This is related to a recent, off-topic post I had linked here. I'm trying to make this post more for advice on my project, since I'm new to electronics and RFID and not entirely sure what I'm looking for. But anyway, here goes.

I'm very new (one day) to the electronics/IoT world. I've got a specific project I want to tackle, as a intro, but I'm also open to general advice on getting started. In summary, I want to know if my project expectations are realistic, and/or if there's well-known ways to do what I want. In fact, if there's already an out-of-the box solution for my project I'd be highly interested in that for comparison purposes.

Please, give answers at a level commensurate with my background below. Also, I'd be grateful to learn the standard jargon relating to my problem. Thank you!


I've got a decent education in mathematics (more on the computational side). I'm a decent programmer, albeit more of a coder, and I've done projects in several programming languages at this point (was never the lead developer). Those languages were all high-level languages, the lowest being C++. I essentially have no assembly language experience.

Lastly, I was a mechanic at a power plant at one point in my life so I'm pretty good with hands on stuff. I've never had serious experience in electronics, although I've had some very minor, undergrad level theory of circuit board logic, as part of an intro to computer architecture class.

Project and Goal

I want a system that can recognize and count that a few different product types (up to 4 or 5) are within about 3 ft of my reading device. For example, consider that I have a warehouse full of canned cola, beer, water, and lemonade. If a warehouse worker places 2 colas, 1 beer, and 1 water near my reading device then I would like to detect the number of each product within a few seconds. The product could be anything you'd find at a store though, soda cans is just what popped in my head. For my project, you can safely assume that I only have the 4 or 5 product types that are static—my warehouse has extremely limited variety.


Here are some requirements I'd like to hit, but which aren't set in stone—and if they don't make sense please explain why. And overall, I'm looking for simplicity.

  • Time: the products do not have to be immediately read, but must be read/identified within about 5-10 seconds.

  • Range: accurate and reliable reading from about 3 ft (90 cm). By reliable I mean that the products are basically guaranteed to be recognized or identified.

  • Size: I don't have very specific size requirements, I just want to get a working system, but of course I'd like to keep everything on the small side. In my head, the products could be tagged with something as big as this RFID card. And the reading device size could be something like this one. (yes, I realize that range shorter than my requirement).

  • Directional: This might be related to my "other" requirement, but I was curious if there's something that can make an RFID reader directional. I'm thinking about how radiation readings can be focused just by surrounding the scanner sides with lead.

  • Data Transmission: it would be cool if I could make the overall system battery powered, in other words wireless, but that's a want more than a requirement. This would be done most efficiently, I think with Bluetooth tech, no?

  • Cost: since this is a self-project I'm not worried about being cheap, but in the same vein I'm not rich.

  • Other: detection of products can be had with material, such as metal or water, in between reader and tags. Maybe up to a couple inches of such material.


After a short period of googling, it seems like RFID tech will do the trick for me (that's what lead me to electronics stack). I'm not 100% sure what the type of RFID system I'm looking for. At first I thought I wanted passive tags, but after reading more I've become concerned with their reliability, so I am not opposed to active tags.


What's also going to be important to me, is to ultimately be able to access the data from the identification process in a well-documented programming language, so that I could build an app with it or crunch data and stuff like that. So any direction here would be greatly appreciated.


closed as too broad by Chris Stratton, Harry Svensson, RoyC, Oleg Mazurov, Finbarr Aug 21 at 13:49

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of Which RFID is right for me: range ~0.75m . You already asked this, and it was properly closed, not because of how it was stated, but because questions seeking a recommendation of what to buy are categorically off-topic here. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Aug 19 at 4:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ You're searching for the holy trail of RFID - the trolley scanner that reliably reads a whole shopping cart. Long range UHF RFID by its nature is not completely reliable. Think of it as merely a long range UHF bar code. Sometimes one product obscures another, or the code is on the wrong side. At RF the problems have different causes but effects are similar. What success rate would you accept? You have to have a backup way of counting items, to be sure you got all of them. The cashier at a store listens for the beep for each item scanned. Same when you tap your access card or credit card. \$\endgroup\$ – tomnexus Aug 19 at 5:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisStratton I'm not seeing your point. Here I'm not asking for what to buy. \$\endgroup\$ – Zduff Aug 19 at 13:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ On the contrary you are still are, only with less clarity \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Aug 19 at 13:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisStratton No, I'm not. I state clearly: "I've got a specific project I want to tackle, as a intro, but I'm also open to general advice on getting started. In summary, I want to know if my project expectations are realistic, and/or if there's well-known ways to do what I want. " The sentence about the out-of-the-box solution is tertiary. If you distill the language of my post to mainly be a request for what to buy, I find that odd. \$\endgroup\$ – Zduff Aug 19 at 17:02