Active tags are the tag type of choice for enterprises leveraging RFID for applications where tagged objects move dynamically and requirements exist for precise tracking/tracing capability, including asset tracking/management, remote monitoring, work-in-process tracking/tracing and RTLS. While active RFID tags generally meet the requirements of the aforementioned applications, there are two key shortcomings associated with this tag type: cost and battery life. However, Enable IPC, a supplier of RFID tags, has addressed the latter issue with a new solar-powered active UHF tag it recently introduced in partnership with William Frick & Company.
By integrating a small solar panel and capacitor into an active UHF tag, Enable IPC has created a self-charging tag capable of operating for up to 48 hours on stored power (i.e., without light) and recharging in as little as two minutes. The company claims the solar panel used is sensitive enough to generate power even in dim light, including moonlight and indoor/artificial light. With an industry-leading seven year warranty and IP 67 rating, the tag is designed to withstand dust, dirt and moisture. Its polycarbonate shell resists impact, UV rays, harsh chemicals and oils, making it well suited to applications requiring rugged tags.
VDC expects this innovation has potential to gain acceptance in applications where active UHF tags are an existing requirement and the prospect of significantly extended lifecycles (enabled by the tag’s self-charging capability) and thusly reduced TCO are attractive value propositions. In particular, we expect these tags will be well-received for applications including asset management, logistics, vehicle tracking and RTLS.
While Enable IPC led the development of this new tag, it partnered with William Frick & Company to leverage Frick’s marketing, sales and distribution expertise. For its efforts, Frick owns exclusive distribution rights for the tag in the Americas and has branded the tag as part of its SmartMark tag portfolio.
At this time, VDC is unaware of any competing active tag leveraging solar panels (or any other means of power generation) for self-charging. Accordingly, we believe the Enable IPC/Frick offering, at least for the time being, is highly differentiated in the active RFID tag market. While the company has filed a patent in connection with this tag, the patent has not yet been approved. Regardless of the outcome of that process, we expect some of the larger active tag vendors could launch similar competing offerings in the near term—particularly if the Enable IPC offering is well-received by the market in its early days.