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Omni-ID Launches UltraThin Metal-Mount Tags

The new tags, which measure approximately 0.05 inch in thickness, are being used or tested by about 20 companies to track laptops, oil pipes, shopping carts and other assets.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 02, 2012RFID tag manufacturer Omni-ID has developed a family of thin ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) Gen 2 passive tags that can be mounted on metal. The new tags are being used or tested by approximately 20 companies, in order to manage assets that were impractical to track by means of larger metal-mount tags. Omni-ID's UltraThin tag, which measures about 0.05 inch in thickness, can be likened to the size of a stick of chewing gum, and is thin enough that it will not interfere with the handling of small electronics (such as laptop computers), the stacking of tagged metal equipment (such as shopping carts) or the movement of pipes for the oil and gas industry.

The new UltraThin tag is available in two models: the Flex LP, manufactured using Alien Technology's Higgs 3 chip, and the Flex AI, made with NXP Semiconductors' G2iL chip. Both models comply with the EPC Gen 2 standard for passive UHF RFID tags. The initial customer for the Flex AI is a Fortune 100 firm that needed to track thousands of laptops located on its premises. That company, which has asked to remain unnamed, had been working with NXP in its quest for a UHF tag that could be read effectively when attached to such metallic items as laptops and other mobile electronics, but that was thin enough that it would not interfere with the carrying or use of the items.

The Flex LP tag, shown here attached to a metal motor housing.

"NXP knew we were working on something like this [a very thin metal-mount tag]," says George Reynolds, Omni-ID's VP of global sales and marketing. In fact, he says, Omni-ID had already developed a prototype, so it provided the resulting Flex Al tag to its customer in October 2011, for initial testing. In November, Omni-ID filled an order for 20,000 tags, which the customer then attached to the laptops and other mobile electronic devices. (Reynolds says he is not at liberty to describe at what points the tags are being read, or by which types of RFID interrogators.) Since then, Omni-ID has provided the tags to other companies for testing purposes in tracking laptops, as well as to returnable transport item (RTI) businesses and to the oil and gas industry, for tracking metal pipes.

For IT asset-tracking solutions using the Flex LP and Flex AI tags, Reynolds says, customers typically issue UHF EPC Gen 2 passive RFID badges to their employees, and apply the UltraThin RFID tags to computers. They can then utilize fixed RFID reader portals to interrogate both the badge and laptop tags as individuals pass through the portals, link the unique ID numbers of each, and thereby determine when someone is removing or returning a laptop, as well as that person's identity.

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