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Behold the Weldable Metal Tag!

Step right up, my friends, and marvel at the EPC Gen 2 UHF passive RFID inlay hidden within a stainless-steel shell. You'll wonder: How does he do it?
By Patrick King
May 17, 2010It grieves me.

I have been an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) pundit and UHF tag wizard for more than a decade, only to watch greater numbers of UHF tag myths die and succumb to broader understanding and better training. Fear of UHF has all but died. Every month, RFID Journal crushes one myth after another until the user community is left complacent, but confident and ready to rush toward implementation.

As EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID emerged, so, too, did a large cloud of mysticism and black art regarding how UHF actually works (or does not work). Rumors that the physics prevented ordinary things to work with UHF tags became the industry buzz—it can't be located near metal, placed near or in water, read from farther away than 1 meter and so forth. Since 2005, several companies have provided workable UHF EPC Gen 2 solutions, helping to lay all past fears to rest. And RFID Journal regularly publishes articles designed to drive the final nails into the UHF RFID black-art coffin.

It's time to remystify UHF RFID. Lets put the "black" back into UHF black art. At RFID Journal LIVE! 2010, William Frick & Co.'s booth showed a tag designed by my firm, Technologies ROI LLC (TROI). The tag's name, WoW-1 (WoW stands for "worldwide and weldable," but could also have other meanings), is designed to provide a breakthrough in size and capability. The mystery evoked by this tag is that it is not merely a metal-mount tag, but rather a metal tag. The tag is a rectangular, stainless-steel shell filled with ceramic epoxy. Its surface can be etched, welded, drilled, banded and attached from all of the cube's six faces—what's more, it can be attached sideways, upside down, right side up and on end. Finally, although the tag would be presumed to be readable (and writeable) only from its two sides (ceramic faces), it is instead readable and writeable from all six faces, including each of the four metal sides. The read/write distance from the tag's metal surfaces is roughly two-thirds that of its ceramic face. The tag performs best when attached to metal, and actually improves when cabled or metal-banded. Clearly, backscatter RF oozes from every face, as well as along attachments.

We at TROI prefer to have the physics behind this design kept in the black-art camp, but we welcome physics enthusiasts to submit their candidate explanations for what is better left as pure magic.

Pictured above is the basic WoW-1 stainless-steel shell. This sort of reminds me of a magician about to saw a beautiful woman in half, but who starts by showing the core chamber as empty. In this case, the audience needs to be left with the sense that this truly is a metal tag, and not just a metal-mount tag.

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