“Chipless RFID” is a generic term for systems that use RF energy to communicate data but don’t store a serial number in a silicon microchip in the transponder. Some chipless tags use plastic or conductive polymers instead of silicon-based microchips. Other chipless tags use materials that reflect back a portion of the radio waves beamed at them. A computer takes a snapshot of the waves beamed back and uses it like a fingerprint to identify the object with the tag. Companies are experimenting with embedding RF reflecting fibers in paper to prevent unauthorized photocopying of certain documents. Chipless tags that use embedded fibers have one drawback for supply chain uses—only one tag can be read at a time.
I’ve heard that RFID doesn’t work around metal and water. Does that mean I can’t use it to track cans or liquid products?
Radio waves bounce off metal and are absorbed by water at ultrahigh frequencies. That makes tracking metal products, or those with high water content, difficult. However, good system design and engineering are beginning to overcome this shortcoming. Low- and high-frequency tags work better on products with water and metal. In fact, there are applications in which low-frequency RFID tags are embedded in metal auto parts to track them.