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European EPC Competence Center Report Finds New UHF Tags to Be More Sensitive

After testing 191 models of EPC Gen 2 passive tags, the EECC found that they require less power to become activated—but may transmit a backscatter signal too weak to be read.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 29, 2012The latest annual report on ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tag performance published by the European EPC Competence Center (EECC)—known as the UHF Tag Performance Survey (UTPS) 2012/2013—finds that radio frequency identification tags are becoming considerably more effective in high-proximity reading scenarios (in which multiple tagged items are packed closely together), and have also become highly sensitive to forward RF transmissions (from a reader to a tag). When these sensitive tags are interrogated from a long distance, however, the backward, or backscatter, transmission range (from the tag back to the reader) is decreased, and thus may require more sensitive fixed readers. Currently, according to the EECC, there are no handheld devices that can consistently read such tags when they are located at the far end of their interrogation range.

The results, the EECC reports, indicate that tag manufacturers have been quick to address perceived shortcomings in passive EPC UHF tags, by increasing tags' read effectiveness when in close proximity to many other tags, or when far away from an interrogator. Reader sensitivity issues, on the other hand, may be the next challenge for RFID hardware manufacturers, to ensure that these more sensitive UHF tags can be read, when in either distant or high-proximity scenarios, such as those found when tagged items, such as DVDs, textiles or books, are tightly packed in boxes.

Conrad von Bonin (second from the right, bottom row) and his team of EECC researchers

EECC has been publishing some of the most comprehensive tag benchmark reports since it began conducting studies in 2007 (see European EPC Competence Center Releases UHF Tag Study). For this year's report, the organization included a greater number of tag models and tag suppliers than ever before—191 altogether (86 of which were on-metal tags), from a total of 25 manufacturers, versus 118 tags in total in 2011 (see RFID News Roundup: EECC Delivers Updated Study on UHF Tag Performance). This was the result of a greater number of tags being produced by the Asian market. "There are new suppliers with good tags," says Conrad von Bonin, EECC's general manager. What's more, he adds, companies are producing more specialty tags, such as those designed for tracking laundry. The first study included 20 passive UHF tag models from six manufacturers.

The EECC was founded in 2005 by GS1 Germany and German retailer Metro Group, with a goal of supporting the implementation of EPCglobal's standards for RFID. Its reports are aimed at systems integrators and RFID solutions providers, rather than end users, and its plan is to develop reference materials indicating which type of tag is best suited for a particular application, as well as which reader may be most effective with that tag. Ten EECC researchers spent approximately five months studying the tags during tests performed in the center's lab in Neuss, Germany, focusing on technical limitations and methods for overcoming them. The team simulated testing that adhered to U.S., E.U. and Japanese regulations specified by, respectively, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and the Association of Radio Industries Businesses (ARIB).

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