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Ultracapacitor Offers 75-Foot Read Range for Passive Tags

Storing energy from a small solar panel enables the passive UHF S/Cap tag to perform like a battery-assisted tag.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
The ultracapacitor is used to extend the passive tag's signal strength, and thus increase its range. The S/Cap is designed to compete with BAP tags, rather than with active tags, which are powered by a battery and typically transmit their signal to receivers, rather than utilizing power from the interrogator to backscatter data back to the reader.

Why use an ultracapacitor rather than the thin-film battery often found in BAP tags? One reason, Walker says, is that ultracapacitors offer greater power density, and can take a charge more quickly than batteries can. But their key benefit for RFID tags designed for tracking assets, he says, is a longer life.

An ultracapacitor has up to 1,000 times a battery's cycle life—that is, the number of charges and discharges that a battery can perform before it begins to fail. "The real competitive advantage to the S/Cap is in the lifespan," Walker states. "My understanding is that with BAP tags, [vendors] say they'll last two, three or five years, but in reality, the tags often have a shorter lifespan."

The S/Cap tag, Walker reports, will outlast the RFID chip and other tag components. "The limiting factor for lifespan on the tag is not the ultracapacitor," he says. "It's more like the data retention on the chip, which is probably around 10 years." Enable IPC offers a seven-year limited warranty on the tag.

The S/Cap tag is currently available, and costs between $12 and $15 per tag, depending on volume. According to Walker, Enable IPC has already secured an order for 1.5 million S/Cap tags from a company involved in the RFID industry, though he declines to name that firm.

Moreover, Enable IPC is presently developing energy-storage technologies and products for renewable energy applications. The company is also researching the use of nanotechnology in developing ultracapacitors, through its SolRayo subsidiary.

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