RFID tags turns metal packaging into antennas

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Rfid, Radio-frequency identification

Crown and QinetiQ are jointly developing radio-frequency
identification (RFID) tracking that willturn metal packaging into
an antenna and help reduce the costs of using the technology.

The two announced the partnership this week saying the development will solve problems with reading RFID tags attached to metal containers and cut the costs of using the technology. The technology will allow processors to integrate ultra high frequency (UHF) RFID tags into metal packaging at the single itemlevel, they said. The two companies plan to target the technology at manufacturers of higher endproducts such as perfumes, liquors, confectionary and ink cartridges, before moving on to the widerbeverages markets

Metal poses a particular problem for RFID, as the material can interfere with the signals sentbetween the RFID tag and the reader.

"Designed to mitigate issues such as signal reflection, detuning and grounding which reduce or negate RFID's effectiveness on metal packaging or with aqueous-based products, the unique technology leverages several of metal's inherent properties and shifts the format into an advantageousposition,"​ the two companies stated in a press release.

QinetiQ currently markets a standalone tag, branded as Omni-ID. The tag is integrated with thecompany's Omni-ID Pak software and hardware, which allows a UHF tag to be mounted directly onto the metal substrate.The tags, less than 1mm in thickness, are designed to collect and focus radio frequency energy.

Crown and QinetiQ said they are continuing to develop the technology for metal packaging toadvance the design by using the material itself as part of the RFID system.

"In the near future, it is expected that the metal substrate itself will have an integral role in the way thetechnology functions,"​ they stated. "Using a beverage or food can as an example, the can itself would serve as the antenna, simplifying production of the RFID tag and further reducing costs."

The advantage of QinetiQ's technology is the reduction of manufacturing costs as the RFID chips require only a shortcoupling antenna rather than the large dipole usually incorporated in UHF tags, claimed Dan Abramowicz,the president of Crown's packaging technology division.

"QinetiQ's Omni-ID technology offers a completely new way to capture energy, making it fundamentally different than other proposed solutions which have been limiting in terms of size, complexity and cost," he said. "With this development, metal has gone from being RFID unfriendly to having powerful benefits that competitive packaging formats do not."

He cited overall cost reductions associated with RFID integration as another claimedadvantage.

"The integration process becomes much easier and brand owners have more space on the package itself for graphics and keymessaging due to the smaller footprint of the tag,"​ he said.

The two companies plan to target the technology at manufacturers of higher end products such as perfumes, liquors,confectionary and ink cartridges.

"In the longer term, it is anticipated that the technology will be economically feasible at the unitproduct level for all applications and will be made available for licensing across metal packaging and aqueous productapplications,"​ they stated.

US-based Crown is a global supplier of packaging. QinetiQ is a defense and security technology company.It was formed in July 2001 as an offshoot of the UK Government's Defence Evaluation & Research Agency (DERA).

RFID technology is helping to transform logistics by providing a means of tracking and tracing individual products throughout the supply chain. However the high cost of tags, high error read rates and privacy concerns have held back the development of the technology, despite mandates from major retailers such as Wal-Mart and Metro.

RFID uses a wireless system that can be used to track products, parts, expensive items andtemperature-and time-sensitive goods. Transponders, or RFID tags, are attached to objects. The tagwill identify itself when it detects a signal from a reader that emits a radio frequencytransmission. Each RFID tag carries information on it such as a serial number, model number, colour,place of assembly or other types of data.

When these tags pass through a field generated by a compatible reader, they transmit thisinformation back to the reader, thereby identifying the object.

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