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What Are the Costs of Passive, Active and Semi-passive Tags?

Posted By RFID Journal, 09.30.2013

Please explain how much I would have to spend for each.

—Name withheld

———

That is not a question I can answer with much precision. It's kind of like asking what cell phones, laptops or desktop computers cost. They range wildly in price, depending on whether you have a budget model with few features or a top-of-the-line product with all the bells and whistles.

I can say that a passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tag costs about 8 cents in large volumes (more than 1 million units). This, of course, is just for the inlay. If you want the transponder embedded in a label that can be printed on, that about doubles the cost. Passive high-frequency (HF) tags and labels are a bit higher in cost than that, since it is more expensive to produce a coiled HF antenna.

Battery-assisted and active tags start at around $50 apiece and go up from there. There are several factors that affect their price. One is the battery—if you want a larger battery with a longer life span, that will increase the cost. Another is the housing—if you want a tag that can withstand temperatures of 400 degrees Celsius (752 degrees Fahrenheit), or that can survive trampling by angry rhinos, then that would cost more. A third factor is the presence of any onboard sensors. All sensors add cost; some can add a lot of cost.

I know that answer is not very specific, but it is difficult to provide costs without having more information. Additionally, vendors are very reluctant to reveal their tag pricing, since price can be affected by a number of factors. For example, with many real-time location systems (RTLSs), you buy an entire system, which might include a number of tags. Some vendors offer RTLS solutions on a fee-for-service basis, which makes it hard to determine the price of a single tag.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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