Considerations For RFID Label Selection & Management

When thinking about implementing an RFID system, it’s important that the one you choose is right for your application. But even if the system you choose is the ideal one for your needs, there are still some considerations which, if not made can compromise your system’s success.

For any RFID system to work properly, it must be able to transfer data reliably, and in such a way as to be predictable and dependable. And this means ensuring that the right conditions exist for this to occur. Of course, when considering the right conditions for an RFID system, these must exist for both the receiver and the security labels themselves.

Testing

Before purchase of any system which allows you to print your own labels, it should be tested to ensure that the media being used is right for the encoder you plan to utilise. Some RFID printing systems may require additional signal shielding or mechanical changes in order to ensure their efficiency over the long term.

Similarly, the printer should be matched to the position on the label where the chip will be located. All too often, the media is ordered before it’s been confirmed that it will suit the printer. Matching the RFID protocol between printer and label is crucial. Otherwise, calibration may be necessary to ensure the correct encoding and alignment.

Temperature

Fortunately, in most cases, temperature does not represent a concern for RFID systems. But it can still help to know which temperatures ensure optimal performance. Typically, as long as a storage area’s temperature is kept between -51 and +95°C, a system should be able to perform reliably, properly and consistently.

Metals

Smart labels do not perform properly when they are metal or foil-based. This is because metal is an RF signal reflector. As well, metal continues to be a top source of interference for RFID tags. Should an RFID inlay be embedded in some kind of foil or metal label, range can be severely limited. As well, it would not allow for easy or successful reading or encoding. Finally, RFID labels do not rely on optical technology as do their bar code counterparts. Therefore, they will not benefit from the inclusion of metals for the purpose of enhancing light reflection and performance as is so often done with bar codes.

ESD

ESD, or electrostatic discharge can cause the complete failure of RFID tags. Therefore, the dangers of ESD should be a definite consideration, especially in areas of high altitude and low humidity. One way to control for the amount of ESD which occurs near RFID tags is to store media in materials which are non-conductive, such as cardboard containers. This will protect the tags from existing ESD.  Where electrostatic discharge is significant, other measures may need to be taken, such as outfitting equipment and workers with grounding straps and anti-static clothing.

Liquids

Besides metal, liquids are another enemy of the RFID system. This is because they actually absorb the RFID signal. This can render a tag completely unreadable and unable to be encoded or severely limit its range. When placing RFID tags on liquid items, it’s important to do so in such a way that allows for the longest range and most reliable readings possible.

In addition to ensuring the right temperature levels, amounts of ESD and presence of liquids and metals, the successful operation of any RFID system will also depend on having the right training and procedures in place, as well as ensuring that the tags are placed in the most readable locations. With all of these considerations made, your RFID system can not only increase the efficiency of your operations, but may also mean that less operator intervention is required should something go amiss.

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