Radio Frequency Identification systems are a type of AIDC technology that is employed in a majority of industries. These systems use radio waves to provide identification & tracking capabilities to the supply chain operators. A very popular type of Rf system is hard tags, these provide additional functionality in harsh environments. There are many popular industry segments of RFID Hard Tags.
So, let’s discuss them all.
What is an RFID Hard Tag?
These are a classification of tags designed to be robust. Hard tags have a robust outer shell made of ABS plastic or Ceramic. The shells contain an RFID inlay safely. These provide the tags protection against extreme environments like heat, physical impact, chemicals, etc.
There are many types of hard tags, based on their specifications, materials, and functionality. They can have different ranges, rates of data transfer, operational lifespan, etc.
Radio Frequency Identification Hard Tags also come with a variety of mounting options. Due to the vast variety of applications, they need to be compatible with different kinds of surfaces.
Types of RFID Hard Tags
When it comes to classification, there are several criteria based on which we can differentiate RFID components. Every type of tag is compatible with different applications, making them somewhat specialized in usage.
So, let’s discuss the different types of RFID Hard Tags based on specific criteria available for users.
As you already know, radio frequency identification technology works by the propagation of radio waves. These come in different ranges of operational frequencies. There are three primary types of tags based on their frequencies, namely – Low Frequency (LF), High Frequency (HF), and Ultra-High Frequency (UHF).
(A). Low Frequency – These tags usually operate between 125 to 134.2 KHz (Kilohertz) of radio signals. The biggest benefit of these tags is that they provide the most security. As they have a short range of communication, you cannot access them from afar. These are also compatible for use with metal surfaces. However, these tags have a slow rate of data transfer and a very short range. Making them not so popular in the modern times.
(B). High Frequency – As the name suggests, these tags operate on a higher range of frequency than LF tags. HF tags works around 13.56 MHz (Megahertz). These have a decent range of communication, from a few inches to a few feet. On the other hand, like LF tags, these are also compatible for use with metal surfaces, but provide a better read rate than LF Tags.
(C). Ultra-High Frequency – More commonly known as the UHF passive tags, these operate between the frequencies of 850 to 960 MHz. These tags can communicate up to 20 to 25 feet in ideal conditions. However, they are extremely vulnerable to metal surfaces. A normal UHF tag will probably suffer from signal degradation and detuning from metal surfaces. UHF tags have a very high rate of data transfer due to their high frequency.
Another criterion that can help one classify between different types of tags, is the method of mounting. Hard tags come with a variety of options that users can utilize to mount them safely on items.
(A). Riveting – This method refers to using a metal rivet to attach two pieces of metal. You may have seen these on your vehicles’ number plates. In short, riveting consists of a rivet, a metallic screw with a broad head. During this process, we use a hammer or special tool to deform the tail of the rivet, making a two-way barrier.
Another method of securing a hard tag is by using screws. Users can also include a thread locker to make the bond safer and resistant to vibrations.
For most surfaces, using adhesive works perfectly well. That is why many tags come with self-adhesive backing. The adhesive in these layers is usually pressure activated.
(D). Magnetic Adhesion
These tags are only suitable to work with metallic surfaces and are usually used on mount on-metal tags. These tags have a strong magnet inside the shell that helps them adhere strongly to metallic surfaces.
One of the strongest methods of mounting tags on items is welding. Welding essentially melts metal at extremely high temperatures using electricity. Then push this molten metal inside the open crevices When the metal cools down, it forms an extremely strong bond between the surfaces.
(F). Cable Tie
Another quick and easy way to attach tags is using a zip tie cable. These are usually made of polyamide and can be used to form a knotted loop around an anchor point.
Lastly, these types of mounting options are integrated within the tag. Essentially, the tag is in two separate parts, one consists of a small pin that goes inside a hole in the other part. Inside the other part is a buckle that squeezes around the pin the more you try to pull it out.
Any technology that operates using the propagation of radio signals, needs a source of power to create these signals. There are two types of tags available in the market, based on their source of energy.
(A). Active Tags
As the name suggests, these tags work on an active basis, meaning they are powered by an integrated battery (usually a Li-ion coin cell). The tag uses this battery to broadcast a signal using its antenna. In addition, depending on the pattern of broadcast, we can further divide these tags into two types, namely – beacons, and transponders.
Transponder tags broadcast their signals continuously, regardless of the presence of a reader near them. In the case of beacons, these tags remain on standby until they receive a signal from a reader. Once they do, they start broadcasting their own signals.
(B). Passive Tags
On the other hand, passive tags lack any sort of internal power. Therefore, they have two means of communication, namely – inductive coupling, and conductive coupling. Coupling refers to a tag connecting to a reader and exchanging information.
In Inductive Coupling, a tag needs to remain within the near-field of the antenna. Within this zone, the reader’s antenna can induce an electric charge within the tag using electromagnetic induction. The tag can then use this charge to broadcast a signal of its own or program its memory.
In the case of radiative coupling, the tag is inside the far field of the antenna, hence, too far away to have an electric charge induced in it. Therefore, it relies on a phenomenon known as signal backscattering. This refers to the reflection of signals after they hit a surface. These scattered signals carry the information programmed in the tag.
Different Industrial Segments that Incorporate the Use of RFID Hard Tags
One of the most popular uses of hard tags is in the automotive industry. This is because the environment inside automotive manufacturing facilities is very harsh. In addition, most of these tags are also mount on-metal compatible to allow them to function without disruptions.
(B). Industrial Application
Some industries use these types of tags all along the supply chain to ensure guaranteed tracking services. These tags can withstand an unusual amount of physical trauma, making them perfect to be operated on transit lines.
Like said in the previous point, hard tags are extremely resistant to physical damage and kinetic impacts. Some tags can even take direct hits from hammers and not even dent. Making them perfect for use in logistics and transportation operations.
Hospitals can be chaotic environments, despite the best efforts of medical workers. These facilities use expensive & valuable equipment that must be closely kept track of, so they can be retrieved without any delay in the time of need.
(E). Sports & Events
RFID has wide applications in sporting events, from keeping track of equipment to keeping track of the performance of athletes. Allowing the participants to have accurate performance data of their opponents.
(F). Animal Identification
Used heavily in dairy farms and any place with animal husbandry. Users use hard tags to identify & track every cattle in the herd. The hard tags not only provide accurate information but are also resistant to abrasions from fences or poles, giving them a good lifespan.
Food production and transportation industries use RFID tags to not only keep track of the movement of these items along the supply chain. But also, the telemetry sensors on these tags, allow businesses to have monitoring over the environmental conditions of all the places the items were stored, helping them assess their viability.
Hard tags serve a nice purpose in the apparel industry. With their ability to negate physical damage and robust mounting options, apparel businesses use these tags to ensure the safety of their products.
(I). Immobilizer Systems
Finally, a popular and upcoming usage of active hard tags is in vehicle immobilizer systems. Ever seen a vehicle with centralized locking? These keys contain an RFID chip inside that can communicate with the car’s ECU system using radio signals. When a user put the key in ignition, the keyhole supplies the chip with electricity and allows it to send an authentication signal to the ECU. This system prevents any unauthentic clone key from activating your engine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What are RFID hard tags?
An RFID hard tag is a normal tag with an addition of a tough outer shell usually made out of ABS or ceramic that protects it against physical damage, chemical exposure, and moisture.
Q2. Are security tags RFID?
Security tags can be RFID, any security that uses radio signals to communicate information to an RFID reader will have a tag inside them. However, alternatively, some security tags also operate on an EAS basis, using magnetic fields.
Q3. What are RFID tags used for?
Hard tags are used for asset identification & tracking operations through the use of radio signals.
- Last updated on Jul 04, 2023