RFID labelling systems from Sato UK are able to write to - and read from - the majority of the RFID chip standards available in the world today.

Many labelling systems companies tied themselves technically into one or other of the various chip standards that are likely to be applied in different countries and industries, explained Richard Scott, SATO UKs RFID Business Development Manager, Its a bit like the VHS/Betamax scenario, some will have found themselves out on a limb by backing the wrong protocol.

At the end of June 2004 the EPC Global organisation finally obtained international agreement on the structure of the electronic product code which is to be held within the RFID label the Chicago Protocol- enabling silicon chip manufacturers to go into full design and production and ending the uncertainty about the different standards that might be adopted.

Some years ago the SATO Corporation committed itself to the substantial additional investment required to develop an agile (multi-protocol) RFID product range, so today the company is already a full service provider for RFID products. It has entered strategic relationships with other companies in the RFID sector to enable its printers to program RFID chips at the same time as printing self-adhesive labels or card tags.

One of the key drives to implement RFID technology is coming from major retailers such as Tesco, Wal-Mart and the worlds fourth largest retail company, the German-based METRO Group, he added. In June 2004, SATO was appointed a Gold Partner by the METRO Group, along with 16 other businesses including Microsoft. Consequently SATO is supplying equipment for the rollout of RFID systems to Metros suppliers. SATO printers are also demonstrated at the Metro Innovations Centre.

SATO printers are compatible with two types of RFID labels, High Frequency (HF) 13.56MHz, already widely used for ticketing, smart cards and product identification, and Ultra-High Frequency (UHF), 868MHz which is favoured for the extended read-ranges encountered within supply chain applications.

Initially, Richard explained, UHF RFID will be used on outer packaging and pallets. Eventually, as the technology uptake progresses and unit prices for RFID labels come down, its expected that item tagging will be economically viable.

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