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Report: Both HF and UHF RFID Will Exist at Item Level

Cambridge-based research firm IDTechEx this week released a report on the debate between high frequency (HF) RFID and ultrahigh frequency (UHF) RFID for use at the item level.
May 19, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

May 19, 2006—Cambridge-based research firm IDTechEx this week released a report on the debate between high frequency (HF) RFID and ultrahigh frequency (UHF) RFID for use at the item level. The report sells for $189, but the company has published a free article with highlights.

IDTechEx notes the particulars of item-level tagging that make a technological solution challenging. Item-level tags must be very small, for example, to unobstructively sit within the product packaging. Also, many tags in close proximity to one another must be accurately readable, "with no confusion about which is which." Lastly, liquids and metals often occur in standard item-level tagging scenarios. Whatever technological solution were deployed, it would have to work around such RF-unfriendly materials.

Historically, HF RFID has been considered the best solution to the challenges above. However, were HF to be widely adopted for item-level tagging and UHF for case- and pallet-level tagging (recall that the Gen2 in use by Wal-Mart, the DoD, etc. is UHF), it would create a potentially complex dual-frequency RFID ecosystem throughout the world's supply chains. "We must not repeat the lunacy of anti-theft tagging where consumer goods suppliers alternately have to fit one of three incompatible tags on each type of item depending on who buys it and there are three incompatible infrastructures out there," argues IDTechEx.

Enter "near-field" UHF, which directly addresses many of the item-level tagging challenges. Championed largely by RFID chip manufacturer Impinj, near-field UHF would allow a more homogenous RFID supply-chain environment (though it would still require different reader antennas from existing Gen2 UHF).

Ultimately, IDTechEx predicts that there will be adoption of both HF and near-field UHF for item-level tagging. In fact, while the industry stir has recently been around near-field UHF, some otherwise pro-UHF companies are hedging their bets and investing in HF solutions. For more on the subject, see:

Read the article from IDTechEx
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