RFID is rapidly penetrating the retail sector. It involves the use of HF and UHF tags in main, the most popular applications being the tagging of apparel, books, pallets and cases, all of them mainly using UHF in the retail environment and drugs mainly at HF. For the retailer, the paybacks are rapid.
Although the mandates from certain US retailers that suppliers must tag pallets and cases have now resulted in that country primarily buying UHF tags and having more cases of UHF tagging in action that at any other frequency, it is alone in this regard. Virtually everywhere else, HF is the most popular frequency. The fact that you can buy goods with your RFID enabled phone working at HF to the global Near Field Communication standards reinforces that situation in countries such as Japan but the position is still fluid.
The Europeans may wait for more amenable UHF regulations before they extensively tag much beyond dry, non-metallic pallets and cases: they will not go it alone with HF for all pallets and cases. However, at item level, both frequencies are used and HF is in the ascendant. For example, the Swedish companies RFID Solutions and AdhTech have rolled out the use of woven RFID garment labels at HF for designer name apparel, the primary purpose being anti-counterfeiting.
Figure 1 The RFID Solutions AdhTech stitchable HF label for designer apparel
Twice as many item level drugs are being tagged at HF than UHF, again for anti-counterfeiting and HF tagging of jewellery is seen in shops in Japan, Switzerland and Dubai, for example. Soon we shall see the third alternative, called Near Field UHF in similar applications, with sadly, all three options being incompatible. They call for different tag and interrogator antennas, for instance.
Figure 2 Global distribution of cases of RFID in action by frequency from the IDTechEx Database of 2228 cases in 84 countries. www.rfidbase.com
Clearly RFID is being used more and more in retailing and it is for more and more reasons from many ways of increasing sales to many ways of reducing both costs and crime. The leading conference for airing these matters, RFID Smart Labels USA, returns to Boston on February 21-22 2007. It is truly global and it moves beyond systems aspects to fully air the interests of converters, materials suppliers and others. The 500+ delegates and speakers in 2006 came from 30 countries. See www.smartlabelsUSA.com for more information.
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IDTechEx 2006/7 Dates:
Active RFID Summit USA, 14-15 November, Atlanta USA www.activerfidsummit.com
Printed Electronics USA 2006, 5-6 December, Phoenix, USA www.printelec.com
RFID Smart Labels USA 2007, 21-22 February, Boston, USA www.smartlabelsUSA.com
For more articles from the independent analyst company IDTechEx, see www.idtechex.com.