Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) on Cisco Catalyst 9000

White paper
Cisco public
Radio Frequency
Identification (RFID) on
Cisco Catalyst 9000
Family Switches
RFID is an automatic identification technology that uses radio waves to capture data from tags,
rather than optically scanning the bar codes on a label. One of the primary benefits of an RFID
system is that the tag does not need to be in the line of sight for the reader to read its stored data,
and multiple tags can be read simultaneously.
Common areas of RFID usage are:
• Inventory and asset management
• Tracking of products
• Access control
RFID technology can be used in different frequency ranges depending on the distance, type of
tags, and type of usage (Table 1). With Low-Frequency (LF) RFID, the signal will travel only a few
centimeters, but the cost of ownership is lower. With High-Frequency (HF) RFID, the signal can
travel up to 1 meter but the cost will be higher than for LF. Among the frequency types, passive
UHF has gained popularity because of its low cost, good read range, and adopted standards.
© 2017 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
White paper
Cisco public
Table 1. RFID frequency ranges
Sample application
125 kHz
Few cm
Auto immobilizer
13.56 MHz
0.4 m
Building access
RFID tag
860 to 960 MHz
1 to 4 m
Supply chain
RFID reader and data
processing station
2.4 GHz
> 10 m
Traffic toll
RFID on Cisco Catalyst 9000
Family Switches
Type of RFID tag
EPC partition
TID partition
User memory partition
The basic architecture of an RFID system includes three main
components (Figure 1):
1.RFID tag
2.RFID reader
3.Data processing station.
Figure 1. How an RFID system works
How end users access
tag data
RFID tag
The RFID tag is the entity that is affixed to the asset. RFID tags come in three
different types: passive, active, and semiactive. Each type has a different
power source, with corresponding differences in ranges, life spans, and
costs (Table 1).
Table 2. RFID tag types
© 2017 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
Powered by an
RFID reader (no
internal battery)
Onboard transmitter
and has power source
Onboard battery
power source but no
onboard transmitter
Least expensive
but short range
(1 to 4 m)
Higher cost but
greater range
(100 m or more)
Greater range (up to 50 m)
than pure passive Higher
cost than passive but
less than active
Small, light, up to
50 years
Dependent on
battery life
Finite life
White paper
Cisco public
RFID tags can also be delivered with the following data-handling capabilities:
• Read only: Data is written into the tag at the time of production and cannot be changed thereafter.
• User programmable: Data can be written multiple times with or without access control after the production cycle.
• Read/write: Data can be read from or written to the tag when the tag is in range of a reader/writer. The amount of
memory available to write the data can vary depending on the type of tag.
RFID reader and data processing station
A reader is basically a radio frequency transmitter and receiver, controlled by a microprocessor. The reader captures
data from RFID tags and then passes the data to a computer for processing.
Like tags, readers come in a wide range of sizes and offer different features. Readers can be affixed in a stationary
position, can be portable, and can even be embedded in electronic equipment such as a small chip on a circuit board
or handheld device (Figure 2).
Figure 2.RFID readers
RFID on Cisco Catalyst 9000 family switches
The Cisco® Catalyst® 9000 family of switches is the next generation of enterprise-class switches, built for security,
Internet of Things (IoT), mobility, and cloud. The Cisco Catalyst 9000 family is based on an x86 CPU and Cisco
Unified Access™ Data Plane (UADP) Version 2.0, which support full programmability and serviceability as well as
convergence between wired and wireless over a single platform. The switches provide superior high availability and
unmatched security features for the next generation of enterprise network designs.
Cisco is adding RFID technology to the many features and capabilities of the Cisco Catalyst 9000 family, with frontfacing passive UHF RFID technology that provides the latest auto-ID capabilities for asset management, location, and
tracking (Figure 3).
© 2017 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
White paper
Cisco public
Figure 3.RFID-enabled Cisco Catalyst 9000 family switches
Type of RFID tag
The passive RFID tags on the Cisco Catalyst 9000 family are compatible with the Generation 2 GS1 EPC Global
Standard (as well as being ISO 18000-6C compliant) and operate in the 860- to 960-MHz UHF band.
Each RFID tag on the Cisco Catalyst 9000 family switches has an Alien Higgs 3 memory chip (or equivalent) that has
three portions:
1.Electronic Physical Code (EPC): 208 bits
2.Tag ID (TID): 96 bits
3.User memory partition: 384 bits
Cisco has chosen the Alien Higgs 3 for the extra EPC memory capacity available to encode in EPC Serialized Global
Trade Item Number (SGTIN)-198 format.
The Cisco Catalyst 9300 and 9500 Series, which are one-rack-unit (1RU) switches, have one built-in RFID tag in the
front panel of the switch. The modular Cisco Catalyst 9400 Series chassis features built-in RFID on several system
components: the supervisor, line card, power supply, and fan tray. The RFID tag on the Cisco Catalyst 9400 Series line
card is embedded in the ejector arm handle (Figure 4).
Figure 4.RFID tags
© 2017 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
White paper
Cisco public
EPC partition
The EPC is used as a universal identifier for physical objects and uses a specific encoding format that includes serial
number, vendor ID (company prefix), and reference number (item number of product) (Table 4).
Table 4. EPC partition format
SGTIN-198 EPC partition
(access locked), 208 bits
(bit count)
GS1 company prefix
Indicator/ item
36 (hex)
0 to 7
7-bit encoded
Access to the EPC partition is locked; users cannot access it. Cisco preencodes the tag’s EPC memory with the data
listed in Table 5 per global SGTIN-198 format.
Table 5. Cisco EPC memory SGTIN-198 (208 bits)
EPC SGTIN-198 header
36 (hex)
0 to 7
EPC global assigned Global Company Prefix (GCP)
0746320 (alternate GCP: 0764494 and 0882658)
Item reference
Serial number
Cisco alphanumeric serial number in the
format AAA######AA
EPC SGTIN-198 header = 36
Filter = 3
Partition = 5
GCP = 0746320
Item reference = NA
Serial = FOC12345ABC
© 2017 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
White paper
Cisco public
TID partition
The TID is a unique 96-bit field that is programmed before the tag is placed on the product, and TID information is
permanently locked. The TID has specific product information from manufacturing, such as IC manufacturer, chip
version, and factory-programmed unique ID.
User memory partition
The user memory partition has the Cisco product ID, version ID, and other user information. This partition is unlocked
by default and can be replaced or augmented with custom information by the customer. User memory can be locked
using a custom password (Table 6).
Table 6. User memory partition format
User memory partition (access unlocked)
384 bits
Cisco encoding data (7-bit encoding)
Cisco PID (i.e., C9500-24Q), Cisco VID (i.e., A01),
custom user information
How end users access tag data
Tag contents are accessed by using EPC Global Class 1, Generation 2, ISO 18000-6C-compliant fixed or mobile
readers. Any RFID system that supports EPC Generation 2 is able to access data from Cisco Catalyst 9000 family
RFID-enabled products for asset tracking and asset management.
End users are also able to access a tag’s data by using Telnet, a web browser, serial communications to the reader,
and third-party middleware applications.
RFID technology can increase the efficiency of processes and reduce costs by providing improved visibility, less
monitoring, less human intervention for asset management with fewer errors, and higher reliability. The Cisco Catalyst
9000 family chassis and line cards are some of the latest Cisco products to launch with front-facing passive UHF RFID
technology, providing the most current auto-ID capabilities for asset management.
© 2017 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Cisco and the Cisco logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Cisco and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and other countries. To view a list of
Cisco trademarks, go to this URL: Third-party trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners. The use of the word partner does not imply
a partnership relationship between Cisco and any other company. (1110R) C11-739703-00 11/17