You can use either passive high-frequency (HF) or passive low-frequency (LF) tags to track wine bottles. The big challenge is that liquid absorbs ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) energy, and thus makes reading standard UHF tags challenging. HF and LF tags work better around liquids. UHF tags can be utilized on cases if a tag is placed near the top, where the bottle necks create an air gap enabling a UHF tag to be read.
Most tagging of wine bottles to date has been performed using HF transponders. In 2005, Italian RFID firm Lab ID developed an HF transponder that could be embedded in a synthetic cork. The solution was tested, but to my knowledge, no winery actually deployed a system employing these transponders (see Wine Bottles Get Corked With RFID).
A hotel in Mexico City that stores more than $1 million worth of wine in its cellar is utilizing HF transponders in pressure-sensitive labels on the bottom of each bottle. The transponders are read by HF readers at the back of the wine racks (see A Vintage RFID Application).
Bàcaro, a wine retailer and delicatessen at Zurich Airport, is using HF tags on wine to up-sell and cross-sell its merchandise. The HF tags, which comply with the ISO 15693 air-interface protocol, are encased in plastic and are glued to the underside of the bottles of wine. The tags are read at an information kiosk fitted with a computer screen and an RFID interrogator (see Interactive Wine Kiosk Wows Customers).
ThingM, a California startup specializing in ubiquitous computing, has developed WineM, an RFID-enabled wine rack that lets aficionados and sommeliers manage their collections visually. Each cell, or slot, in the wine rack is equipped with an RFID antenna; a specially designed RFID interrogator can read six cells. Each cell is also fitted with four RGB LEDs that can display a broad range of colors. Before a new wine is stored on the rack, a 125 KHz passive, read-only tag is affixed to the bottom of the bottle. When a bottle is placed into a cell, the tag is read and the unique ID number is uploaded into the WineM software and database. The system also includes a Nokia touch screen to access the software. Search for, say, “California chardonnay, Sonoma, 2005, $30,” and all cells holding bottles meeting that description will light up (see RFID for Wine Aficionados).
Finally, startup firm eProvenance offers a service for tracking fine wines “from château to consumer” that uses a combination of semi-active (battery-assisted) and passive RFID technologies, as well as specialized ink, that work in concert to track, authenticate and monitor bottles of wine (see Startup Service Adds Smarts to Fine Wine).
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal