RFID Asset Tags
RFID asset tags (or labels) consist of an integrated circuit and an antenna. The antenna is typically made from coiled aluminum or copper wire, and the integrated circuit is encrypted with a unique electronic product code (EPC) to distinguish it from all other RFID tags in the world, not just the ones that are being used by a particular organization. The RFID tag is also composed of a protective material that holds the pieces together and shields them from various environmental conditions. The protective material depends on the application. For example, employee ID badges containing RFID tags are typically made from durable plastic, and the label is embedded between the layers of plastic.
RFID asset tags can be either inductively coupled or capacitively coupled. The former type of tag consists of an antenna and a silicon microprocessor, both of which are covered by one or more layers of protective material (plastic or glass). Inductively coupled tags are powered by the magnetic field produced by an RFID reader. By contrast, capacitively coupled RFID tags do not incorporate a metal coil. Instead, they use a small quantity of silicon and conductive carbon ink to achieve the same functionality as the inductively coupled label, and the components are affixed to a piece of paper. The carbon ink acts as the label's antenna.
Capacitively coupled RFID tags were developed to reduce the cost of implementing RFID applications. Making RFID technology affordable for small businesses is essential because of the mandates set forth by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and Wal-Mart. These mandates require all suppliers of the DoD and Wal-Mart to use RFID asset tagging in their products to faciliate inventory management.
If you've been reading about the RFID mandates, you may have heard about "smart labels" in addition to RFID labels and tags. Smart labels differ from standard RFID labels in that they incorporate both RFID and barcode technologies. They're made of an adhesive label embedded with an RFID tag inlay, and they may also feature a barcode and/or other printed information. Smart labels can be encoded and printed on-demand using desktop label printers, whereas programming RFID tags is more time consuming and requires more advanced equipment.
You may also be interested in American Barcode and RFID's DoD RFID Label Printing Service.