Worrying about legacy tags as you plan your new RFID project?

RFID tags have been used in libraries for decades, but current open source ISO standards weren’t developed until 2005, and these became the official standards in 2011. This means some early adopters find themselves with legacy RFID tags that won’t integrate with modern systems. As those libraries look to transition to new technology, there must be some focus on whether these older tags will interfere with any new tags that are applied.

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3M Tattle-Tape

One common concern is whether security strips such as Tattle-Tape can cause interference with an RFID tag. Security strips placed in books and other media will not interfere with any RFID tags currently on the market.

The most common legacy tags you should watch out for are Checkpoint tags. These large, square tags are known for their oversized transceivers that are protected with a circular hard plastic cover about the size of a dime.

Checkpoint RFID tag
Checkpoint RFID Tag

Whether or not these tags will interfere with modern RFID tags will depend on the types of equipment you are having installed by your RFID provider (checkout stations, security gates, automated material handling, etc.), and what legacy equipment you intend to continue using. Whatever the situation, you will want to do the following:

  1. Never apply the new tags directly on top of or overlapping the old tags. Regardless of the situation, it is agreed that this will compromise the new tag’s readability.
  2. In advance of tagging all of your material, make sure to pull a good sample from your collections to run tests on. Encode the new tags using your preferred vendor’s software, and apply them to each item following your vendor’s recommended guidelines. Then, take a few new items without legacy tags and add the new RFID to them as well. You now are ready to run tests.
  3. Start off by testing the items without legacy tags. Monitor how long it takes to check out the materials both at the self checkout machines and at the circulation desk. Are you getting any read errors when scanning a stack of books at once? Are you seeing any kind of read delays? Then take those checked out materials and carry them through the security gates to see if the gates go off when they shouldn’t. Test again with the materials not checked out to verify the gates will go off.
  4. Now conduct these same tests with the materials that have legacy tags. If all of your results are the same, with no significant delays in checkout or issues with the security gates, then you should be fine to tag your collection without deactivating the legacy tags. However, if you are seeing problems occur from these tests, you will need to include deactivation of the old tags as part of your new tagging process.

When deactivating legacy tags, you have three options:

  1. Peel the original tag off of the material.
  2. Use a precision knife to cut through the old tag’s metal circuitry.
  3. Use a precision knife to cut through the tag, and then use butt of the knife to crush the transceiver.

For whatever option you choose, there are a few issues you need to watch out for. Peeling old tags can tear the surface of the books they were applied to, and cutting the tags takes just the right amount of pressure to ensure the blade doesn’t go through the tag and cut through the material as well. Whichever option is chosen, you will want to run further tests to make sure they can be done safely and are sufficient to alleviate any issues seen in the original sample.

To explore how Backstage can help with your next project, call 1.800.288.1265 or send an email to info@bslw.com.

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