- Can transponders be mounted on metal objects and read successfully?
- One of the most frequently asked questions is how does UHF RFID work
in the presence of metal?
With the correct mounting of Trolley Scan's
EcochipTag, you can get 11 meters with just 1 watt of transmitted
The secret is to attach the transponders correctly to the object.
- What is EcoTag(®)?
- For passive transponders that operate on the RF energy radiated by a reader, energy efficiency and optimal
energy transfer is critical. EcoTag® technology is a patented method of attaching an antenna to the
integrated circuit that enables maximum energy transfer from the energy in space into the chip on the transponder.
The technology also allows non conventional antenna systems to be used, such as an electrically short
credit card sized antenna for 860-930 Mhz operation. These non-conventional shapes allow high volume mass production using techniques such as
printing with a litho printing press for the antennas. As at February 2004, the lowest RF power single chip
transponder produced by Trolley Scan in a credit card sized version needed just 200uW Rf energy in its 134 sq cm aperture to operate.
This is 250 times less than that needed for a conventional circuit on a dipole, meaning smaller transmitters for the reader,
longer battery life for the reader, and longer operating range.
See EcoTag(®) features page
- What is the best performance on low power so far achieved with EcoTag technology?
- In Feb 2004 it is possible to read the credit card
Ecochiptag(TM) tag at an amazing 6 meters while only using
0.3 watts (300 milliwatts)(Pt) of transmitter power with an 8dBi patch antenna.
On just 1 watt users can read tags at 11 meters.
- Why is EcoTag(®) an important development
for RFID systems?
- The EcoTag(®)
version of Trolleyponder is over 250 times more sensitive than earlier technologies
and competitive products operating in the 860Mhz to 930 MHz bands. This
is particularly relevant for companies that wish to operate passive transponders
in Europe or who wish to mark goods used for international trade that are
also to be identified in Europe, as EcoTag is almost the only system that
has sufficient reading ranges with the European restrictions to be practical.
Europe allows only 1.6% of the reader power allowed on the US which drastically
limits the operating range of non-EcoTag type transponders. The EcoTag
technology has minimal cost implications in adding the extra
- Can EcoTag(®) technology be added
to other companies transponder systems under licence?
- The EcoTag(®)
package is a practical power enhancing technology for application to
passive transponders together with their antenna systems. As such it is
an independent package from the Trolleyponder
protocol and can be made available to other transponder manufacturers under
licence where they wish to operate their passive transponders within the
European 0.5Watt effective radiated power(ERP) limits. Trolley Scan have
now developed a datapack detailing this technology for those companies
that wish to incorporate EcoTag into their designs.
- How safe are Trolleyponder RF systems?
- See article
- Range versus power versus frequency for passive electric coupled
- See article
- Can RFID tags replace barcodes cost-effectively?
- See article
- How fast can Trolleyponder protocol
scan 1000 items at a time?
- See article
- Can I buy samples of Trolleyponder
- Trolley Scan, together with licensees of their technology, sell transpoders and readers for use in
applications worldwide. Details of their small system can be found at
the small system data page.
- Why is Trolleyponder closer to a barcode
replacement technology than other transponders?
- Many different manufacturers produce many different transponder systems
for many different niche markets. Trolleyponder is specifically aimed at
becoming a barcode replacement system where fast, multiple article, low
cost transponders systems are needed, with Electronic Article Surveillance
features included if needed.
The technology is :
- based on the most common silicon technology available;
- the circuit is relatively simple;
- the design allows wide tolerances in manufacture to give high yields
and therefore low manufacturing costs;
- the transponder has no tuned circuitry allowing the same circuit to
be used over a wide range of operating frequencies and applications by
just changing the antenna and packaging;
- the protocol handles in excess of 400 transponders in the reading field
at the same time;
- the reading rate of transponders is fast;
- Trolleyponder protocol has a 3 axis feature allowing tags top be read
in all geometric orientations while only using a single frequency;
- the transponders have advanced EAS features than can be commanded on,
off or reactivated based on time;
- the transponders are frequency agile making them suitable for world
- the transponders support a very large number range;
- the transponders do not need unique identity numbers (counting of transponders
with same identities);
- the protocol offers one of the fastest reading rates for multiple articles
- the protocol is accurate giving very low error rates
- the transponders use a single design for all applications and operating
conditions, being a true one design fits all.
- the transponders are low cost
- What is controlling the selling price of Trolleyponder
- Although design can reduce the manufacturing cost of transponders,
the selling price is driven by supply and demand. As Trolleyponder is a
"Universal Identification technology", suitable for many different
market niches, the selling price will only reduce as the higher priced
application's needs are met. This is achieved by involving more manufacturers
as suppliers, one of the functions of the Trolleyponder industrialisation
process. This results in the early adopters of the technology providing
solutions for the higher priced applications before competition increases.
Although the first applications should use transponders that sell for less
than a $3, the price should then start dropping as more competition enters
the market to the tens of cents.
- What is different between the name transponder and tags?
- Transponders and tags refer to the same item, namely the electronic
circuitry attached to the goods. Transponders were first invented during
World War 2 when they were used to identify friend or foe aircraft
for radar operators. Since then they have simplified in design to such
an extent that they can now be used for tagging groceries in a supermarket,
hence most probably causing the swing to the name tags. The name
transponder also refers to radio equipment carried on satelites that rebroadcast
signals received back to earth, such as with direct broadcasting satelite
TV and telephone systems
- What is Trolley Scan doing to encourage the industrialisation of
- Trolley Scan realise this is a global project having application in
many industries in almost all countries of the world.
- Trolley Scan are providing the technology to companies throughout the
world to enable them to become involved in a viable replacement technology
for barcoding for their applications in their countries of interest
- Trolley Scan are in process of protecting the technology with a series
of patents, allowing only members of the Trolleyponder Development Group
to exploit the patents
- Trolley Scan have developed an information dissemination system for
transferring information to licensees without the need for them to travel.
The datapacks include sample designs and extensive technical information
to allow them to impliment ands customise the design. Datapacks are kept
up to date and technical support from Trolley Scan is available via email.
- What about tin cans?
- This is most probably the most asked question about RFID tagging systems
- RFID transponders extract their operating energy and provide communications
using electromagnetic propogation. These radio waves are cancelled on the
surface of metal items and as a result short out the operation of tags
that are attached to the surface of metal items.
- For transponders that are mounted a short distance off the metal, say
on the shrink wrapping of a six pack, the metal cans do not effect the
transponder's operation in areas where the cans do not screen the incoming
- How does Trolleyponder EAS differ from
conventional EAS tags?
- Trolleyponder promises to offer
a whole new range of features for EAS applications over the currently available
tagging systems. The currently available systems generally indicate a presence
of an item that has not been neutralised passing through the reader zone.
The actual item is not uniquely identified except by passing the items
one by one past the reader and working out which item has not been neutralised.
The tags are generally a one switching only, being active until they are
sold and then being neutralised, either by physical destruction, magnetic
destruction or physical removal.
- In Trolleyponder the item broadcasts
its actual identity at the EAS reader, thereby giving the security
the information about which item has not been neutralised, such as - sweater,
mans, blue, size 42
- In addition the tags can be switched between the various states by
complex radio signals, allowing the same tag to be used for EAS and
identification purposes with the goods manufacturer, the wholesaler, the
retailer and even the home consumer as well as the transport operations
between these users.
- Trolleyponder EAS features can
be turned on by command, off by command, and can be neutralised
for a set time after which they activate again by themselves
- What is the different between active and passive tags?
- Passive tags extract the energy they need to operate from the energising
field of the reader.
- Active tags operate in lower energy reading fields and make use of
an onboard battery to provide their energy.
- Naturally passive tags are much cheaper as they do not have the cost
of the battery, often much more than the tag's electronics.
- Battery powered tags generally need a SLEEP mode when not in use to
limit the energy they draw from the battery (in which case battery life
times of 5 years are viable), and use a short exposure to an higher energy
field to wake them up.
- Tags operating below 1.6GHz usually can be made passive, while above
these frequencies active tags are the norm to give reasonable reading ranges.
- Does the use of metal trolleys and metal lined trucks effect the
- In a similar way that tin cans short out the operation of transponders
on the metal surface, similar issues arrise when the container is metal.
However in the situation of metal trucks and containers, the presence of
metal can be an advantage as it contains the RF energy, but interaction
between the direct waves and those that bounce off the walls do cause zones
of varyiing energy density in different locations in the reading area.
Trolleyponder have addressed this problem and with correct reader and system
design, can wipe out these zones to get uniform operation in most areas
within the container.
- For trolleys a similar issue arises. However technology developments
in trolley manufacture is slowly causing trolleys to be made out of plastic,
which completely removes the problem. Four years ago when in South Africa
the inventors demonstrated the first scanning electronic trolley, plastic
trolleys were virtually not in existance ion the country. Now due to cost
of manufacture and other issues, it is difficult to find a new metal tolley
at any supermarket, showing how developments have changed the product availability.
- Does one need to be a major electronics company to become a licensed
manufacturer of Trolleyponder tags?
- In the 1960's only companies that had their own computer scientists
could own, operate and sell computers. Now computer systems are even available
in the home. Although not yet to the same extent, similar evolutionary
developments are happening in the RFID industry.
- Although the large electronic companies have an advantage in industrialising
this technology due to the availability of their own specialist staff,
assembly equipment and capital, they also have their own impedances to
committing full steam to such a project.
- A small group of investors, assisted by specialist consultants, the
designs from Trolley Scan, designers from the contracted foundry, and contract
assemblers with a network of VARs would be a major player in such an insatiable
- Trolley Scan have further simplified the process of transponder manufacture by providing a kit of parts to licensees
who want to use low technology assembly methods. The kit comprises the chip and the antenna allowing the production of EcochipTag transponders.
- If barcoding costs virtually nothing being printed on the packaging,
why should there be an interest in using RF tags for retailing?
- The overhead costs of getting manufactured goods into the hands of
the consumer is not directly related to whether or not the labelling system
is free. By putting RF tags into their products, benefits are achievable
throughout the entire logistics and distribution chain. Just for the retailer
with the ability of tags to be read at high rates, 4 meter reading ranges,
volumes of multiple articles in excess of 400 items at a time,with RF penetration
properties; his goods receiving is simplified and sped up, his stock taking
of products in the store and display area are simplified to passing scanners
past shelves, his checkout staffing and equipment is drastically reduced
(some retaillers believe 70 checkouts can reduce to 5 with the increased
throughput), and the retailer gets an advances Electronic Article Surveillance
(EAS) system thrown in. In fact recent designs are now becoming available
for a self service checkout with integrated credit card processing facilities
and EAS for security.
- Similar benefits are achieved by the manufacturer and wholesaler, including
the features of EAS and the ability to use robotics due to the tagging
system providing "vision" to the computers used for the robotics
- What is tag pollution and specifically how does it impact airline
- When tags of different manufacturers are attached to various goods
and are exposed to a reader energising field, each of the tags will respond
to that energising field and will attempt to communicate their identity
to the reader. As an example consider an item of airline luggage. It might
have a tag identifying the suitcase for the airport/airline/IATA, it might
contain some books using an ISBN numbering system, it might contain some
files used for a file tracking system, and it might have some clothes with
imbedded laundry tags used for setting washing instructions for cleaning
and ironing, it might contain a computer with an embedded tag for asset
tracing, if fact the case might have 40 or 50 tags inside the case, besides
the outer case tag. Many of these transponders will respond to the reader
field, as they will collect energy and start operating. As the tags are
low cost, they will not have expensive frequency rejection filters, and
hence they will not be able to descriminate between different types of
readers to suppress their response.
- The important aspect of tag pollution is to realise that with such
a large market with so many applications there will be many incompatible
tagging systems, and system designer needs to ensure that the reader system
can handle multiple transponder situations and reject any unexpected numbering
systems or transmissions. Trolleyponder is ideally suited to such situations.
- Why is 3 axis scanning important?
- RFID tags use the communication of radio signals between the reader
and the tag. The radio waves have a property called polarity, which needs
to be the same or compatible between the reader and the tags for the
- communication to take place. This polarity is generally related to
the relative physical orientation of the tags and the readers relative
to each other, for example their antennas both in a vertical or both in
a horizontal geometric orientation. To now have tags attached to goods
that are randomly orientated in the reading zone means that for some of
the tags the orientation will be incorrect and communication will not take
- Trolleyponder developments has addressed this problem and has applied
for patents for features that allow full 3 axis scanning of multiple transponders
at high scanning rates.
- Who invented Trolleyponder?
- Trolleyponder protocol was invented by Mike Marsh.
- Mike Marsh and Trevor Hodson also invented a single frequency multiple
axis scanning system for such transponders.
- Mike Marsh is most probably the leading designer in the world for low
cost transponder systems, having invented in 1991 the low cost system described
in the patent "Electronic Identification System " which was demonstrated
to the world on TV in 1994 by showing a trolley with 35 items being scanned
in a couple of seconds. This technology is owned by the South African Government
and is marketed under their trademark Supertag..
- In 1994 Mike Marsh left the employ of the South African Government
and later started the company Trolley Scan with Trevor Hodson to promote
RFID scanning of groceries and other products where RFID scanning would
- In 1998 Mike Marsh and Trevor Hodson filed their improved technology
called Trolleyponder, which is a completely
new set of intellectual property.
- Mike Marsh is founder and editor of Transponder
News , a respected web newspaper on transponder technologies.
- Who invented EcoTag?
- EcoTag was invented in South Africa
by Mike Marsh. The first operational EcoTag transponder
demonstration was built on the 27th April 1999. EcoTag
has been protected by provisional patent applications.
- EcoTag was developed in response
to requests from Trolleyponder licensees operating in Europe who were restricted
by the severe regulatory restrictions.
- Why is Trolleyponder cheaper
than most competitive technologies with such superior performance specifications?
- Trolleyponder has been specifically
designed to be a low cost transponder system while offering excellent performance.
To achieve this it has been designed to be implimented in a single chip
measuring less than 1mm2 with no external components, tuned
circuits or coil antenna systems. Its antenna system is as a strip of metal foil. The skills needed to produce the
transponders are based around available skills from silicon foundries around
the world who make their services available to clients on contract..
- What operating frequency is used by Trolleyponder?
- Trolleyponder is a base technology
and protocol that can operate at most frequencies in the radio spectrum.
However particular benefits with regard to performance and pricing occur
if it is designed to be used in the 200MHz to 1600MHz spectrum. The reason
is that at these frequencies the technology is now available to produce
the transponder as a single chip with a simple antenna. The technology is currently in high volume production
for 869Mhz (EU/GSM countries) and 902-930MHz (US/Canada).
- The following table lists expected performance versus frequency for
passive tags- (performance does vary from product to product and these
figures are typical)
Multiturn coil needed for transponder
Simple coil antenna
Fairly large simple dipole antenna
Simple dipole antenna
Preferred antenna size/performance
- Why is Trolleyponder particularly
suitable for labelling goods for international trade?
- Trolleyponder designs utilise a
property called frequency agility. This feature allows the tags
to operate at different reader or operating frequencies without a loss
of performance, a feature that is essential where transponders are used
for labelling goods that are involved in international trade. As the different
countries of the world each impliment their own spectrum allocation plans,
plans that have evolved to meet their own particular needs, it is virtually
impossible to get a frequency allocated for scanning that will be identical
in different countries. As Trolleyponder does
not use tuned circuitry in its design, and does not need specific operating
frequencies, the tags will respond to readers that are at different operating
frequencies in the different countries through which the goods pass. The
addition of EcoTag
technology to the Trolleyponder
family is also relevant to this situation
as EcoTag is
able to offer good reading ranges in the US and Europe on very low power,
yet keeping the cost advantages of a low cost passive tag.
- What is the impact of EcoTag in an ISOcard format on existing passive RFID
- The reduction of size of the UHF transponder antenna to 80mm by 27 mm means that the
physical size of the EcoTag transponder is now similar to that of the 13.56MHz smart label, yet offering much greater range
TinTag® are the TRADEMARKS of Trolley Scan
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