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Can Passive UHF RFID Get Any Better?
The technology has made great strides—and there are innovations on the horizon that will advance it even more.
Aug 30, 2016—
During the past five years, passive ultrahigh-frequency radio frequency identification systems have improved markedly. The read range has increased significantly due to development of more sensitive microchips and better antenna design. Security features have been added to prevent cloning and eavesdropping on tag-to-reader communication. And innovations have enabled tags to be read on metal products and even to be embedded in metal for tracking items such as medical devices. In fact, a recent report from the European EPC Competence Center, a Germany-based provider of RFID services, found that on-metal tags are becoming smaller and increasing in sensitivity and reliability (see EECC Benchmark Study Finds UHF Tag Performance Better Than Ever).
This raises two important questions. Do passive systems need further improvement and, if so, can they get any better?
1. Capture tag data more consistently.
Still, retailers would like to move to fixed RFID readers in stores and read all the tags on all the items on their shelves. Today's overhead readers are typically able to read only 50 percent to 90 percent of the tags. That's because tags on densely packed items often block the reader signal from reaching tags on other items behind or below them. Getting the read accuracy on overhead fixed readers up to 95 percent accuracy levels or higher would boost retail adoption.
2. Exclude extraneous reads.
3. Make the technology more plug-and-play.
But passive UHF systems frequently require some tweaking of power levels and careful positioning of reader antennas to optimize the read field. Most end users would like to be able to place a reader in a ceiling, doorway or wall and begin collecting data. We're not quite there yet.
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