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Taiwanese Liquor Manufacturer Deploys Dual-Frequency Authentication Solution

The company is using Alien fixed readers at its factory, warehouse and DC, and is providing stores selling its high-value wines and liquors with low-cost, short-range readers that transmit a 433 MHz signal to read 902 to 928 MHz EPC Gen 2 tags.
By Claire Swedberg
May 22, 2014

Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Corp. (TTL) has deployed a radio frequency identification solution to ensure its products' authenticity, and to track the goods through its supply chain. The company is providing several hundred of its channel partners with a $30 reader that transmits a 433 MHz signal to read data encoded to EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags. The solution, including the 433 MHz readers, was provided by RFID technology company EPC Solutions Taiwan.

TTL makes fine wines and high-value liquor, as well as lower-cost alcoholic and tobacco products. The firm operates 13 beer and liquor manufacturing facilities and four tobacco factories, and serves a total of 40,000 channel partners—retailers that sell its products. The company's recent concern has been with counterfeits of its fine wines and liquors; at the time that it was investigating solutions, in 2013, TTL sold its high-value products through approximately 200 channel partners throughout China.

TTL is providing several hundred of its channel partners with a $30 reader that transmits a 433 MHz signal to read data from the EPC Gen 2 passive UHF tags attached to its wine and liquor bottles.
The market in China is divided into geographic regions, and TTL prices its products accordingly, depending on the particular region in which they will be sold. The firm sought to ensure that its goods were not being funneled to a different geographic region and thus sold at an incorrect price, and that counterfeit versions were not being passed off as an authentic TTL wines or spirits. It also wanted to be able to prove to its channel partners—and, ultimately, to consumers—that what they were buying was genuine. To that end, the company began working with EPC Solutions Taiwan in March 2013 to create an authentication solution, according to T.H. Liu, EPC Solutions' president.

The company wanted a system that would enable it to track products throughout its own supply chain—from bottling and packing to shipping, and on to the goods' receipt at a third-party distribution center in China. It then wanted its channel stores to be able to confirm authenticity via a handheld reader, by interrogating each label on a bottle of wine before placing that bottle on a store shelf for sale.

Initially, EPC Solutions proposed a system consisting of standard EPC Gen 2 passive UHF RFID tags and an off-the-shelf handheld reader that operated at 902 to 928 MHz. However, Liu says, handhelds designed to read such tags typically cost about $2,000 apiece. Since the company wanted to furnish several hundred channel stores with the devices, he adds, that price made the system too expensive for its needs. EPC Solutions created a low-cost alternative, by designing a 433 MHz handheld transceiver chip built into a small device that could be plugged into a laptop, table or smartphone. Although the unit transmits at 433 MHz, it can receive transmissions from UHF tags at 902 to 928 MHz. The read range, however, is considerably less than that of a standard UHF reader operating at that frequency band.

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