High-tech identification tags used by farmers to keep an eye on cows, sheep and other cattle will soon help textile and clothing manufacturers keep track of their products in the national and international logistics chain.

The electronic devices - also worn by miners when they go deep underground - will help manufacturers and retailers in the fight against crime as they can be programmed to activate store alarms.

Developers of the Radio Frequency ID (RF-ID) tags say they have far greater benefits than the more traditional ways of tracking goods' movements such as labels, barcodes and basic electronic tags.

Around the same size as a credit card, the tags are re-usable, robust, do not require a line of sight to read and boast a read rate of more than 99 per cent compared to a read rate of 67 per cent for barcodes, say its backers.

Although the tags were developed by experts several years ago, the cost of the silicon used in their construction has now fallen to such a low level that industry chiefs say it will make them more appealing to clothing and textile firms.

The tags can be scanned by handheld readers which cost up to £200 or desktop readers which cost up to £900, while the devices themselves cost from 50p each for bulk orders.

Time And Labour Savings
Speaking last Thursday at the half-yearly meeting for members of the Association of Suppliers To The British Clothing Industry, Larry Jeram-Croft, of Avonwood Developments Ltd, described how the tags work.

"You simply programme what information you like onto them and attach them to the garment using normal clips. You don't need a line of sight to read them and you can read them through the material.

"For example, if you had a box with 20 garments in it then you could read them all at once instead of having to read each item individually.

"Similarly, if you had a rack of clothes, instead of shop workers having to find and then scan each item's barcode or read its label they would simply walk along the line and swipe the whole lot in one go.

"The tags are very flexible, re-usable and robust and will save businesses a lot of time and manpower while at the same time allowing the manufacturer to keep track of their items all the way along the logistics chain."

Mr Jeram-Croft, whose company is a working partner of Veit (UK) Ltd, added that although the devices cost more than other methods of tracking such as barcodes they would more than justify that expenditure in the medium to long term.

By Richard Ewing.


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