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GoToTags Releases High-Speed NFC Encoder, Software

The system, one of the many NFC RFID products and services that the company offers, is designed to encode a reel of passive tags at a rate of up to five inlays per second.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 12, 2013

Encoding Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID tags can be a time-consuming task, especially for commercial printers and other companies that do not typically sell NFC-enabled products in large volumes. Such businesses often send their tags or labels to NFC service providers, such as GoToTags, which will encode the tags for a vendor prior to shipping them to its customers. Now, GoToTags is marketing a solution consisting of its own encoding software, known as NFC Encoder, and a reel-to-reel RFID tag encoder that makes the process easier and less expensive for both small and large users, as well as for NFC tag providers. The company claims the reel-to-reel solution can encode tags at a rate of up five per second.

GoToTags initially developed the software, and then the reader, for its own purposes over the course of the past two years, according to Craig Tadlock, the CEO of Wireless Sensor Technologies, GoToTags' Seattle-based parent company. GoToTags encodes NFC tags in quantities ranging from as few as five tags to orders numbering in the millions. While ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags can be encoded rather quickly, NFC tags take much longer to encode since the tag needs to be very close to the printer antenna and very precisely oriented on a roll, and since only about two tags can be within read range of the device at any given time to be properly encoded. In some cases, a user might purchase an RFID printer-encoder to accomplish this task, while others might prefer to employ their own NFC-enabled mobile phones. But that process can take a while, Tadlock says, adding that GoToTags was able to encode approximately 1,000 tags within only two hours using an Android NFC-enabled phone.

GoToTags' High-Speed NFC Encoder, shown here with a built-in Advanced Card Systems (ACS) reader
To make encoding faster, GoToTags created its own software solution that can enable the encoding of tags with a standard NFC RFID encoder-printer when the device reads as many as four tags simultaneously—something other encoding software packages typically cannot do. The company then determined that if its clients (commercial printers, for example, or manufacturers of such products as wristbands) could use the same software, they could accomplish the encoding onsite and then ship the products directly to their customers. GoToTags made the software available from its cloud-based server, and its clients could be billed for using the software rather than having to buy it outright. In that way, the company explains, if only a small quantity of tags were encoded, the customers would be billed accordingly, amounting to a charge of only $5 or $13, for instance.

GoToTags found that when it needed to fulfill large orders for encoded NFC tags, it required even greater speed. Its engineers thus developed a reel-to-reel encoder, and determined that it could meet large orders even more quickly. For example, Tadlock says, a single reel-to-reel device could encode about 10,000 tags in around 35 minutes, including the time that personnel spent setting up the rolls. He speculates that the encoder might be capable of completing the task even faster than that, though he prefers not to push it. "If we reach a high enough speed," he explains, "there's a concern that we could break the inlay." On the other hand, the more data that needs to be written, the more the time required for encoding will increase.

One feature enabling the device to move quickly is a design allowing the encoder to automate the reel speed so that tags move at a constant rate across the reader antenna. With a standard encoder, Tadlock explains, tag speed varies as the roll diameter changes, which limits how fast encoding can take place. To resolve this problem, GoToTags built a special motor that makes the tags move at a constant speed, no matter the roll's width.

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