Electronic product code (EPC) Gen2 Class 1, by far the most widely used UHF protocol in the RFID industry, was established to help the industry progressively implement RFID for supply chain management. The objective: to improve cost efficiency and information visibility at critical stages of production, distribution and retail.
With broadband capabilities – 860 to 960 MHz – this UHF protocol is compatible with international standards and allows data to be read from and written to unpowered contactless transponders via remote RFID reader units.
The Gen2 Class 1 protocol takes full advantage of the inherent qualities of UHF technology, which are:
- Long read range
- Anti-collision technology
- Faster data transfer speed, enabling increased data storage
Consider how these qualities are being used today and how they open the door to future potential.
Long read range
Read ranges for low frequency and high frequency proximity tags are measured in inches and centimeters. UHF ranges are measured in feet, yards and meters.
Industrial entities have been quick to adopt UHF technology. The extended range capability enables faster, more accurate tracking of large equipment and shipping containers. UHF is widely used for waste management, shipping and receiving, fleet management, and pallet and goods tracking.
An area where UHF may be underutilized might be identification systems for physical access of vehicles to secured areas or parking garages. Both private and public sector entities could employ UHF credentials to increase user convenience. When an authorized user pulls up in their car or truck, the system could authenticate and open the parking garage door while the driver remains in the safety and comfort of his or her car; no need for the driver to stop, open their window, fumble for a magnetic stripe or near proximity card, and hang out the window exposed to the elements. When multiple technologies are embedded in a single card as with multi-technology or “combo cards,” the use of UHF technology for garage access can easily be combined with a traditional LF protocol on one credential. The latter then could be employed to open security doors in the building when the user presents their badge to the building access control reader. Use of UHF credentials could increase convenience in interior environments where concerns for tailgating are less prominent.
For added security in parking systems, UHF access control may be integrated with video sensors. An automobile license plate could be scanned and compared with credentials before authorizing access. Or facial recognition software could verify individuals approaching a secure entry.
Perhaps the greatest strength of UHF in RFID applications is the marriage of long range with anticollision technology, which allows several hundred RFID tags to be read simultaneously.
Once again, industrial organizations have the lead in taking advantage of these UHF benefits. For example, UHF readers and transponders make it possible to correctly identify each of 500 tagged, metal containers containing liquid aboard a truck moving at 12 miles per hour (20 kilometers per hour). This level of data collection speed and accuracy is revolutionizing logistics applications.
Faster data transfer speed, enabling increased data storage
Traditionally, slow data transfer speeds limited the need for significant memory capacity in each tag. The readers simply couldn’t handle more than a few bits or bytes at a time. Today, UHF is accelerating rates to levels that enable not only instantaneous data transfer, but are opening pipelines to the exchange of exponentially larger amounts of information between readers and tags. Manufacturers have already begun introducing UHF contactless transponders capable of storing 64 kilobytes of data.
This could be the real game-changer as integrators and end-users explore the potential of virtually unlimited data storage in any tag. Each vehicle or piece of heavy machinery in a fleet could store detailed service and maintenance records over the equipment’s life, including photographic records of an accident and the subsequent repair.
The advance of UHF technology is creating incredible opportunities for the RFID industry to help promote a more productive, efficient, intelligent, and secure world. The only limit is our imagination.