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Alien Markets Small EPC Tag With Long Read Range

Alien Technology's Glint tag, designed with jewelry and cosmetics tagging in mind, also includes a feature allowing the tag to extend its read range further, by using the metal material of an item to which it is attached.
By Claire Swedberg
Tags: Retail
Jan 13, 2014

RFID tag, reader and chip provider Alien Technology has begun marketing a new radio frequency identification tag that combines a relatively long read range with a miniaturized form factor, for use on small objects such as jewelry or cosmetics. The Glint tag (model ALN-9715) not only offers a read range of approximately 3 feet, but it can further boost that range if one side of the tag is attached to or touching a metal object, by utilizing that metallic object as an extension of the tag's antenna. (This feature does not work if both sides of the antenna are in contact with metal.) The EPC ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tag measures around 1.06 inches by 0.38 inch (27 millimeters by 10 millimeters) in size—about as long as the diameter of a U.S. quarter. Alien released the tag this month, and has already begun shipping it to customers.

Alien Technology developed the tag for a market that it perceived as not being well served by existing RFID tags. "We've been keeping an eye on the jewelry and cosmetics markets," says Neil Mitchell, Alien's director of marketing. Most existing EPC tags used on jewelry, Mitchell explains, require what he refers to as a tail—a section of the tag's antenna that loops through an object or dangles from it, which can be detrimental for small items for which aesthetics are important.

To create the Glint tag, Alien folded a long, narrow antenna into a condensed footprint.
According to Mitchell, the tail must be long enough to provide a sufficient read range for capturing the tag's ID number from a distance of more than a foot. Alien Technology created its own smaller inlay by making the antenna narrower than its predecessors and fitting it tightly into a very small space. The Glint inlay would then typically be embedded in a customer's label.

In addition, Mitchell reports, the Glint is designed in such a way that if one side of it comes in contact with an object composed entirely or partially of metal, the transmission would actually be boosted. However, he adds, his company is still testing that function, and thus cannot specify the exact amount by which read range could be boosted. Typically, he envisions the tag would be embedded in a user's own label, such as price tag, one side of which could then be affixed to the metal object, such as a necklace, ring or packaged cosmetic product.

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