What is the Difference Between Proximity ID & RFID?

Radio frequency identification (RFID) and proximity identification (ID) are similar technologies. While RFID is used mainly in the shipping industry, proximity ID is primarily a security solution. Radio waves are the key component of both technologies.

Crane lifter handling container box
RFID is used mainly in the shipping industry.
credit: anek_s/iStock/Getty Images


RFID is the term that is used for various technologies that make use of radio waves to identify objects or people. RFID works by storing a serial number in the device that identifies an item or person. This information is embedded on a microchip that is attached to an antenna. This is called a RFID tag. RFID is mainly used for tracking packages and containers in the shipping industry. It is also used to keep track of inventory in warehouses. The chip transmits the ID information to a reader.

Proximity ID

Proximity ID is more commonly called a proximity card or a contactless ID card. These cards use an embedded antenna to communicate with a remote receiver. Proximity cards are read-only devices and are mainly used as security cards for door access. These cards can hold a limited amount of information. According to Alpha Card, a leading installer of proximity card systems, the effective range of these cards is 2.5 inches to 3.9 inches. The range depends on the type of reader being used. Proximity cards operate at a frequency of 13.56MHZ.

Differences in the Technologies

While these two technologies are similar, there are differences. The read range of a RFID tag can be boosted up to 300 feet if a battery is used. A proximity card can be read from only 2 feet away, at best. They operate at different frequencies. A RFID tag holds more information than a proximity card. The typical uses for these two technologies is the biggest difference.