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RFID Tattoos to Make a Mark on Cattle Tagging

SOMARK International announced it has successfully field tested its chipless RFID system that uses dielectric inks to identify livestock. The company is not ready to release a commercial version of the technology, which it promotes as an alternative to RFID ear tags.
Feb 11, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

February 11, 2008—SOMARK Innovations announced it has successfully field tested its chipless RFID technology for cattle identification. SOMARK's permanent animal ID system works by tattooing the animal with dielectric ink. Data is encoded in the tattoo and can be read remotely using a SOMARK reader.

The company reported tattoos were applied in less than three seconds and read instantly during the demo. Read range, data capacity, and other technical details were not disclosed.

SOMARK called the field test at an undisclosed US location "a giant leap" for the startup company, though president Mark Pydynowski told RFID Update, "From an order of magnitude perspective, SOMARK is months away from commercialization."

The technology can be used on a variety of animals, but the company is focusing on the cattle segment, where it promotes its technology as an alternative to RFID ear tags and other identification methods. It cites studies that found 10 percent of ear tags become separated from the animal. SOMARK says its tattoos will cost less than ear tags and perform well around metal, liquid, and biomass, which is essential for the livestock market.

The ink is compatible with multiple frequencies ranging from 100 KHz to the GHz band. The tattoo's data capacity is related to its size, with a typical cattle tattoo measuring approximately three by three inches, according to Pydynowski.

SOMARK has developed ink, a multi-needle tattoo applicator, and a handheld reader for the system. The company is still in "pre-revenue" stage, according to Pydynowski, and did not disclose a timetable for products to be released.

The company operates out of the Center for Emerging Technologies in St. Louis, which is an incubator for technology firms. SOMARK won seed money from Washington University in St. Louis and has also received funding from investors including Med-Pharmex Animal Health and the St. Louis Arch Angels.

Animal identification is a leading market for RFID, including injectable chips used to identify pets to ear tags and other methods for livestock identification. RFID use for food animal tracking is expected to grow to help producers and distributors meet traceability requirements and to improve food safety so tainted products can be isolated and traced back to their points of origin. Market research firm IDTechEx predicts 90 million RFID tags will be used to identify animals in 2008 (see IDTechEx Releases RFID Market Predictions for 2008).
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