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How Can I Create RFID Tags That Are Resistant to Zappers?

Posted By RFID Journal, 03.24.2011
Is it possible to do this—and if so, how practical would it be?

—Name withheld

Theoretically, I would say it is possible. From a practical standpoint, however, it is not. A zapper works by overloading a silicon microchip with so much energy that it blows the tiny circuits, much like you might blow a fuse upon overloading the circuits in your home with an excessive number of appliances.

To protect a tag against a jolt of electrical energy, you would need to encase it in something that would reflect the energy away—metal, for instance—or absorb it. Carbon materials like those used on Stealth Bombers might work.

But if any material were to reflect the zapper's energy, it would also reflect the energy of the reader, thereby preventing a tag from being read. So you would need to encase the tag in a protective housing that would open when the tag was being read, and then close again. You could create some kind of mechanism that would respond to, say, an infrared signal from the reader to open; the tag could then be read, and the device would close again in order to protect it.

I would not suggest spending a lot of money to patent such a device, though, because for all intents and purposes, it would be too large, heavy and expensive to be useful. Tags that might be zapped would include those on products purchased by consumers. (You would zap them, in theory, to protect privacy.) But a metal tag with a mechanism to open and close a door could not be used on a box of cereal, a pair of jeans or most other consumer products. So in my view, it would be impossible to create an RFID tag that could not be zapped and that would still function properly.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor,
RFID Journal

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