Choosing the Right UHF RFID Tag

Just because a tag is readable doesn’t mean it is the best tag for the job. There are hundreds of UHF RFID tags and readers that are interoperable because they conform to ISO 180000-6C and GS1 EPCglobal Gen 2 standards. Standard compliance is only the starting point for finding the best tag for your operations.

Standards compliance does not guarantee performance in harsh environments, where tags may be exposed to vibration, impact, temperature extremes, chemicals and interference. While it may seem like there are hundreds of tag options for conditions like these, in reality there may only be a few. Details make the difference between success and failure in environments where tags may suffer physical damage or interference. That is why OPP IOT has engineered more than 30 different RFID tags – they all comply with standards, but each is designed to excel in specific, challenging environments.

Too many tag decisions are made by finding the lowest-cost standard tag that will physically fit on the item being identified, which overlooks several important considerations. Choosing the right tags requires knowing something about the variables that affect performance. Here is a brief overview of some important factors to consider.

What will the UHF RFID tag be exposed to?
Think beyond the environment when you read the tag, think about everything it will be exposed to throughout its lifecycle. Many tags that work fine under normal usage conditions can’t withstand the storage, production and cleaning processes that will occur.

How can the UHF RFID tag be attached?
Sometimes the RFID tag itself can perform fine in harsh environment, but the biggest challenge is keeping it attached to the item. A metal tag may withstand high temperatures or immersion in liquid, but its adhesive may not. Ideally, an RFID tag will be embedded within the item it is identifying, which provides maximum protection against impact and exposure. Embedding isn’t always practical. Other attachment options include screws or rivets, string ties, epoxy and adhesives. OPP IOT supports all these options and puts a lot of focus on tag attachment.

What’s the real range?
Sometimes tags are modified for use in rugged environments, by adding a protective coating or using spacers so the tag isn’t mounted directly on metal. These measures can significantly reduce performance for tags that were not designed to be embedded or protected. People usually choose UHF technology because they want read range of at least a few feet – so why reduce the range to mere inches by using a UHF tag that isn’t tuned for metal or loses its range because of the added protection it needs? The shape of the tag and its internal components, the tag material, mounting material, attachment method and surrounding atmosphere (including the presence of metal, humidity, current, etc.) all affect performance. That is why OPP IOT has so many different designs. Getting high quality, reliable read performance requires analyzing multiple variables to determine the best tag. Non-optimized tags may work sometimes, but consistent performance requires an optimized product.

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