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Addressing a Need

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Reacting to the operational efficiencies made possible by RFID-tagging individual items, retailers are now considering faster ways to write sourcing data on RFID tag chips.

The task of writing that data and attaching the RFID tag to a SKU, case or pallet has typically been handled by manufacturers using small-scale printer-encoders or service bureaus like Avery Dennison.

But now a technology has come to market that is designed to make the writing of data — and the reading of RFID tags — faster and more economical, precise and versatile.

Seattle, Wash.-based Impinj has launched Monza 5, a lower-cost high-speed chip, as well as an STP source tagging platform that can encode more than 1,000 RFID labels a minute. Impinj’s chips and readers are to RFID tags and readers what Intel’s chips are to computers — a “powering” technology.

“There are retailers considering the business process and supply chain benefits of writing data into their tags themselves,” says Larry Arnstein, Impinj’s senior director of business development. “Service bureaus are also interested in achieving higher economies of scale that can’t be matched with a do-it-yourself approach.”

All RFID chips strive to be as close to 100 percent readable as possible, but when it comes to writing or encoding data, some chips can take information in faster and be easier to write to and read than others, Arnstein says.

“Retailers who own their own brands care very much about how fast they can put data into the chips,” he says. “They need chips that can be write-optimized as well as read-optimized. And until now, that need has not been well-addressed.”

Increased sensitivity
The new Monza 5 chip has a component called TagFocus for enhanced readability. With TagFocus, a store associate with a hand-held reader “may be able to move more quickly and less carefully to achieve the same or better coverage,” Arnstein says.

Monza 5 can support an encoding rate of up to 3,000 tags per minute, and the chips come with a 48-bit serialized tag identifier (TID) memory. Used in Impinj’s FastID inventory mode, the Monza 5 “can boost encoding speeds by up to 220 percent compared with other RFID technology on the market,” Arnstein says.

Write optimization requires not only chips that can be quickly written to, but also write-optimized readers that can communicate quickly and efficiently to the chips embedded into tags. Together, the Monza 5 chip and STP “are at least four times higher in sensitivity than other systems,” Arnstein says.

By increasing sensitivity — the chip’s ability to read tags on individual items within cases or pallets that are not orientated well to the reader or are too close to plastic or metal — companies can encode quickly with less likelihood of failing.

“This also means that the chip requires one quarter as much power during writing,” Arnstein says. “In turn, this enables bulk encoding [for tags on products packed inside cases and pallets] to work because the tag does not have to be very close to the reader antenna. The speed is 20 percent to 6 times faster than other RFID technologies now on the market.”

Arnstein estimates that retailers or service bureau companies using this technology can expect an ROI “in 12 months or less.”