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Alien Intros Wonder Dog Tag for Challenging Environments, SIT H4 for Small Items

The Wonder Dog operates well around metal and liquids, while the SIT H4 is tiny enough for jewelry and medicine. Both are made with the Higgs 4 chip.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 04, 2014

Alien Technology is offering two very different passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags—one designed for general use and for applications involving challenging environments (such as automotive and electronic devices), the other an ultrasmall near-field tag for use on diminutive items (such as medicine vials or jewelry). The new inlays—known as the Wonder Dog (ALN-9768) and the SIT (Small Item Tag) H4 (ALN-9713)—are the result of Alien Technology's increased focus on not just the general tag market, but applications for RFID in specialty markets, as RFID tag use grows, according to Neil Mitchell, the company's director of marketing.

Both tags are made with Alien's Higgs 4 (H4) RFID chip, and are being piloted by a variety of companies, including electronics firms, automotive fleet operators, pharmaceutical companies and jewelers. However, Mitchell says, none are willing to be named at this time.

The Wonder Dog (ALN-9768)
The Wonder Dog is targeted toward customers that are interested in the lower cost features of a general-purpose UHF RFID tag, but must contend with a challenging environment that, until now, required more expensive tags designed for use in the presence of metals and fluids. For instance, many vehicles come with metalized windshields (which provide shading) that reflect RF signals, thereby weakening a reader's or tag's transmissions before they reach their intended targets. However, Mitchell says, there is a growing demand for passive UHF RFID tags to track the movements of vehicle fleets, as well as for toll collection.

Electronics companies also have environmental problems that can thwart their use of general-purpose UHF tags. Although those firms would like to track electronic consumer products and other items, the transmissions of tags inserted into those devices are compromised by the large volume of metal. In some cases, such manufacturers are integrating RFID tags into those devices' motherboards, providing the tags with a source of electric power, but such a solution, Mitchell says, can be too expensive to be practical.

"In the consumer electronics industry, we're seeing a great need for some innovation," Mitchell explains. "A lot of [such companies] want to use RFID tags, but they want to be able to apply them on the product"—as opposed to, for example, a cardboard carton into which an item is packed. For applications involving automotive and electronic consumer items, the tags are often interrogated via handheld readers, which provide a low-power read range, also making reliable reads at a distance that much more difficult.

The larger of the two new inlays, the Wonder Dog, measures 3.3 inches by 0.9 inch and is intended to manage reads in applications for which a high level of tag backscatter is required, such as those involving a high level of liquid or metal. The tag can be applied across a section of a windshield, or inside the cover of a DVD player or video console, or it can be affixed to a home appliance. According to Mitchell, the companies currently trialing the new tag are consumer electronics manufacturers and businesses that manage vehicle fleets. The initial pilots are taking place in North America, though the tags are expected to have a global customer base.

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