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Electronic tagging system could replace barcodes

Researchers have developed a cheap electronic tagging system that could replace barcodes with a much more detailed store of information.

A team from Imec’s Holst Center in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, has developed a high-performance radio frequency identification (RFID) tag that could be cheaply mass-produced and prevents data transfer from being interrupted.

RFID tags contain a unique identification code and other useful information that is transmitted when it comes into contact with an electromagnetic field from a reader device.

Traditionally, rigid RFID tags have been made using silicon technology that provides high performance, but at a relatively high cost. The researchers believe their technology could be crucial to the development of cheap, high-performance RFID. 

‘Item-level tagging could allow vendors to implement automatic billing and inventory management,’ Kris Myny, an organic circuitry researcher at Imec, told The Engineer.

‘On top of these applications, such RFID tags could be integrated with sensors for smart RFID tags. In this way, they could be integrated into food packaging to provide customers with information on freshness or characteristics of this product.’

The researchers began exploring the idea of replacing silicon RFID tags with thin-film RFID tags in 2006. ‘Thin-film transistors can be deposited on a flexible substrate and have the potential to be produced at a substantially lower cost,’ said Myny.

The Imec research, published in a paper this week at the International Solid States Circuits Conference in San Francisco, also demonstrated for the first time thin-film RFID tags that were able to receive data from the reader first, preventing data-transfer problems.

Previously, the best thin-film RFID tags were based on a ‘tag-talks-first’ protocol. ‘When the RFID reader first powers and contacts the tag, it transmits a clock and identification code,’ said Myny. ‘The tag then uses this data and clock to determine when to send its code.’

This means the tag uses this data to ensure it doesn’t respond to the reader at the same time as other tags, which can result in collisions and ineffective data transfer.

These passive RFID tags extract power to drive the onboard electronic circuits from the electromagnetic field emitted by the reader.

They are already used by businesses for a number of purposes, for example, in electronic security passes and by delivery companies to track packages.

Readers' comments (7)

  • I am very interested in the application of electronic tagging technology.
    I lead the valve team in Shell and see opportunities for this as electronic passporting of valves, prevents counterfit valves, all documentation carried with valve and location/maintenance tracking.
    We have over the years talk with a number of companies can't recal if Imec was one of them.

    My question: Have you pursued this technology as described above and what is your experience todate

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  • I have previously contacted companies that deal with RFID and I am very interested in this new development, for the lightweight and duarbility characteristics.
    What I would like to know further is what sort of environment can these operate in ? (high temperatures, greasy surfaces).

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  • Do you have a data/price sheet for these tags? Mainly - what frequency are you using? We may have a need for tagging poultry.

    Regarding Tony Smart's question; we have a solution for tagging valves in his harsh, metallic environment. Canada 416-526-3130

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  • Tony. A 2011 invention is the all metal RFID tag which can be welded to equipment. I think for the North Sea it may have benefits. Vendors +44 (0) 1869 238380

    I would put their name but suspect its a no-no!

    I was impressed when I saw it mentioned as it is been thought impossible to use RFID enclosed in a full metal case.

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  • Tony, Here is the link to the Product Patrick is referring too.

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  • A very exciting development - especially from a durability and cost perspective. We currently utilise thousands of passive tags per annum to track and trace MRO to and from maintenance store and wider asset tracking.

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  • these tags are available and much more RFID has gone ahead in the last six months.
    We have supplied the weld on tags and also there are many different tags designed to go on metal objects that work well.We also have supplied differnet tags for animal including poultry,and sodtware.

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