Smart Card? A Study of ElectroMagnetic Fields Produced by RFID Transmitters (page 2)

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Author: Jeff K.


  • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Transmitters
  • RFID Smart Cards
  • TriField 100XE ElectoMagnetic Field Meter
  • Computer Spreadsheet


Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a ubiquitous form of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. Used in Credit Cards, Passports, ID Cards, and Theft Prevention systems, RFID sensors are able to transmit data through a Power - Transmit - Receive (PTR) process. This process begins with the transmitter, which sends an electromagnetic pulse to the RFID card. Using the electricity in the pulse, the card powers itself and begins the transmission process. The transmission process consists of the transmitter sending a command to the card. The card receives the command and executes the appropriate action. This cycle repeats until all data has been properly transmitted.

While RFID technology has many practical applications, exposure to high levels of ElectroMagnetic Fields (EMFs), such as those found in RFID systems, have been shown to cause numerous biological effects (as described in the discussion section). While the exact point where biological effects begin to occur is unknown, the average is around 3 MG (the most extreme is 1.75 MG; the most conservative is 5 MG). This experiment measured the ElectroMagnetic Fields (as measured in MilliGausses - 10-7 Teslas - by a TriField 100XE meter) produced by these RFID systems at various stages of the transmission process. Using this data, one will be able to properly understand any risks associated with RFID technologies.

The study tested various RFID sensors. These include two separate ScholarChip systems (used as an identification system and attendance tracker throughout the School District of Philadelphia), the Delaware River Port Authority PATCO High-Speed Lineʼs Freedom Fare System, multiple office building sensors (found in the offices above Amtrakʼs 30th Street Station), as well as the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA, or, “The T”) Charlie Card fare system.

Terms and Concepts for Background Research

Near Field Communication - A low-power method of transmitting data at a short range. Radio Frequency Identification - The most common form of Near Field Communication. ElectroMagnetic Field - A magnetic field through which electricity is transmitted.

Research Question

  • What is the strength of the ElectroMagnetic Field produced by RFID transmitters?
  • What are the health effects of exposure to high levels of ElectroMagnetic Fields?
  • What is considered a high level of ElectroMagnetic Fields?


  1. Turn on the TriField 100XE ElectoMagnetic Field Meter and set range to 0-3 milligausses. Place adjacent to RFID transmitter and record the reading.
  2. Scan the RFID card and record the new EMF reading. Should the reading be greater than 3 MG, change the scale to 0-100 MG and repeat. Record the reading.
  3. Record the location of the RFID sensor and the type of RFID card used.
  4. Repeat numerous times for additional accuracy.
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