RF Technology

Radio Frequency (RF) technology – swept or pulsed

RF electronic article surveillance comprises hard tags or soft labels that communicate with one or more antenna. These antennas can be positioned in pedestals in the shop doorway or even under the floor.

The tags/labels have tiny circuits that resonate between 7.4 to 8.8 MHz, with the most popular frequency being 8.2 MHz.

RF antenna

RF antenna can operate in a number of ways based on whether they use swept or pulsed technology.

Using Swept RF Technology, one pedestal acts as a transmitter, sending out a signal. If an intact tag or label comes into the pedestal vicinity, it will resonate and this is detected by the second pedestal acting as a receiver. An alarm will then sound.

In the case of pulsed RF Technology, a single pedestal antenna both sends and receives the signal, sounding an alarm when a tag is detected within range.

If you’re looking to protect a wide doorway, multiple swept or pulsed pedestals can be used, depending on the width of the doorway being guarded.

RF tags and labels

Tags and labels range from an array of small ultra-thin adhesive labels through to a variety of hard tags, and are suitable for a numerous applications, including clothing, food and pharmaceutical products.

Historically RF has been considered more affordable to install and is often most popular with retailers who use adhesive security labels over security hard tags.

RF tag and label deactivation

Labels are deactivated by using a Label Deactivator to overload the integrated capacitor and effectively break the label’s circuit, while hard tags are removed at the point of sale normally by a powerful magnetic security tag detacher.

Why retailers select it

RF is often favored due to the flat footprint of its paper labels that make it suitable for high volumes of packaged products, and for the easy integration of Deactivation into Point of Sale Scanners.

Probably due to its perceived lower price, RF remains the most widely adopted EAS technology worldwide.

Although RF EAS is not to be confused with RFID, some RF antennas can easily be upgraded to RFID where RF and RFID technology work side by side in the same antenna.

RF limitations

RF does have limitations, however. The technology has traditionally been more sensitive to electrical interference caused by other local electronic fixtures that often don’t affect alternative EAS technologies.

Although in the real world it’s not a problem, RF Security Labels cannot be reactivated once the circuit is broken.

Detection systems are generally limited to doorway pedestals, although recently some RF floor-based systems have become popular.

Who uses RF EAS

Radio Frequency EAS is perfectly suited to retailers with a high volume of packaged products due to the convenience of adhesive, flat tags.

That makes RF the system of choice for supermarkets, discount stores, chemists and video stores.

That said, the ability to upgrade some RF EAS systems to RFID means its usage has recently grown in apparel stores.

RF benefits at a glance

  • Affordability: Price can range from very low cost for more basic RF systems to high cost for advanced RF systems.
  • Available as flat paper labels
  • Wide range of label shapes, sizes and presentation
  • Labels can be printed on
  • Potential for upgrade path to RFID with some RF antenna systems
  • Easy high-speed security label deactivation including possible integration with POS scanners
  • Available from many manufacturers

RF disadvantages

  • Labels cannot be reused once the circuit is broken
  • Limited range of detection systems traditionally limited to pedestals
  • More susceptible to electronic and metallic interference
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