Advancement in any technology ain’t a recent phenomenon and we’ve witnessed much advancement in communication technology very recently. From corded phones to mobiles and now smartphones with video calling features and tap for payment features, from machine to machine communication (M2M) to IoT (Internet of Things), from internet 3G to 4G and now 5G and 6G, from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to NFC and BLE, the list goes on. Communication technologies are evolving every day.
The AIDC (Automatic Identification and Data Capture) technology RFID is also seeing a recent and great development bringing down the RFID tag costs to lowest in decade with Chipless RFID.
The RFID technology
RFID, short for Radio Frequency Identification is a short range wireless technology that uses radio frequency signals to communicate with an RFID tagged object with the help of an RFID reader. Antenna is also used to boost the range of communication and software is used to collect and store the data from the RFID tag for the end users.
The RFID market is witnessing a sharp rise over last few years and according to a report, the RFID market is expected to reach 35.6B USD by 2030 from 18.45B USD by 2023 end and the growth is expected to be at 11.9% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) during this forecast period.
This sharp rise is mostly fuelled by retail and supply chain businesses as the most of retail giants are strengthening their supply chain network using modern technologies. Unlike other sectors, RFID has seen significant decline in RFID implementation costs due to this sharp rise in RFID demand, fuelling more demand and development.
The Chipless RFID tag
The idea behind Chipless RFID tags and the development so far (Chipless RFID tag is a reality now) has been due to efforts to counter Barcode in specific applications such as retail tagging of apparel, shoes, supply packages as well as supply chain needs.
It’s been more than 20 years since MIT Auto-ID purposed the use of EPC (electronic product code, with the use of RFID) over UPC, as an innovative replacement of traditional barcode but RFID tag costs are high and as long as it doesn’t come down to 0.1 cent, it cannot replace barcoding for good. Hence the chipless RFID, an RFID tag with no silicon chip.
The chipless RFID market, according to a report is anticipated to witness a massive growth over next few years due to factors such as low manufacturing costs, high accuracy and efficiency than other available resources. The global chipless RFID market is expected to reach at 4744 million USD by 2027 from 903.3 million USD in 2019.
So what exactly is a chipless RFID tag and how it is different than the RFID tags, the traditional RFID tags with Chip?
Well, a chipless RFID tag, unlike the traditional RFID tag, doesn’t use a silicon microchip and this reduces the cost of manufacturing a chipless RFID tag to minimum as the materials that are used here are readily available.
Traditional RFID Tag Vs Chipless RFID Tag
Traditional RFID tags and chipless RFID tags operate on the same principles of using radio frequencies for communication, but there are some key differences between them.
The Silicone Chip and no chip
The first and most significant difference is that traditional RFID tags have an electronic chip (IC) that stores and processes data. In contrast, chipless RFID tags do not have electronic chips, but instead use other methods such as the tag's physical characteristics, a unique pattern of resonator and reflector materials to encode information. It allows chipless RFID tags to be fabricated at a lower cost and with simpler processes than traditional RFID tags which have a costly manufacturing process.
Another difference between traditional and chipless RFID tags is the read range. Traditional RFID tags can have a read range of several meters, while chipless RFID tags typically have a shorter read range to compete with barcodes. Both of these RFID tags don’t require a clear line of sight for reading unlike barcodes.
While traditional RFID tags have more memory due to presence if an IC chip, a chipless RFID tag has lesser memory but significantly more than a 1D barcode.
Chipless RFID tags may be less reliable than traditional tags, as they can be affected by environmental factors such as humidity or temperature. Since communication technique here is backscattering of the RF signals, it gets affected.
Data encoding techniques
When it comes to writing or encoding, the Chipless tags can be classified into two main sub-classes, the time domain reflectometry (TDR)-based tags and spectral signature-based tags (using multiple Spurling resonators) or frequency domain-based tags.
Two different kinds of chipless RFID as harmonic and SAR-based RFID are also in works. However, the encoding in traditional RFID tags is done using a printer encoder or a reader with encoding capabilities.
To conclude, the main difference between traditional RFID tags and chipless RFID tags is the presence or absence of an electronic chip. The traditional tags have a chip for processing data, while chipless tags do not, and instead encode information through other means as described above. The chipless RFID market is witnessing a significant growth fuelled by retail demand to replace barcodes for good. The cost factor here is very important as chipless RFID has managed to reduce the RFID tag costs to 1 cents or even lower, with the removing of silicone IC chip of course.