There is a lot to consider when selecting a tag: footprint, durability, read range. Once the tag is chosen, another critical function your RFID vendor may provide is labeling and encoding of your tags.
There are many reasons you may want your RFID tags labeled and/or encoded:
- To meet various standards (e.g., EPC Tag Data Standard such as GRAI-96, USDOD-96)
- To match an existing number scheme
- To provide redundancy (human readable/barcode/RFID)
- To identify specific types of items quickly (e.g., search for a specific class beginning with 1A2B versus another class that starts with A23B)
- To associate tags with specific locations or facilities
Next, you will need to consider who will handle the work of labeling and encoding your data. Is this a function that your RFID tag vendor can provide, or is this a task you would do yourself? No matter which choice you make, it is vital that programming is done in a manner that will ensure label and encoded data are reliably matched and that duplicates are not introduced.
When considering an RFID partner that provides this service bureau function, ask about the company’s programming procedures, including how the data is maintained and verified. On the service side, look for a provider who collaborates to understand the business problem you are trying to solve. Also, consider the following:
- Does the addition of the service bureau function add significantly to lead time? If a vendor does not routinely perform this function, the delivery of your order may be delayed.
- Does the vendor assist in the label layout and options, use of 1-D and 2-D barcodes, logos or other branding options?
- Is the location of the programming operation and support staff conducive to easy accessibility and communication (e.g., same time zone)?.
- Does the vendor maintain (and back-up) records of your orders? This often may prevent tag duplication across subsequent orders.
- Does the vendor provide data files if requested detailing label, EPC and TID information on the tags ordered?
- Does the vendor maintain test and encoding records? Tags should be tested for read distance performance, and records of all testing and encoding processes should be maintained for each tag.
Unique Capabilities and Support
- Is the vendor flexible enough to take data you provide (serialized and non-serialized) and incorporate it into the label and programming of your tags in the way you need?
- Does the vendor provide a variety of encoding options, such as locking with a password or perma-locking, use of a prefix or date codes in the encoding scheme, and do they explain the options and the implications?
- Is the vendor’s encoding technology cutting edge? For example, as an added security feature, Vizinex RFID has introduced the use of randomly assigned access passwords to each RFID tag. A data file is provided to the customer detailing the tag EPC, ID and access password. This unique process limits the possibility of a total system breakdown in the event the password of an individual tag is compromised.
- How much cost does the programming and labeling operation add to the price of the delivered tags? Setup costs for running labels and programming are high, so smaller quantities tend to be significantly higher on a per unit basis. For large runs (tens of thousands of tags), overseas pricing is sometimes attractive, but this option is often accompanied by extended lead times, significantly higher freight charges and reduced quality of customer support.
RFID tags are purchased in the thousands and often tens of thousands. It’s critical to back up your investment by selecting a partner who matches exceptional products with exceptional service. This blend of technical know-how and expert consultation will set your RFID system up for success well beyond the point of purchase.