Radio frequency identification (RFID) systems offer libraries many ways to enhance productivity, ranging from self-check solutions to automated materials handling systems. RFID tags, which include a tiny chip for processing and storing information and an antenna for communicating with the readers in self-check stations, security gates, staff workstations, and other equipment, are a core component of any RFID system. Collectively, these tags are also one of the most expensive components of such a system, since individual tags must be placed on all circulating items when converting a collection from barcode readers. However, prices for RFID tags have fallen significantly in recent years, with basic tags currently retailing for about 30¢ to 40¢ each, down from 60¢ to 80¢ per tag a decade ago. Many distributors will also negotiate volume discounts for large orders, such as bulk buys made during the initial installation of a system.
Virtually all RFID tags used on books and other library materials share several characteristics. Passive, nonbattery-powered RFID tags are generally manufactured to communicate with the readers on three different radio wave frequencies. Low frequency, 128 KHz tags must be placed within six inches of a reader to work. High frequency, 13.56 MHz tags can be read from a distance of up to three feet. And ultrahigh frequency, 915 MHz tags can be read as far away as 20 feet. Library suppliers have uniformly settled on high frequency 13.56 MHz tags—which are also used in many retail applications—out of practicality. Three feet offers sufficient range for a system to process multiple items at once at a single checkout station, where a low frequency system would require individual item processing, and an ultrahigh frequency system might read tags on nearby shelves or book carts while a patron or librarian was attempting to check materials in or out.
Library tags are also described as “ISO compliant” or as ISO RFID tags. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an independent agency that develops voluntary standards for a variety of industrial applications, including business technology. ISO 15693 defines the minimal requirements for data exchange between a 13.56 MHz reader and tag. Many suppliers also describe their tags as ISO 18000 or ISO 18000-3 compliant, which refers to a more recent, broader set of standards covering a large range of devices, including 13.56 MHz readers and tags.
ISO-compliant tags also incorporate a feature called the application family identifier (AFI). This is a register on the tag that allows manufacturers to categorize tags for different applications and tailor security functions so that a tag in a library book won’t set off an RFID security gate in a retail store, for example.
Finally, most tags are compatible with ISO 28560, a set of data elements and recommended guidelines developed specifically for libraries and released in 2011. These standards are intended to facilitate interoperability between different libraries and equipment from different vendors.
PRODUCT: 2X*GEN RFID Tags
COMPANY: EnvisionWare, Duluth, GA
EnvisionWare’s line of ISO-compliant 2X*GEN RFID labels are designed to have a 20–30 percent longer read distance than standard passive, high frequency RFID tags. This adds several inches to the distance at which their tags can communicate with RFID self-check stations, return chutes, RFID security gates, and other RFID readers. The company claims that this enhanced read distance offers several benefits, including better performance than standard tags when used with metallic item covers and improved detection at security gates.
EnvisionWare will customize orders on request, preprinting a message or logo in black and white or color. Customized orders are generally delivered in less than 30 days.
PRODUCT: Tech Logic RFID
COMPANY: Tech Logic, White Bear Lake, MN
Tech Logic emphasizes interoperability among suppliers with its nonproprietary, ISO-compliant RFID tags. All tags are reprogrammable for up to 100,000 read/write cycles and feature a “lockable” section for item identification, a rewritable section for library-specific use, and a security function that can be “activated or deactivated,” according to the company’s website. Per industry recommendations, Tech Logic’s RFID tags are programmed to use the AFI byte for security, and the company has a policy of fully disclosing the data mapping it uses to store information on its chips, ensuring that the tags can be used with equipment from any RFID vendor.
COMPANY: Bibliotheca, Norcross, GA
Bibliotheca offers six different RFID labels under its smartlabel brand, with its square smartlabel 100, 110, and 200 lines tailored to books and magazines, and its round smartlabel 300, 310, and 320 lines designed for CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs. (Separately, Bibliotheca also offers a line of electromagnetic security strips under the smartlabel brand). All smartlabel RFID tags are ISO compliant, feature 1,024 bits of memory, and are reprogrammable for up to 100,000 read/write cycles.
PRODUCT: 3M ISO RFID Tags
COMPANY: 3M Library Systems, St. Paul
3M is the largest supplier of RFID technology to U.S. libraries and offers 50 x 50 mm and 49 x 81 mm ISO-compliant RFID tags for books and magazines, as well as StingRay Full Disc and CD-8 hub tags for DVDs and CDs. The StingRay line works with RFID-based security systems as well as self-check and staff workstations, while the smaller hub tags are intended as a productivity solution and do not include security gate functionality. The tags have a 1,024-bit storage memory and feature an antenna design with enhanced read range. 3M also offers preprogramming and custom printing options for its tags, ranging from black-and-white logos to four-color photos.
COMPANY: Libramation, Edmonton, Alta.
Alberta-based Libramation develops RFID solutions for a number of industrial applications, including heavy equipment, warehousing, and the oil and gas industries, as well as a full suite of self-check, security, media bank, automated lending, and circulation desk equipment for libraries. Their Lib~Chip RFID labels are available with two different microchip setups. The ICode SLIX chip features a 1,024-bit storage memory, while the ICode SLIX-L chip offers a 512-bit memory with security features including password protection and a privacy mode. The nonproprietary, ISO-compliant labels are reprogrammable for up to 100,000 read/write cycles.