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What is an RFID Tag Microchip?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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The term “RFID tag microchip” can refer generally to any sort of radiofrequency identification (RFID) device, since all are based on microchips, or specifically to an implantable RFID tag microchip. There are a wide range of uses for such devices, and new uses are constantly being developed by manufacturers who want to expand their market, as well as people who have thought of new applications for RFID technology. Many hardware or electronics stores sell RFID tag microchips and associated readers, and many products are packaged with such microchips embedded.

RFID involves an integrated circuit, also known as a microchip, attached to an antenna. The circuit can store a limited amount of data and process signals sent to and from the antenna. Depending on the design, an RFID device may be passive, only responding when it is activated by another device, or it may be active, consistently transmitting to anything which can pick up the signal. RFID is used to tag things with unique identities.

An RFID tag microchip can be used for things like tracking store inventory, keeping track of equipment in a large and busy facility, creating automatic payment passes to allow people to go through tolls, and so forth. A small burst of data which can be secured or unsecured is held on the RFID tag microchip and accessed by something which can read it, such as a wand used to scan devices into inventory, or a paygate at a toll booth.

In the case of an implantable RFID tag microchip, the device is intended to be used as a medical implant. The most widespread use of RFID implants is in animals, where implants are used to keep track of herds, tag pets so that they can be recovered if they are lost or stolen, and for the purpose of uniquely identifying laboratory animals. In this case, the RFID tag microchip is encased in nonreactive material and packaged to be small enough that it can be inserted with an injection.

One issue with the RFID tag microchip technology used in animals is that it is not consistent. This is an especially large problem with pets, as a pet microchipped with one technology scanned with another technology may come up as unchipped on the scanner's display. As a result, the pet may not be recoverable unless it also has other identification, or its owners have been diligent about getting a notification with a clear description out to animal control and local veterinarians.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Charred — On Jan 13, 2012

@SkyWhisperer - I am not worried about that. There are enough people willing to cry foul if something like that were to happen.

I am more excited about the commercial aspects of RFID technology however. I once read that marketers are exploiting this technology as a way to provide a lot of information to consumers about products.

Imagine a product with an RFID tag antenna on it. Pick up the product and your smart phone can download information from the RFID tag, which will give you as much information as you need and even produce coupon discounts and other incentives. It’s a marketer’s dream in my opinion.

By SkyWhisperer — On Jan 13, 2012

@everetra - RFID technology is great for cars and it may even have some utility in manufacturing and in pet implants, as the article suggests.

However, that’s as far as I'm willing to go with the technology. Human applications cross the line in my opinion. I am very concerned about the possible ethical implications of implanting humans with these chips.

It may not portend the dreaded “mark of the beast,” but it would certainly be an invasion of privacy. As with all such violations of privacy it is masked with good intentions.

People talk about putting your medical data in the chip and this would help doctors understand everything that’s wrong with you. However, there is a slippery slope. Soon, your medical information can be scanned and uploaded to databases everywhere. Where will it end?

By everetra — On Jan 12, 2012

I think that the RFID tag chip technology is amazing. We drive a lot on the highway and when we do we use something called a “pike pass.” It’s basically a pass mounted onto our car that gets deducted the toll money once we pass the scanner.

It’s amazing that this thing works so well, considering we can be driving pass the scanner at around 60 or 70 miles per hour. However all it takes is a simple burst of radio transmission and the deduction is completed.

Every month I can fill up my pike pass with more money as I need to. That way I never have to worry about long waits at the toll booth.

By golf07 — On Jan 12, 2012

The quickest and least stressful way for me to get to work every day is taking a toll road. This is worth the time I save and the stress free drive.

Every time I take a different route, I find myself very frustrated by the time I get to work.

They use RFID tag chip technology for those regular drivers who use this highway every day. This was not always the case, and having this system really makes a difference.

I love knowing that I don't have to stop at every toll booth and pay a fee. My bill comes in the mail every month, and even though it seems like a lot of money to pay every month, I still prefer using this method.

By honeybees — On Jan 11, 2012

@Mykol - Even if you have a microchip placed in your pet, I would also have another form of identification on them.

I always make sure my dogs have more than one form of identification on their collar. Maybe I am paranoid, but after losing a dog once, I don't ever want to go through that experience again.

Each of my dogs have a collar with a brass nameplate on it. Our name, address and phone number is inscribed on the brass plate.

I also have a dog tag attached to their collar with the same information, along with the tag from the vet showing they are current on their rabies shots.

Another side benefit of this is the tags jingle so I always know where they are.

I think microchips are a great idea, especially if your collar somehow gets lost or off your dog. I would just use an RFID tag tracking device along with other forms to link your pet with your address and phone number.

By Mykol — On Jan 10, 2012

I had never read about RFID tagging inconsistency in microchips for pets. I had a microchip placed in my dog because we live in the country, and she does not have to be tied up outside.

My vet placed the microchip, and I felt confident if she got lost or ran away, I would be able to locate her with the microchip.

I also had her number registered with the American Kennel Club so she would be on a national list as well.

Even with these precautions, it sounds like you should not totally rely on this form of identification to recover your pet if they get lost.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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