Wisconsin RFID Lab Helps Manufacturers Fine-Tune Tag Strategy

The University of Wisconsin's RFID Lab is testing the limits of radio frequency identification technology, and helping companies analyze the best practices for using it.

MADISON, Wis.—While there have been huge steps forward in RFID technology over the past few years, figuring out how to get it to work in real-world settings has been something of a dark art. Now, the University of Wisconsin has opened a research facility that can help companies eliminate some of the guesswork out of RFID implementations.

The UW RFID Lab, run by the Universitys E-Business Consortium and Institute, is the result of collaboration between the University and over 50 companies, including both manufacturers and RFID-related hardware and software vendors.

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Alfonso Guiterrez, the associate director for research and education for the E-Business Consortium recently gave me a tour of the lab, which has been in operation since last year, but it officially opened its doors in August. In addition to gaining an understanding of the range of practical applications for RFID, the lab is already beginning to provide members of the Consortium and its RFID Workgroup,with guidelines for how to best implement RFID in their manufacturing and warehouse environments, and how to calculate the return on investment from various RFID technologies.

Researchers have collected data on how the contents of different products, and the shape and materials of their packaging, affect how well RFID tags work.

"The geometry of the product, and the material in it affect the propagation of radio wave," said Guiterrez. The results of the test data, he said, will help manufacturers design both better RFID tags and packaging that is "RFID friendly."

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