more difficult to read them in certain positions. Passive RFID tags are cost-effect, typically ranging from $0.15-$5.00/tag.  You would find passive tags in places such as healthcare, books, animal chips, and travel documents (passports). See how RFID tags can improve your data center audits!