New developments in RFID label ICs: an overview
In the past few months all three major label IC vendors announced new products. Impinj launched the Monza R6-A, NXP the UCODE 8 and Alien the Higgs EC. As those products are likely to start appearing in actual RFID labels over the next few months, it is good to understand what the new features are and how they can benefit an RFID deployment.
The first thing to consider is the sensitivity of the label IC. The sensitivity is (currently) one of the most influential parameters towards the reading distance you can obtain between a tag and a reader. I say ‘currently’ because this might change going forward, but that is topic for another post. The lower the sensitivity, the less power an IC needs to get turned on by a reader, the longer the reading distance. Moreover, an improved sensitivity also leads to better readability of ‘stacked’ labels when they are close together.
The chart below shows the IC sensitivity versus the year of introduction of the IC. Roughly, there is a 0.5 dB improvement in label sensitivity per year. For reference, an improvement of 3 dB in label sensitivity results in a 40% increase in reading distance. This thus happens about every six years currently.