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RFID: Next-Level Serialization Technology


As serialization technology advances, businesses are increasingly looking for ways to adopt the latest options to serialize their products in order to achieve supply chain integrity and prevent the penetration of counterfeit goods. While 1D and 2D barcodes are still widely used, many businesses are adopting more versatile modes of serialization, such as radio-frequency identification (RFID).

RFID technology has existed since the 1940s, when scientists developed a system using radar to locate the precise location of aircraft during the Second World War by causing signals to bounce back and forth between sources that ‘send’ and ‘receive’ them. However, it was only in 1979 when the first RFID chips were developed and integrated into physical items, paving the road for today’s use of the technology.

The most widely used form of RFID systems come in the form of RFID tags. The mechanism consists of 3 components: an RFID tag or smart label, an RFID reader and an antenna. RFID tags or smart labels can be attached to individual products or packages and consist of an integrated circuit that withholds relevant product data, as well as an antenna. The antenna, usually powered by a battery source, consistently emits radio waves at all times, which are captured by an RFID reader that in turn processes and decodes the information stored within the RFID tag.

On the other hand, RFID tags that don’t hold their own power source—known as passive RFID tags—are activated by incoming radio waves that are transmitted by an RFID reader. Only then do the RFID tags ‘bounce’ or ‘reflect’ a signal back to the RFID reader to be processed.

While RFID tags are also adhesive-based and stuck onto items like serial barcodes often seen in retail stores and supermarkets, they provide greater advantages in the era of streamlined global trade and digital information.

RFID tags can store more information than standard serial barcodes.

While serial barcodes are usually limited to the batch number and price of a product, RFID tags can store data such as the product’s manufacturer origin, its intended final destination, maintenance history, transit points, as well as hold photo images. Additionally, RFID tags can be read at a distance of up to more than 400 meters if they use high frequency technology. RFID readers can also read hundreds of RFID tags at a time, minimising the amount of time taken to process items at transit points and subsequently cutting down on delivery times.

Finally, RFID tags are resistant to abuse in ways serial codes aren’t, such as smears or tears, which make them secure and more immune to attempts of sabotage. RFID tags can also be customised so that existing data can’t be overwritten and updated without the appropriate mechanisms.

RFID technology is being used by businesses across many industries, such as the pharmaceutical and retail sectors and the market is projected to be valued at USD17 billion by 2024. Its integration into serialization methods as part of track and trace solutions will no doubt expand, making it a robust, secure and effective form of product labeling to track the movement of goods in a supply chain and maintain integrity, thereby keeping out counterfeit products from penetrating the global market.

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