Introduction to UHF Tags - Vizinex RFID
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Introduction to UHF Tags

Introduction

Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Tags are becoming more popular for solving difficult RFID problems and meeting business needs across various industries. However questions surrounding High Frequency (HF) and Ultra High Frequency or UHF tags remain. Many still wonder whether HF or UHF tags are the best solution for meeting business goals. To understand why UHF Tags are finally gaining popularity one must first understand what UHF Tags are, the differences between HF and UHF tags and applications where UHF Tags have been successfully deployed.

UHF Tags vs. HF Tags

Up until now HF Tags have been viewed as a more reliable and proven technology. However recent developments established that UHF tags are equally as reliable and often times can offer better performance across many applications. To understand why that is, we must first understand the difference between HF and UHF Tags.

HF and UHF Tags operate at different frequencies. The maximum range for HF tags is 13.56 MHz and the maximum read range is about 3 feet. Meanwhile UHF Tags operate in the 858 to 930 MHz frequency band and can have a read range of 30 feet (while there are tags with a longer read range, 30ft are an average).

HF Tags are considered more “mature” tags, since they have been around for longer. While UHF tags are dominant technology for supply chain applications, it is believed that due to their “maturity” and a short read range HF tags are a better choice for item level or near-field applications. However over the past years it has become apparent that UHF Tags are equally as reliable as HF tags and often can offer better performance. UHF tags do not need to be near field tags to be read at a close range. Unlike HF tags, UHF tags can be read both at close and long ranges: a 30 ft. tag can also be read from an inch away. Because of their versatile read range, UHF tags can be optimized for various applications and be processed at various read distances. UHF Tags are perfect for work-in-process applications including, inventory tracking, anti-counterfeit applications, identification applications and many more. Because UHF Tags can provide the range and coverage users need, UHF tags are perfect for applications where a “universal” tag is necessary or a tag that can be read at both long and short distances.

Additionally, HF tags are not an option where a longer read range is required. Therefore it is important to consider future applications and extensions of RFID uses when planning on implementing an HF RFID System.

Advantages of UHF Tags

There are several advantages to using UHF Tags, the two most relevant are cost and performance. In the section above we touched upon how UHF Tags have a longer read distance; however we have yet to explain the difference in speed. The speed at which UHF tags may be read and the distance over which UHF tags may be read are usually higher when compared to HF tags. Additionally, due to mandates to their supplier to use UHF tags for their supply chain tracking, from giants such as Wal-Mart and Gillette it is believed that UHF Tags will be cheaper. The idea is that as UHF tag production volume increase, cost will decrease. Furthermore it is suggested that as UHF tags become more popular in item level tagging and the production numbers will reach billions, tag prices will plummet.

While both of these factors suggest operational benefits to implementing a UHF RFID system, there are still misconceptions that need to be cleared. The next section deals with myths and misconceptions if UHF Tags.

Misconceptions about UHF Tags

While UHF tags can obviously offer a versatile read distance, many believe there are drawbacks to UHF Tags. For a long time it was believed that

1. UHF Tags could not function on/in water or metal

2. UHF Tags could not provide shorter read range

3. UHF Tags are too large and are inappropriate for applications where a smaller footprint is necessary

This section is delegated to reexamining these misconceptions and myths about UHF Tag.

1. UHF Tags cannot function on or in liquids or metals.
It is well proven that HF tags perform reliably and accurately on liquids and metals. However, for a while it was believed that UHF tags cannot function on/in liquids. The later claim is untrue: UHF tags perform equally well (if not better) on both liquids and metals. UHF Gen 2 Tags not only work on liquids they actually work in containers that are filled with liquids. In 2009 an RFID tag manufacturer demonstrated that a UHF Tag can, not only work on containers containing liquids but in liquids as well, by reading a UHF Tag placed inside a Gatorade bottle.

Additionally UHF tags not only work on metal, but these tags actually take advantage of the metal background, utilizing it to increase performance. For example, Boeing chose to identify aircraft parts with UHF Tags to streamline maintenance and pre – flight inspection processes. Boeing used a mount – on – metal UHF tag to identify metal objects. Additionally, Vizinex RFID’s Sentry Family of Asset tags are all mount on metal UHF Tags, specifically designed for superior performance on metal surfaces.
In short, UHF tags are flexible and can be designed to achieve the best performance required on metal and on – or in – liquids.

2. UHF Tags do not provide contained read range, required for item level tracking.
UHF Tags can provide a full spectrum of ranges required, from near field ranges as small as an inch away to 50+ft. Read range is not strictly determined by the frequency. UHF Tag inlays designed to have a shortened read range will be as good (if not better) as HF tags. Antennas can be designed to have a short, long or complete read ranges. Unlike HF Tags, UHF tags allow for flexibility in read range, tags can be designed to function in near and far field applications.

3. UHF Tags are too large and are inappropriate for applications where a smaller footprint is necessary
UHF Tags do not have size constraints. UHF Tags can be designed based on a footprint. For example Vizinex RFID developed a UHF Tag; with a footprint small enough to be placed on servers that have limited space (36.3mm x 10.9mm x 2.8mm). Additionally, medical UHF labels can be found as small as 9 mm in size. UHF tags provide the flexibility to meet customers’ needs, from short range tags to tags small enough to fit in the cap of a vial to large tags that require robust performance in the longest of read ranges.

Conclusion

As one can see from this brief, UHF Tags are the right choice for most applications. While UHF can offer the same effective uses as HF, the reverse is not true. UHF tags can be read at a long and short distances, while HF tags are limited to a very short read range. UHF tags are easily customized to meet application specific goals and can be read on/in water, on metal, and can vary in size. Additionally UHF tags have been implemented in many supply chains and business in many difficult applications. While HF may be the more “mature” technology, unlike UHF tags, they do not have the properties necessary to meet today’s evolving business needs.

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