RFID is fundamentally changing the way retail and logistics companies track goods. As we have previous Goodbye barcodes – hello RFID about the advantages of RFID over old technologies like barcode scanning is large.
Our blog on advantages for retailers can be found here, and for logistics companies here.
But there has been some black magic required to ensure that RFID meets these promises. To the untrained eye, RFID tags can be stuck to anything – clothing to cash, even implanted in people and animals. But other items cause disturbances in signal reception, these include ID cards and equipment, typically anything with a metal or pre-existing magnetic components.
Fujitsu have made a major step forward with the announcement of the development of a compact and slim RFID tag that can be affixed to ID cards, wearable devices, metal parts, and other objects that have limitations with regard to signal reception. The key improvements are
Until now, for guaranteed communication with an RFID reader within a 2-meter radius, tags needed to measure at least 75 mm in length and approximately 5 mm in thickness. The new technology from Fujitsu Laboratories uses a thin plastic looped structure that emits radio waves, allowing the tags to measure just 30 mm and 0.5 mm respectively. This makes the tag small enough for use in a wide range of applications, including managing machine components or ID cards worn for access to a building.
Frequencies within the UHF band – similar to frequencies used for televisions and mobile phones and with a relatively long range– are often used in RFID systems. However, these radio waves do not travel well through metal or the human body. So-called ‘spacers’ were used to resolve this issue by maintaining a certain distance between the tag and the object or body to which it was attached. The disadvantage of this was that the RFID tag became too large for use on small objects.
Surface as an Antenna
The technology developed by Fujitsu Laboratories uses a curved structure. The tag is wrapped around rubber or plastic and the traditional restrictions on wavelength no longer apply. When applied to a metal surface, the surface acts as an antenna via which radio signals are emitted. This allows a communication range of several meters. As the human body consists largely of water and therefore permits (harmless) conducting of electricity, the process is comparable to that of an ID card with RFID tag.
We these advancements, we will continue to see RFID used ever more widely.