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The cost of connected linen
The prerequisite for any RFID-enabled linen tracking system is that assets are equipped with an UHF RFID tag. There are many tag suppliers, using different combinations of components, but the basic construction and composition is roughly the same.
At the core of a tag is a lentil, an enclosure made of epoxy resin, that contains the UHF RFID chip and a primary antenna, which is used for Near Field Communication (NFC). This is a way for objects to communicate over a short distance, for instance when you pay for groceries using the chip on your credit card. The encapsulation of the chip is done to protect it from exposure to harsh laundry environments.
The next component is a secondary antenna, often a wire or metallic thread, sewn into the carrier in a specific shape. This antenna enables communication over greater distances. Finally, there’s a carrier, mostly a textile material composed of polyester, or a combination of polyester and cotton. The durability of this carrier determines the lifetime of the tag.
Besides the quality of a UHF RFID tag, there is also the cost to consider. Prices have decreased from around one Euro in 2005 to under 30 cents per tag. This makes it more attractive to virtualize textile assets on a larger scale.
However, what is often forgotten is the additional cost of attaching the tag to the textile item in order to make it ‘connected’, i.e. able to communicate with other connected objects through the Internet of Things. The preferred time for tag integration is during the production process, rather than retrofitting existing linen. The cost of manual attachment can be up to 30 cents, an added expense that should be eliminated, or at least reduced to a minimum.
At LossLess Group, together with our partners, we have developed UHF RFID tags on a roll that, when used on a labeling machine, enable automatic integration during the production process at no additional cost. This has been successfully tested at Standard Textile, one of the large manufacturers of hospitality and healthcare linen.
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