An RFID tag embedded in the precious emblem of a sweet Japanese school uniform for the teachers to monitor. This one for a rental uniform is versatile, ranging from high frequency (13,56 MHz) to ultra-high frequency and still performs relatively well in humid environments. That's what exhibitor Sato noted at the recent RFID Expo in Tokyo.

RFID Aesthetics

RFID — or radio-frequency identification… we’ve heard of that before. Now, while strolling the booths at the RFID Expo that just took place at Tokyo’s Big Sight, we began wondering what RFID is used for best: as a button on a chef’s uniform to let him open the kitchen door; as an infant’s bracelet for a motion detector; embedded in boxes to trace its contents on their way across the globe or inside price tags in department stores to calculate the sales. Ah, well, if you just keep standing in front of the chip displays, you start to make out figures and characters of their shapes, wondering who came up with these fascinating structures… Instead of delving into new technology, this time PingMag takes a closer look at the appearance of RFID transponders.

Written by Verena

Outer Space

µ-Chip Hibiki by Hitachi.

This is an astronaut’s mobile phone kit, right? Nope! It’s Hitachi’s early gen 2 µ-Chip Hibiki, pronounced mu-chip, also known as the “5-yen tag,” introduced in late 2006. Why 5-yen? If ordered in large quantities, each one costs only ¥5. A bargain! Now, why this Greek letter? It’s a variation of the µ-Chip which is only tiny 0,4 mm square. However, the Hibiki is 102 x 135 mm in size.

Alpine Serpentine

Japanese DNP’s Nile.

We bet that the lab behind the shape of the Nile RFID chip by DNP must have had something like a radiant heater in mind as inspiration. These serpents have a minimalist elegance. Don’t get lost in its beautiful wavy lines, this is still an ultra-high-frequency chip with 96 bit memories.

Gesturing Man

The ‘global tag’ by UPM Raflatac.

A 512 bit memory is hidden in this shiny metal, simply called ‘global tag’ by UPM Raflatac. Check the tiny filigree pattern! How about an RFID necklace with ultra-high frequency (UHF)?

Alien Sktechbook

This must be part of an alien spaceship! The Rafsec Memory Stick by UPM Raflatac.

A memory stick? Oh, not your USB stick, this one has only 512 bit. Note that ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID systems are being widely deployed since several large corporations got that through, including international retailers and — not to forget — the U.S. Department of Defense.

Picture Frame for Geeks

Rafsec 49 x81 mm Tag by UPM Raflatac’s.

OK, the shape of this Rafsec Tag isn’t that peculiar, but hey, its high frequency (HF) is in use worldwide. A typical high frequency would be 13,56 MHz. HF systems are widely used in libraries, mass transportation (think SUICA and PASMO train cards) and product authentication applications. Capacity: 1024 bits! Depending on the usage, this HF tag either comes as non-adhesive inlay, die-cut web with adhesive, filmic face (for wet inlay,) or in a tag with a paper face. Stylish.

Weather Satellite

A satellite! The Avery Dennison AD-612.

This multi-frequency inlay code-named AD-612 by Avery Dennison has the usual 860-960 MHz frequency — and an utterly space age shape! We wonder which sci-fi scientist came up with this sketch-like design that resembles an orbitting satellite.

Next Season’s Jewellery

Golden plate by Texas Instruments, the Tag-it HF-I Transponder.

Blinded by this glimmering gold, we get that this one isn’t exactly brand new, but still a nice sight; the high frequency Tag-it HF-I Plus Transponder Inlay by Texas Instruments goes by the standard 13,56 MHz and has a 2 Kb memory to store your precious data. This wafer is inked, ground and sewn onto tape. Nice sewing job!


ALN-9540 – “Squiggle™” by Alien Technology.

A true tag for the world, at least so says manufacturer Alien Technology. This little squiggle is operating between 860 to 960 MHz, with a ‘generation 2′ performance. It was created for most types of packaging, including products containing metal and water. Metal bento, anyone? Watch out, it’s a mere 97 x 11 mm!

The Labyrinth

The ALN-9529 – “Squiggle®-SQ,” another one by Alien Technology.

Oh, a little squiggle! This fancy-looking UHF operates between 860 and 960 MHz. Said to be ideal for item level tagging of plastic packaging such as pill bottles and apparel tags. So this is already in use at your local department store. Also featuring near-field and far-field communication. So talkative!

Ancient Cave-painting

A very stylised crab! UPM Raflatac’s Rafsec Crab.

If this were an ancient cave-painting you’d be amazed by its geometric shape. Well, it’s a stylised crab called Rafsec Crab and only slightly newer — also from the high-performing UHF, ultra-high frequency, group by UPM Raflatac. By the way, the other chips of the the same series have some quite weird shapes named Frog, DogBone or Hammer. Welcome to this unusual family! And what a modest memory of 96/240 bits.

Warm thanks to Sato for letting me roam around their crowded booth at the RFID Expo Tokyo and stick my nose in everywhere!

  • David

    I never thought there was such a rich RFID culture. The ones I knew were very simple (round) and always hidden inside some plastic cards. In the end, noone’ll ever know where to search for them, or maybe they are trying to make them more accepted through its shape. Job well done! Pingmag, too!

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  • radiomexico

    a very nice and unexpected look at these chips! there’s also some nice designs for smart card and phone card chips…

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