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Study "Busts Myths" About Metal-mount RFID Tags

Comparison of 17 UHF RFID tags from seven vendors shows that RFID can work on metal and identifies which tags lead the pack.

A recent report billed as “the industry’s first scientific evaluation of passive RFID tags designed to work on metal objects” claims to have “busted” the myth that radio frequency identification (RFID) does not work on metal. There is a well-circulated myth that passive RFID does not work on metal, said Odin technologies, a Dulles, Va.-based RFID integrator, in a July 9 press release announcing the report. There are other myths that only one or two tags will actually work reliably on metal objects, said the company.

Both myths are conclusively “busted” by the “Metal Mount RFID Tag Benchmark,” the company said. In fact, the findings show that some of the more popular tags designed for metal are not the top performers. Physicists and engineers from seven passive RFID tag vendors have been steadily improving performance on and around metal surfaces.

Made for metal

The Metal Mount RFID Tag Benchmark is the 11th installment of Odin’s RFID Benchmark Series, which independently evaluates RFID equipment performance based on physics, the company said. The report compares 17 UHF RFID tags designed specifically for use on metal. End-users employ metal mount RFID tags today to track a large variety of items such as data center assets, work-in-process components, laptops, tools, pipes, and airplane parts.

“While the metal mount tag performance has improved substantially over the past two years, the benchmark reveals some vendors clearly outperform their peers,” commented Patrick J. Sweeney II, founder of Odin technologies. “RFID use is developing more rapidly than ever before with new use-cases coming of age in months rather than years,” Sweeney continued. “Many companies are now adopting RFID and trying to tag challenging items such as blade servers, laptops, critical spare parts and tools for manufacturing. A mistake in tag selection can compromise the entire solution. The findings are so important to end-user success that Odin decided to release a sanitized, redacted version of the report for free on our Web site. This benchmark offers end-users clear guidance in a fast-changing tag world,” Sweeney said.

Six tests

The report summarizes findings from six scientific tests that were conducted on each of the 17 tags evaluated. The tests measured:

  • Tag Sensitivity: the minimum RF power each tag requires to operate
  • Power Effectiveness: tag performance results from one milliwatt to one watt
  • Orientation Sensitivity: tag performance over multiple power levels and orientations
  • Distance: how well tags are read at distances ranging from 1 to 17 feet
  • Metal Proximity: tag read performance when placed next to other metal surfaces
  • Material Dependency: metal mount tag performance when affixed to other materials

Odin engineers selected tags for the report based on a number of factors, including size, popularity and uniqueness. In all there are six large-sized tags represented, seven medium-sized tags, and four-small sized tags. Tag size was measured based on horizontal footprint of the tags, which indicates the size of the surface area required to affix the tag to an item. The vendors and tags evaluated in the benchmark include:

  • Avery Dennison: AD-900, AD-902, AD-908
  • Confidex: Halo, Ironside, Steelwave
  • Emerson & Cummings: Ecopad
  • Intermec: Large Rigid, Small Rigid
  • Omni-ID: Flex, Micro, Mini
  • Sontec: C0101, P01016BT
  • TROI: MMT-3001, MMT-3004, PC-102

Odin Technologies

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