I am planning on conducting an insect-tracking experiment in the field. We are going to have square enclosures (15m x 15m), where our insects can move around freely, but will not leave the enclosure. We want to track each individual (around 50 individuals per enclosure) throughout the summer season. I was considering PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tags glued on individuals, as it has been previously successfully applied to small size insects; however the reading range is way too short for our experiment (0.5 meters). I understand (hopefully correctly) that the same problem applies to passive RFID systems: impressively small tags, but range of readers too weak.

What would be your suggestion to achieve this reading range (15m x 15m), without making any sacrifice from the small-size of the tags?

For my experiment, the optimum size of tags would be smaller than 1 cm.

I apologize in advance for my lack of electrical engineering knowledge - it would have been a more informative question if I knew exactly what I'm dealing with and used the right jargon.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Place receptors every 0.5 meters. Small bar codes have been used on Bee's, but that was at the hive entrance only. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 15:14

1 Answer 1


There is no easy way this can be achieved with RFID. RTLS (Real Time Location System) is probably the most difficult subject which can be achieved by RFID system (where size of tags is not a factor); you are complicating it even further by inserting size of tags as a constraint. The only thing which seems feasible is cell based location given an expected read range of one antenna, and basically make a chess grid from your enclosure. If the insects can fly, then your problem complicates even further as you need an antenna that covers vertical distance, not only ground surface.

It now comes to mind another aspect: types of tags that can be used. You definitely can't use active or BAP tags. Given the distances the greatest that can be achieved is with UHF tags. The problem is that UHF needs large antenna foot print. Smallest UHF tag with antenna is something like 7 * 7 mm diameter label (TagsysRFID MuTRAK), but will have less ID distance than ordinary UHF. They say up to 10m but you should expect less than that.

It really depends what is considered "sufficient achievement" and how precise you need the results to be.

Another problem which you need to think about is that the insects will permanently be in a dense field. Sure, RFID is not harmful to humans or other animals, but another recommendation you will always hear is "Spend as little time as possible between antennas as stay as far as possible from emitting antennas." But this might be a great idea for a research: "Is the behavior of insects modified by permanent exposure to RFID?"

  • \$\begingroup\$ Your ranges seem to be out by an order of magnitude if mojix.com/products/index.php is to believed. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 13:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Mojix system is not a typical one because it relies on exciters which have a range of 30 ft an 4 integrated antennas (which resemble typical RFID readers). Most UHF EPC Gen2 system have read ranges of 10m (in working conditions) or less. A good spot though, Mojix is an interesting technology that I was not aware of. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 14:51

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