Somewhere along the way at the original Auto ID Lab at MIT, the vision of the five-cent tag was born.
The concept was that by simplifying and standardizing the design of RFID tags (a strategy that was ultimately embodied in the Electronic Product Code (UPC) standards), RFID tag prices (then very expensive) could be dramatically reduced – perhaps to as low as just five cents each.
At that low price level, many predicted RFID adoption would take off, as low recurring costs for tags would make the ROI favorable for an increasing number of potential applications, especially in the consumer goods-to-retail supply chain, where costs for tagging billions of cases and items were clearly a big barrier to adoption.
The “five-cent tag” took on something of iconic status, akin in some ways to predictions of a world with 500 television channels, and was cited as the likely future state in virtually every report or white paper on RFID, it seemed, for several years.
The march towards realizing this five-cent tag vision has taken longer than many expected, with the perpetual back and forth between tag prices, which impact tag volumes, which impact tag prices, etc.
But, we are getting closer.
Chinese Company Offers New 5.8-Cent Inlay
Slowly, but surely, tag prices have been dropping. Of late, at high-unit volume purchases (in the millions of tags), prices for so-called “inlays,” have been at or near the 7 cents per inlay level. An inlay is a chip and antenna combination, which generally must be converted into a usable tag form, such as a label. That process adds several pennies or more of additional cost beyond the inlay itself. In some applications, however, such as embedding a tag inside a corrugate carton, an inlay might be used directly.
(RFID and Automatic Identification Article - Continued Below)