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Small RFID Tag from SML Group Offers 30 Percent Sensitivity Boost

The GB4U8 inlay leverages NXP's UCODE 8 chip and antenna design to accomplish what SML calls an increase in performance over other tags in its 42- by 16-millimeter size.
By Claire Swedberg

When NXP released its UCODE 8 chip, SML began working with the semiconductor company to develop a tag. It decided to start with the most challenging solution, Frew says: a small tag. A larger label is more straightforward to develop, he notes, and will be released later this year.

Avery Dennison has already released its own large-sized tag incorporating the UCODE 8 chip. SML says its version is the smallest to be built with the UCODE 8, and to pass certification testing at Auburn University. SML's engineers developed the antenna and impedance specific for that new chip. The tag takes advantage of several UCODE 8 features, including ease of production. Tag manufacturing has become simpler with the UCODE 7 and UCODE 8, Frew explains; the chips can be cut from a single 12-inch wafer, which makes production faster and less expensive.

Dean Frew
At Auburn University, the tag underwent tests for performance and passed for Specs A, B, C, D, M, G, Q, F and N. These specifications cover stacked denim, poly-bagged apparel, boxed electronics and shoes, hanging apparel, products for retailer Target, jewelry and cosmetics, and stacked apparel on a shelf. After proving itself at the university, the company has more recently been testing the new tags at its own lab, affixing them to thousands of items and testing them side by side against SML's larger GB3 tags, in order to compare performance.

With SML's Clarity software, users can set the RFID system to read tags at maximum speed. At this speed, the company finds, the tags can process RFID-based inventory data faster than other small tags, and just as fast as SML's larger tags. That, according to Frew, means reading tags in inventory cycle counts will be faster, easier and more accurate.

The tag is intended to make RFID more accessible to retailers and brands. Now that the retailer market "has proved that RFID works," Frew states, "they're trying to minimize the impact it has on their operations and packaging and trim." That means the RFID-enabled tags could be incorporated with existing price labels, for instance, and fit easily on care labels.

The tag is intended to be low-cost, the company reports, while significant price drops are primarily being driven by the high volume of RFID tag orders. Frew expects the GB4U8 to be used on any retail or apparel products, as well as cosmetics, fragrance, wine and spirits, pharmaceuticals, sporting goods, and food. The larger-sized GB3U8 tag, measuring 50 millimeters by 30 millimeters (2 inches by 1.2 inch), is expected to enter full production in early 2018.

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