Fujitsu develops compact RFID for wearables, metal

The new tag acts with the surrounding metal surface as a combined antenna

Fujitsu Laboratories has developed a compact RFID tag that works on surfaces such as metal, which can otherwise impede radio waves.

The tag, 30mm long, 25mm wide and 0.5mm thick, can be attached to any material including plastic cards, wearables and metal objects. Despite its small size, it still has a communication range of about 2 meters.

Fujitsu Labs says its tag is more compact than typical metal-compatible RFID tags. The new tags could be used in a variety of applications such as keeping track of machine parts and as a component in ID cards used to access buildings.

"Existing smartcards generally have a communication range of under approximately 10 cm so they do not allow for communication over longer distances. The new tag enables a much longer range of communication," Manabu Kai, research manager at Fujitsu's Advanced Wireless Technologies Lab, wrote in an email.

"Were we to increase the size of this tag to match the dimensions of existing tags, it would be possible to increase the maximum communication distance."

Conventional RFID technology requires that there be a space between the RFID and whatever it's attached to so the signal can propagate far enough. The new design instead consists of a metal antenna laid out in a loop inside a thin sheath of plastic that is placed directly on some material.

If the material is metal, it can help transmit radio signals from the tag, according to Fujitsu.

"With this new technology we have announced, the metal of the object around where the tag is placed effectively becomes an extension of the antenna," Kai said.

The loop design also allows for efficient radio signal propagation when the tags are used on plastic surfaces such as ID cards, the lab said, adding it wants to commercialize the tags sometime in the year ending March 31, 2016.

Fujitsu previously developed flexible, washable RFID tags for clothing and textiles that can be be read by the hundreds in one scan. Earlier this year, the company acquired U.S. RFID tag firm GlobeRanger, whose systems are used by the U.S. Department of Defense for supply chain management.

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