RFID tags toughen up

Fujitsu shows off two new RFID tag systems that stretch the boundaries of current usage
Written by Angus Kidman, Contributor

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags can survive factories, warehouses and supermarkets, but how would they cope with an old-fashioned pressing with a steam iron?

As RFID tagging slowly grows in popularity as a means of tracking inventory, manufacturers are seeking to make them more resilient.

At its Forum event in Tokyo this week, Fujitsu showed off two new RFID tag systems that stretch the boundaries of current usage.

Its quaintly-labelled "linen tag" is designed to be attached to sheets, pillows and other items that are frequently laundered and used in public settings such as hotels or hospitals.

Unlike standard RFID tags, the linen tags are not damaged by high temperatures, water, heavy pressure or alkaline substances such as detergents.

The company initially plans to market the tags to hospitality and health verticals.

Fujitsu ANZ CEO Rod Vawdrey said that the company has begun preliminary discussions with some Australian hospitals about utilising the laundry tagging system.

Fujitsu also demonstrated a "metal compatible" RFID tag.

While conventional RFID tags are frequently used in such scenarios, they have to be located away from metallic surfaces to reduce interference.

Release dates for the metal tag have not yet been finalised.

While the benefits and risks of RFID tags have been much discussed, actual uptake in Australia remains low compared to locations such as the USA, where mandates from Wal-Mart for suppliers and legislation requiring pharmaceuticals companies to closely track shipments have helped accelerate adoption.

The planned July release of a report on the National Demonstrator Project, which has seen several companies co-operate in trialling RFID systems, could provide a new impetus for RFID use in Australian businesses.

Some observers argue that the delayed adoption may not ultimately be of much consequence. "What we see generally is that technology trends happen later in Australia, but they happen faster," said Tom Sherlock, managing consultant with IBM Global Business Services.

Angus Kidman travelled to Tokyo as a guest of Fujitsu.

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