10 Key Differences: Active RFID vs Passive RFID

There are two kinds of RFID systems that exist- passive and active. If you’re new to RFID, you might be wondering what the difference is between these types, and which one is best for your application. Below, we provide a short answer to these questions. 

Passive RFID systems use tags with no internal power source and instead are powered by the electromagnetic energy transmitted from an RFID reader. Passive RFID tags are used for applications such as access control, file tracking, race timing, supply chain management, smart labels, and more. The lower price point per tag makes employing passive RFID systems economical for many industries.


Active RFID systems use battery-powered RFID tags that continuously broadcast their own signal. Active RFID tags are commonly used as “beacons” to accurately track the real-time location of assets or in high-speed environments such as tolling. Active tags provide a much longer read range than passive tags, but they are also much more expensive.

active rfid tag

The main differences between active RFID and passive RFID will be described in the following 10 aspects.

Active RFID
Passive RFID


433MHz and 2.45GHz


Read Range

150 meters

15 meters


Typically $20 to $50

Less than $1 per tag

Tag Size

Smaller than a smartphone

Smaller than a business card

Asset Size

Medium to very large

Very small to very large


Oil, Gas, Construction, Mining

Healthcare, manufacturing, Retail


Outdoor applications

Indoor/Outdoor applications

Attachment Method

Screws, Rivets, Zip Ties, Welding

Adhesives, Epoxy, Zip tie, Welding, Hanging


Internal battery

Powered by RF Waves

Pain Point

Batteries last 3~5 years and typically can’t be changed

Less effective around water and metal


The choice of active or passive RFID for project applications needs to be evaluated in the context of the results to be achieved and the cost budget.

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