RFID has a long way to go in South Africa

SCM Solutions has announced what it believes to be a cost-effective alternative to integrated circuit (IC) RFID tags.

“As it stands, IC RFID is a technology that still has a long way to go, especially in South Africa,” says James Briggs, director of SCM Solutions. With Icasa still making up its mind about what frequency the tags can operate on, it is anybody’s guess as to when some sort of standard will be enforced.

There is also the problem of deciding on a global standard, and the legal disputes around the intellectual property rights.

The problem will be compounded once a standard is found and companies want to start implementing tags on metal surfaces and containers holding any type of liquid — IC tags are not readable under these conditions.

However, with global surface acoustic wave (SAW) tag technology (GST), which SCM Solutions distributes locally, companies now have a reliable RFID solution, the company says.

“GST has been operational since 2000, and is already approved by Icasa to run on the 2.4GHz bandwidth,” says Briggs. “The technology is now in its second generation, and commercially available since July 1. The tags are available in either 64- or 96-bit variants,” he continues.

According to Briggs, the tags are designed to work on just about any surface or on any container, including metal surfaces and containers with liquid. “Standard IC tags are not readable on metal surfaces, and on some containers with liquids in them,” he says.

The GST tags use passive technology, but still offer a range of up to 30 metres, and emit far less power than standard IC tags, the company continues.

What makes that tags superior to other IC tags is that they can withstand temperatures in excess of 200 degrees Celsius, and can also withstand gamma ray sterilization. “This makes them quite appealing to the health care industry, as the tags can now be attached to hospital equipment and withstand the sterilization process. Also, the tags can now be inserted at the manufacturing process,” he says.

At the moment the GST tags are read only and a special reader has to be used. “A standard IC reader will not pick up a GST tag — however there are multi-protocol readers available.”

“Price-wise, the GST tags cost about the same as an IC tag,” continues Briggs. “Users can expect to pay anything from US$0.50 up to $6 per tag, depending on the form and size of the tag.” He does, however, say that as the technology becomes more widely used, the prices will come down.

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