Kraft Foods Inc., German-based retail chain Metro AG and other big customers are now sampling patent-pending technology from Worldlabel.Com aimed at overcoming inaccurate reads, one of the largest obstacles to widespread RFID deployment.
But many other users are now waiting in line for the companys labels, which have been proven 100 percent readable in independent lab testing, according to Russell Ossendryver, Worldlabel.Coms USA director.
"With [other RFID labels], customers are reporting inaccurate read rates of 15 to 20 percent. Thats really not good, especially when you consider that labels cost 30 to 40 cents each now," Ossendryver said in an interview with eWEEK.com.
But Worldlabel.com needs to get its hands on more RFID tags before it can fill its current backlog of orders for the Xtrack RFID Smart Labels.
The rumored shortages of Class 0 and Class 1 tags from large producers such as Matrics Inc. and Alien Technology Corp. remain a reality, according to Ossendryver, who is also USA director for Innotech Resources PTE, a label converter based in Singapore. "We need to receive the tags so we can ship off [more] labels," he said.
In addition to the RFID chip and antenna housed in the RFID tag, RFID labels typically contain a built-in adhesive, as well as space for printed information. Worldlabels competitors in the RFID labels space include larger vendors that also perform label conversion, such as Intermec Technologies Corp. and Printronix Inc., he said. Worldlabel recently introduced a laser printer, too.
Worldlabels Xtrack labels achieved the 100 percent read rate when tested on December 14, 2004, by the RFID Alliance Lab. The lab tested a 105-piece, 4-by-6 roll of Xtrack labels with a ThingMagic Mercury 4 reader, from about 4 feet away. The RFID tags embedded in the labels were from Finnish manufacturer UPM Rafsec.
All 105 of the Xtrack labels were readable, said Dr. Daniel Deavours, director of research at the RFID Alliance Lab and assistant professor at the University of Kansas. But Deavours also cautioned that the results should be "interpreted narrowly," pointing out that although the lab did not identify any "dead" tags, the procedure used would not have detected any degradation in performance, or any "quiet" tags.
"[100 percent readability] makes RFID workable. [Other] label converters havent reached this benchmark," Ossendryver said.
How did Worldlabel.Com obtain these results? Ossendryver declined to be very specific, partly on the grounds that patent approval is still pending. "Also, we have nondisclosure agreements with some big companies," he said.
But he was willing to say that Worldlabel uses a somewhat slower manufacturing process than its competitors. "Hence, we dont get any static. And we put very little pressure on the [embedded] inlay, so few are getting crushed."
Worldlabel.com has received approval of its method as "novel and innovative" from the International Search Authority , according to Ossendryver. "[This means] that its basically pre-approved for a PCT [Patent Corporation Treaty] patent," he said.