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New Tag Aims to Protect Consumer Privacy

Mikoh says both consumers and retailers will benefit from its new product tag designs.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Apr 02, 2007Mikoh Corp., an Australian provider of tamper-proof seals and other security solutions, has developed the Smart&Secure Retail Tag, an RFID-enabled product-identification tag that, according to the company, is designed to address consumer concerns that data encoded to tags on the items they purchase could be surreptitiously read by a third party. The tag does this by allowing customers to decrease the read distance of a tag after purchasing the item to which it is attached. If a customer returns or exchanges a product bearing a Mikoh tag, the retailer could restore the Mikoh tag's read range before reintroducing it into its inventory.

Peter Atherton, the firm's CTO, says Mikoh is currently working on two designs for the tag. One design is at the prototype stage, he says, but he cannot yet discuss the other publicly because not all patents linked to it have been filed.

The first design, for which Mikoh has filed its patents, uses an RFID inlay with an antenna printed directly onto the tag's plastic or cardboard substrate, Atherton explains. When the tag is applied to a product, the substrate is folded. In the folded position, the electrically conductive line formed by the antenna is significantly longer than when the substrate is unfolded. Thus, a product's purchaser who wants to reduce the tag's read range would unfold the substrate by pulling up on the folded edge (held in place by an adhesive), thereby reducing the antenna's range without fully disabling the tag. To restore the range to its original distance, the retailer could refold the tag by pressing it back against the adhesive (which stays in place and does not tear the substrate).

According to Atherton, either Smart&Secure Retail Tag design could be used for both UHF and HF tags. If the tag contained an EPC Gen 2 UHF inlay, the read range would be upwards of 10 feet when folded, and about 6 inches unfolded. The read range of an HF tag would likely be only a few inches when folded, and just a centimeter or so unfolded.

To attach the tag to a product, both tag designs depend on an adhesive so strong it would cause the antenna to tear if a customer were to try to remove the tag. With its antenna torn, the tag would be unreadable, precluding the possibility of consumers trying to return counterfeit or lower-value items by removing the tag from a legitimate product and placing it on another.

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