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New Alien UHF Tags Target Challenging Retail Environments

The company has released three tags offering improved functionality, for use when items are packed tightly and tag orientation is skewed, when handheld readers are utilized and when metal and liquid are present.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 11, 2013

As the retail industry's use of item-level EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags surges globally, California-based UHF RFID tag manufacturer Alien Technology is aiming at the most challenging use cases in that sector, by releasing three new tags this month. The tags are commercially available now, and are currently being tested by several retailers and manufacturers. All three were designed to solve problems in areas of the retail market in which tags were still difficult to read. The GT (ALN-9728) is designed to improve read reliability for general item-level tagging, the HiScan (ALN-9720) aims to improve read effectiveness with handheld readers, and the BAT (ALN-9770) addresses the most challenging environment: goods containing metal or liquid.

Alien Technology has worked closely with end users to understand where tags are not yet providing the necessary read reliability, according to Neil Mitchell, Alien's director of marketing. "We have a very good range of tags," he says, "but as we have talked with providers in the retail market, and retailers themselves, it's clear we as a marketplace need to improve the ability for tags to be read in challenging environments."

The HiScan (ALN-9720) tag is designed for retail and apparel applications for which handheld readers are used, or when tags may be hidden behind many similar retail items.

There are, Mitchell says, certain items for which obtaining a good tag read is difficult or might seem impossible, and those are the use cases that the three new tags are targeting. All three models come with Alien's Higgs-4 IC, which offers 448 bits of memory, including 128 bits of Electronic Product Code (EPC) memory.

The GT is a general-use retail item-level tag for use in hangtags, joker labels (cardboard labels affixed to the backs of jeans) and a variety of other tags that are attached to apparel or other retail goods. The dry (nonadhesive) version of the inlay measures 1.97 inches by 1.18 inches (50 millimeters by 30 millimeters). The GT's predecessor, the H-Tag, contained a Higgs-3 chip, while the GT model—with the Higgs-4 chip and other design optimization—offers a more reliable and longer read range than the H-Tag.

The BAT (ALN-9770) tag is specialized for tagging automotive batteries and similar plastic containers filled with fluids or metals.

The GT was created for uses cases in which jeans, for example, are stacked unevenly, with a variety of orientations for the tags within those stacks. "It's designed to read more reliably and at longer distances," Mitchell says, contrasting the GT's performance with that of the H-Tag or other companies' existing tags for item-level retail applications.

The tag has been tested by research groups at the University of Arkansas' RFID Research Center for use on denim, polybagged apparel and hanging apparel.

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