Abstract Radio frequency identification systems with passive tags are powerful tools for object identification. However, if multiple tags are to be identified simultaneously, messages from the tags can collide and cancel each other out. Therefore, multiple read cycles have to be performed in order to achieve a high recognition rate. For a typical stochastic anti-collision scheme, we show how to determine the optimal number of read cycles to perform under a given assurance level determining the acceptable rate of missed tags. This yields an efficient procedure for object identification. We also present results on the performance of an implementation.