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Ask The Experts: Embedding RFID Tags into Devices

Is it worth it for OEMs to embed RFID tags directly into devices?

Embedding passive RFID tags directly into devices enhances security, traceablity and trackability in a way that is both invisible to the end user and indelible over time.

For example, products that require tracking at the serial number level for chain of custody management or lifecycle management can be enhanced through the addition of embedded RFID. Rugged RFID tags can be molded into a plastic, rubber or composite element of the device, and can be completely over-molded – leaving them invisible to the user, but still readable as far away as 3-5 meters.

Enhance durability

Unlike RFID labels, embedded tags are inherently protected from impacts, chemical degradation, abrasion and other hazards of the environment and handling. They are not obscured by dirt or grime. They will not fall off because the adhesive becomes old and brittle. They will last for the life of the device, even if this is many decades. In addition, because they are passive devices, embedded RFID tags require zero maintenance. With embedded RFID, there is never a concern about being able to read the serial number of the device; the information is always there.

Enhance security

Because the tag is incorporated into the structure of the device, it is extremely difficult to remove, deface or counterfeit. It is virtually impossible to destroy the tag without destroying some element of the device. A properly encoded tag cannot be altered, and it is virtually impossible to counterfeit an RFID tag, since all have unique numbers that are programmed during the silicon fabrication process. This aids in the protection of valuable IP that is part of the device.

Enhance information access

An RFID tag containing a unique device identifier can also be used to store additional critical information about the device. Configuration, design or date code information can be programmed into the RFID tag. This can provide customer and service personnel with useful information without the need to connect to a network and a product information database, shortening diagnostic and service cycles.

Enhance functionality

An embedded RFID tag can also add features or enhance the functionality of the device. For example, the device could be equipped with an inexpensive RFID reader module, which could sense the presence or proximity of the embedded tag to ensure that the device’s cover is properly in place before it could be used. Thus, the tag and reader could replace another set of sensors in the device, reducing its cost and complexity.

Enhance trackability

Many customers are now adding RFID tags to their devices so that they can quickly and efficiently locate and manage their assets. Equipping assets with embedded RFID tags greatly speeds the process of locating and uniquely identifying assets. By equipping a device with RFID at the factory, a manufacturer enables his customer’s effective asset tracking system out of the box, without the need for aftermarket tags.

Other potential benefits

You could enhance the efficiency of your distribution chain by embedding RFID in your device, since your customers can take advantage of the embedded RFID tag to track the quantity and configuration of devices in their inventory. The same is true for end users, who would be able to quickly count inventory of parts. Additionally, in the event of a product recall or major upgrade event, RFID enables the rapid and highly accurate identification of the unique devices requiring service.

There are many potential benefits that should have many OEMs considering embedding passive RFID tags into their products. These benefits accrue to both the OEM and his customers, and endure for the life of the device.

Want to learn more? Contact Vizinex RFID, a long-standing leader in embedded RFID technology.

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