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Small RFID, big Impact

Smaller RFID tags facilitate the tracking of machine components and ID cards, without any disruption in radio signal.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a technology that uses electro-magnetic fields to transfer data. RFID tags are already an indispensable tool in many industries, where they are used to automatically identify and track objects. One example is the automotive industry, where thousands of parts can be tracked and made available at the exact point in the production process when they are required. The tags can be used on anything – from clothing to cash, even implanted in people and animals. RFID tags are (often) not compatible with ID cards, portable devices, and metal parts due to disturbances in signal reception.

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Small Enough for Access Control

Thanks to Fujitsu Laboratories, this restriction no longer exists. The organization has created a new compact RFID tag that can be used on objects which are limited in terms of signal reception. Until now, for guaranteed communication with an RFID reader within a 2-meter radius, tags needed to measure at least 75 mm  in length and approximately 5 mm in thickness. The new technology from Fujitsu Laboratories uses a thin plastic looped structure that emits radio waves, allowing the tags to measure just 30 mm and 0.5 mm respectively. This makes the tag small enough for use in a wide range of applications, including managing machine components or ID cards worn for access to a building.

Frequencies within the UHF band – similar to frequencies used for televisions and mobile phones and with a relatively long range– are often used in RFID systems. However, these radio waves do not travel well through metal or the human body. So-called ‘spacers’ were used to resolve this issue by maintaining a certain distance between the tag and the object or body to which it was attached. The disadvantage of this was that the RFID tag became too large for use on small objects.

Surface as an Antenna

The technology developed by Fujitsu Laboratories uses a curved structure. The tag is wrapped around rubber or plastic and the traditional restrictions on wavelength no longer apply. When applied to a metal surface, the surface acts as an antenna via which radio signals are emitted. This allows a communication range of several meters. As the human body consists largely of water and therefore permits (harmless) conducting of electricity, the process is comparable to that of an ID card with RFID tag.

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