RFID sniffer workshop

Mediamatic is organising two RFID Sniffer workshops in Amsterdam on Friday March 27 or on Saturday April 4 2009. At this workshop you can assemble your own RFID Sniffer circuit with designer Marc Boon.


The RFID sniffer is a simple analog electronic circuit which can detect the presence of 13.56 MHz RFID tags. These tags are commonly used in all kinds of plastic cards like access badges, bank cards, library cards, loyalty cards and so on.

RFID is everywhere. Use the easy to build RFID sniffer to find out if objects are tagged. Also many other objects may carry RFID tags without you knowing it. Books, toys, and even clothing might be tagged. Carrying tagged objects with you can reveal your identity or whereabouts to anyone equipped with the appropiate tools to read RFID tags. The RFID sniffer helps you identify which objects are tagged, and which are not.


Looks like a great workshop! And the Sniffers are available to buy from here.

Related things:

  1. RFID & the internet of things Julian Bleecker, Arie Altena and I will be participating at the Mediamatic workshop on RFID & The Internet of Things, 11-13 September in Amsterdam. If RFID becomes an open web-based platform, and users can......
  2. Workshop: Near field interactions This is a call for proposals for a workshop on user-centred interactions with the internet of things at Nordichi 2006, October 14 and 15, 2006 in Oslo, Norway. The user-centred Internet of Things The......
  3. Touch at Recalling RFID I will be presenting at Recalling RFID in Amsterdam on Friday 19 and Saturday 20 October 2007. The programme includes ‘presentations and debates on RFID and digital connectivity scenarios with speakers from the industry,......
  4. Playful augmented products workshop Interaction Design students at the Oslo School of Architecture & Design participated in a three-day Touch workshop where the brief was to design a playful, exploratory or characterful RFID interface. The emphasis of this......
  5. RFID hacking workshop So this week Touch is running an informal workshop where we are looking at the materiality of RFID, potentials in Radio Frequency and EMF, and building simple interactions and services using the technology. With......

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  1. Jay Thomas
    Posted 13 April 2009 at 13:42 | Permalink

    what sort of range do you get with your antenna? would it be possible to fit a more directional antenna?
    I am quite curious as this may work well for a robotics project I am working on.

  2. Mark Austin
    Posted 29 April 2009 at 23:46 | Permalink

    I ordered one of these units fully assembled from Marc’s site for 40 euro to find the various RFIDs that might be lurking about my home. I soon found that this unit is completely incapable at doing that. Its not sniffing RFID at all but ANYTHING that can conduct!! Lay your finger on it the RFID detection light illuminates. Touch it to any metal surface and the RFID detection light illuminates. Touch it to a functioning RFID tag and the RFID detection light illuminates! Touch it to a DISABLED RFID tag and the RFID detection tag illuminates! My second gripe with the unit was the fact that in order to work it has to be in direct contact with a conductor. Good luck detecting any RFID (metal) that you cannot directly touch with this unit. Besides if you could directly touch the RFID tag with this unit why would you need this unit to sniff for an RFID?? If you were touching the tag you would know it was there with or without this unit. Bottom line: unless you want a tiny metal detector that only works in direct contact then dont waste your money. If you want a fun experiment or kit with soldering there are much better, more informative learning kits available than this wortheless so called RFID sniffer!! You’ve been warned!

  3. Posted 30 April 2009 at 1:20 | Permalink

    The main purpose of the RFID sniffer is to detect RFID tags in plastic cards found in many people’s wallets, such as bank cards, library cards, public transport passes, and so on.
    The sniffer will detect RFID tags in such cards at a distance of about 3 cm (1 inch) . It’s easy to see which cards contain tags and which don’t.

    Allow me to explain how it works. The RFID sniffer contains a RF oscillator, generating a (approximately) 13.56 MHz sine wave, which is radiated by the coil antenna. RFID tags tuned to this frequency will consume energy from this RF field to power the RFID chip in the tag. This results in a somewhat lower signal level in the oscillater, which is detected by the sniffer circuit.

    LF (125 kHz) and UHF (GHz) tags will not draw power at this frequency, and will not be detected.

    The sniffer LED will also light up if held in very close proximity to metal, since metal absorbs RF energy. However, RFID tags don’t work in close proximity to metal, so metal objects will never contain RFID tags in the first place. This side-effect might make it look like a ordinary metal detector, but a ordinary metal detector won’t detect RFID tags!

    Also, make sure your fingers are not covering the antenna portion of the sniffer. Hold the sniffer at the battery side, and keep it in the plastic sleeve during use. Metallic contact to any part of the circuit will disturb the oscillator and make the cricuit useless. That’s why it comes with an insulating plastic zip-lock sleeve.

    If the sniffer is too sensitive to metal, or the reading distance is less than 2cm, you can adjust the sensitivity by turning the potentiometer in the top right corner (labeled R5) using a miniature screwdriver.

    I hope this will clarify a bit. For questions you can always email me.

  4. Mark Austin
    Posted 1 May 2009 at 20:08 | Permalink

    It looks like some guy has posted a couple of videos of the same sniffer on YouTube. I did a search today and came up with these two videos. The test appears show the sniffer to be quite ineffective for the purpose of RFID finding but you be the judge.



  5. Josh
    Posted 1 May 2009 at 20:20 | Permalink

    I have one too and to be honest I was very disappointed with it. I noticed Marc (the units designer) commented and said that it will detect metal at very close proximity but that RFIDs dont work well with metal. But the problem with that is that the RFID themselves have METAL IN THEM!!!! So if it detects and RFID I am not certain that its not detecting the metal in the tag. I did watch the YouTube videos and noticed that it appeared to detect the razor blade and the 13.56 Mhz RFID tag the exact same way. Actually it appeared to be detecting the razor from just a big farther. Marc also mentioned that it would NOT detect LF (125 kHz) and UHF (GHz) tags but if these two types of tags had any metal I would have to disagree with that statement as well. I think this circuit needs more work before its ready for sale to the public but thats just me.

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