An RF module (radio frequency module) is a small electronic device used to transmit and/or receive radio signals between two devices. In an embedded system it is often desirable to communicate with another device wirelessly. This wireless communication may be accomplished through optical communication or through radio frequency (RF) communication. For many applications the medium of choice is RF since it does not require line of sight. RF communications incorporate a transmitter and/or receiver.
RF modules are widely used in electronic design owing to the difficulty of designing radio circuitry. For these reasons, design engineers will often design a circuit for an application which requires radio communication and then "drop in" a pre-made radio module rather than attempt a discrete design, saving time and money on development.
RF modules are most often used in medium and low volume products for consumer applications such as garage door openers, wireless alarm systems, industrial remote controls, smart sensor applications, and wireless home automation systems. They are sometimes used to replace older infra red communication designs as they have the advantage of not requiring line-of-sight operation.
Several carrier frequencies are commonly used in commercially-available RF modules, including those in the industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) radio bands such as 433.92 MHz, 915 MHz, and 2400 MHz. These frequencies are used because of national and international regulations governing the use of radio for communication. Short Range Devices may also use frequencies available for unlicensed such as 315 MHz and 868 MHz.
RF modules may comply with a defined protocol for RF communications such as Zigbee, Bluetooth low energy, or Wi-Fi, or they may implement a proprietary protocol.