RFID Tag Technology Buyer’s Guide

Get familiar with RFID tag technology, learn about your various tag options,  and consider how your RFID tag vendor can affect your project’s success.

Step 1. Determine Your Project’s Needs Before Shopping

RFID has a wide range of standards and options and can be overwhelming. Being able to contact your vendor directly to get these answers will save you countless hours and headaches.  Start off by asking yourself:

Which form factor best suits our needs?

RFID tags come in a variety of form factors, to include: Wristbands, badges, adhesive sticker tags, zip tie attachment, all weather, cryo compatible, sterilization autoclave durable, and so on.  When it comes to choosing the right NFC tag for your business needs, the options are virtually endless and can seem daunting. It is most important to consider your users, the scanning environment, and requirements. Do you perform the majority of the tasks in a warehouse or other harsh environment? One-time use or reusable? What read range do you need? Once you have determined the tag style that is best suited for your scanning environment you can start to focus on the details, such as the esthetics and materials offered for that specific tag type.  Bottom line, when it comes to choosing the right tag for your business, always choose function over form.

Which RFID Reader are you using?
Many readers are restricted to only one tag type or chip protocol while other readers provide greater flexibility when it comes to reading tags. A good vendor will usually offer to test tags with your reader beforehand to ensure feasibility and confirm expected tag output.

Which Tag Protocol is most appropriate?
NFC is often a catch-all term for high and low-frequency RFID tags and readers. But it is much more granular than that. There are many different types of protocols such as iClass, iCode, MiFare, AWID, PROX, Hitag, Indala, Casi-Rusco and more. iCode and MiFare are typically the most popular high-frequency cards. MiFare tags tend to be cheaper than iCode but often less reliable. It is important to understand that the tag type will reliably meet your solution needs before making a purchase.  Unsure what tags you need? We can help.

Do you need branding or customizations?
RFID tags and cards can be an excellent opportunity to promote your brand. Also consider if you want the UDID (aka the scan value) printed on the tag and if so, in what format? HEX or Decimal?

What is the tag’s expected output?
Do you want to specify a range or have them randomized? Also, be sure to request that the vendor provides you with an excel sheet containing the values of expected output.

How much lead time do you have to meet your project deadline?
It is important to consider your timeline when purchasing tags. For custom printing or form factor, the lead time can often be many weeks for large volumes. Knowing expected lead times and delivery dates when selecting a tag supplier is essential when working on a tight schedule. Does the vendor offer expedited service? Is the delivery date guaranteed? What is their return policy?

Step 2. Research Suppliers.

When selecting a vendor for your RFID tags, you are much more likely to have greater success with a solution partner than simply a tag provider. Make sure your vendor has proper quality control in place. In an article published by The University of Virginia, researchers determined that on average, failure rates in RFID systems hovered around 5%, but could be as high as 20%.  This rate can be significantly reduced just by doing your homework when choosing and selecting a RFID tag vendor.

Take for example one of’s clients: Salt Lake City Comic Con.  They purchased 60,000 NFC wristband tags for their annual Comic Con event. Before shipping the tags, each batch was thoroughly inspected and tested. The results were an incredible success (read more about the Comic Con solution here). The tags supplied had a failure rate of 0%. Most important part of choosing an RFID tag?

Make sure you know your supplier. Can you count on them to deliver?

Step 3. The Cheapest Option May Not Always Be The Best Choice.

It may be tempting to try and minimize business expenses by purchasing the lowest cost option. However, fully understanding the differences between chip types, inlay sizes, and environmental conditions are crucial to your business’ long-term cost of implementing RFID in your workflow. Many buyers incorrectly assume that all RFID tags (and vendors, for that matter) are alike and that the tag will perform exactly as they want out of the box. This can be a very costly mistake and has caused otherwise excellent NFC-RFID solutions to fail.

Case in point… Amalie Oil Company was hosting a corporate marketing event. They needed to purchase 16,000 NFC cards to distribute to their attendees. The guests will carry the NFC cards throughout the event and scan in at various kiosks and stations.  Crunched for time, and trying to keep costs to a minimum, Amalie Oil ordered 16,000 NFC tags from a vendor they had never used and did not know. The NFC cards arrive, and while they appear to be the desired product, on the day of the event the NFC cards suffered a 10% failure rate.

Amalie Oil Company decided to select a vendor to supply their RFID tags using low price as the deciding factor. The RFID tags they received had a failure rate that was so bad they were unusable. This could have been a marketing and financial disaster, but they found at the last minute, who came through for them by providing quality products that helped make the event a success. Value is more than just price.

Choosing the correct tag and the best tag supplier is an important step that should not be taken lightly. can help you answer questions these questions and assist with your project needs. Let us show you how.