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Low-Cost Chipless RFID Tags Progressing

An interesting development in the realm of tag prices has been the possibility of non-silicon based RFID tags. "Organic", "polymer-based", or "chipless" RFID tags could bring tag prices down below one cent, at which point the possibilities of item-level RFID tagging shoot through the roof.
Jun 07, 2005This article was originally published by RFID Update.

June 7, 2005—An interesting development in the realm of tag prices has been the possibility of non-silicon based RFID tags. By way of background, the bulk price of passive EPC tags has served as a benchmark of RFID technology's adoption path. Five cents is what has become widely accepted as the pivotal threshold, the point at which RFID tags would be cheap enough to stick on everything that is worth tracking. The problem with getting to five-cent tags is a classic chicken-and-egg scenario: prices will only drop when purchase volumes go up; purchase volumes will go up only when tag prices drop. Many predictions have come and gone, but now, with Wal-Mart's January 1st deadline six months in the past and the DoD's adoption sluggish, it has become clear that many of the predictions were too aggressive. (Indeed, just last month research firm Marketstrat declared, "Rapid growth rates predicted for RFID based on the Wal-Mart compliance deadline of January 2005 did not come true.") So today in June of 2005, with the key mandates come and gone, predicting RFID's continued adoption will only become more art, less science.

An interesting development in the realm of tag prices has been the possibility of non-silicon based RFID tags. "Organic", "polymer-based", or "chipless" RFID tags could bring tag prices down below one cent, at which point the possibilities of item-level RFID tagging shoot through the roof, beyond even the most ambitious dreams of mere supply chain tracking and visibility. An article published this month by research firm IDTechEx noted that if sub-penny organic RFID tags took hold, the industry would see a repeat of what happened with bar codes: the once-healthy bar code-label business was sunk when the printing of bar codes directly on packaging began. The article notes that the full transition to direct-printing of RFID tags will not happen until 2020, though, so any decisions based on the advent of such technology would be entirely premature.

But progress is definitely being made. PolyIC, a joint venture between conglomerate Siemens and hot stamping technology supplier KURZ, in January announced the development of a polymer-based chip that functions at 600 MHz, representing the fastest speed to date for organic chip technology. And this week, InkSure Technologies was awarded two patents, one of which was for "chipless" (that is, non-silicon based) RFID tags. Said the company's CEO Elie Housman, "Our goal is to develop multi-bit ‘chipless’ RFID tags that can be manufactured and applied to product labels at a cost of well below one cent each." Depending on how quickly and if these technologies meaningfully develop, their possibilities could disrupt the path to widespread RFID adoption, rendering obsolete the entire notion of a five-cent silicon-based RFID tag.

Read the press release on InkSure's patents
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