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Read Range for EPC Gen 2 UHF Tags Rises 20 Percent This Year, According to EECC

The European EPC Competence Center's 2013-14 UHF Tag Performance Survey reports a boost in tag sensitivity, due to improved microchips that increase read ranges by an average of 6 feet.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 30, 2013

An annual European study of passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags (compliant with the EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6C standards) has found that highly sensitive microchips have helped tags increase their read range by an average of 20 percent since last year. The new chips' increased sensitivity, according to the study, means they require less power to respond to RFID readers. The European EPC Competence Center (ECCC) released its "2013-14 UHF Tag Performance Survey" (UTPS) this week, which finds an improvement in read distance by approximately 6 feet, compared with last year's results. This, the survey's authors predict, will allow a greater number of use cases for UHF RFID, since tags may be easier to read in challenging environments, such as at the center of a pallet, then they would previously have been.

Every year, scientists at the EECC conduct testing and publish the results related to the performance of UHF transponders for such use cases as supply chain tracking and item-level tracking on apparel or consumer goods packaging.

The EECC's RFID tag-testing chamber
The 2013-14 study was partially funded by a program for regional competitiveness and employment, through NRW Bank, in North Rhine Westphalia (NRW), where the European EPC Competence Center is headquartered.

The EECC was founded in 2007 by Metro AG, GS1 Germany, Karstadt Warenhaus and Deutsche Post World Net, in order to help encourage the adoption of EPC RFID technology in Europe. Its reports—the first of which was published in 2007—are aimed at systems integrators, RFID solution providers, universities and research institutions, as well as some end users, and its plan is to develop reference materials indicating which type of tag is best suited for a particular application.

EECC's Conrad von Bonin
This year, the EECC tested 108 UHF labels, as well as 102 mount-on-metal (MOM) tags, at its laboratory in Neuss, Germany, according to Conrad von Bonin, the EECC's CEO and the report's co-author. This includes 46 new labels and 21 new MOM tags added since the 2012 survey. "The market grows steadily in all dimensions—companies, makes and models," von Bonin explains. "We observe that there are now more special versions of existing designs and, especially, printable and flexible MOMs." Altogether, the researchers conducted several thousand measurements at numerous UHF RFID frequencies, including the 865.6 to 867.6 MHz, 902 to 928 MHz, and 916.7 to 923.5 MHz bands used in Europe, North America and Japan, respectively. They used EECC proprietary reader equipment for the testing, since commercially available models provide variations in effectiveness when used with different types of tags.

The test consisted of three parts. During part one, tags were tested on four materials—each representing a specific product category—as well as in free air. In the second phase, tag behavior was tested with eight additional materials, and backlink (the backscatter transmission from a tag in response to interrogation by a reader) limitations were also tested. During the third phase, proximity effects were measured to determine how well tags are energized when packed close to each other, as well as the amount by which their close proximity reduced overall tag performance.

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