In the Contactless era, NFC Tags are king. In recent years we have seen Near Field Communication (NFC) revolutionise processes from hospital bed monitoring to warehouse management and display advertising campaigns. And while the technology might appear to be complex, in most cases the NFC system is made possible by an object no bigger than your average postal stamp.
These diminutive devices are the lifeblood of any Contactless system and the epitome of simplicity. They consist of just a small antenna and chip, which is typically embedded within a small sticker, into larger items such as posters for the purpose of display, or into objects designed for industrial purposes. They perform the vital task of storing data and transmitting it to an NFC reader such as a smartphone when tapped or swiped.
The benefits of NFC Tags stack up - not only are they portable thanks to their small size, but they are also tremendously good value for the customer, and remarkably self-sufficient, not requiring any batteries. All their charging is done during their interaction with an NFC reader.
Which form NFC Tags are found in, the amount of data they are capable of storing, and their transmission strength, will vary according to which type of NFC system they are being used within. In this blog, we take a look at the different varieties of NFC Tags which are currently available, getting to grips with the category types you are likely to come across:
General NFC Tags
As the category name suggests, General NFC Tags represent the industry standard for NFC Tags, in a range of different sizes. They offer the user the advantage of being ideal for sticking on a huge range of surfaces, with only metal surfaces being unsuitable.
You will find a number of different sticker shapes available, offering the option of branding with a logo, and you can also choose from a range of NFC chips with varying memory capacities. While those General NFC Tags with a relatively low memory capacity - such as the NTAG213 - are suitable for tasks such as asset tagging and identification, those offering a larger memory - like the DESFIRE EV1 4K - can be used for Contactless payment, loyalty programmes, and systems which require tighter security.
Even the General NFC Tags in the 'mid-range' for memory capacity - such as the NTAG216 - offer features such as password protection, scan counts and UID mirrors.
What all the General NFC Tags have in common is their usability and the same beautiful simplicity with which they provide an NFC function for a wide range of uses. From marketing to security and stock control; there is a good chance that General NFC Tags will meet your requirements.
Workplace NFC Tags
NFC has made a big impact on the front line of several industries, where it is helping to increase operational efficiency in factories, on oil rigs and in other potentially inhospitable environments. Workplace NFC Tags are offering industrial organisations additional qualities to General NFC Tags, such as weather resistance, extra durability and the capability of being affixed to metal surfaces.
With their robustness and resilience, Workplace NFC Tags are designed to withstand the pressures that can be associated with regular moving and handling in industrial settings. This makes them perfect for performing NFC tasks such as asset identification and control in challenging environments.
Industrial NFC Tags which are incorporated with the NTAG213 chip offer the benefit of being screwable to metal surfaces. Their choice of six colours makes them suitable for use within colour coding systems, and their heat resistance is another attribute which lends itself to industrial purposes. Within factories and other industrial workplaces, these kind of Industrial NFC Tags are able to perform a vital role for a number of NFC functions - offering ways of enhancing process control, patrol management, time and attendance systems, logistics management and inventory management.
In the case of Ultralight Epoxy NFC Tags, they do not even require screwing to metal surfaces and can be affixed using adhesive. These PVC Workplace NFC Tags are seen as ideal for tasks such as vehicle identification and anti-counterfeit programmes.
Because of the small size of an NFC chip, we have seen a range of Workplace NFC Tags emerge which are designed to double up as other industrial and commercial functions. Among these are the NTAG213 Cable Ties, which are suitable for a wide range of industrial uses, as well as for safety and certification, animal identification and inspections. Then there are the NFC Laundry Tags, which are designed to stand up to processes which involve exposure to heat and chemicals; NFC Soil Markers, offering a waterproof solution for the agricultural sector; and NFC Jewellery Tags, providing additional protection for high-value items.
On Metal NFC Tags
For NFC users who require the convenience of General NFC Tags, along with the same ability to stick on metal surfaces which Workplace NFC Tags provide, On Metal NFC Tags can provide the answer. Unlike some Workplace NFC Tags, most On Metal NFC Tags are conducive to branding with a logo, or another type of image.
But it isn't just the sticking function which makes On Metal NFC Tags an essential part of NFC systems which involve metal surfaces. NFC chips and antenna are sensitive objects which can potentially experience interference from metals when they are placed in close proximity. On Metal NFC Tags offer a shielding layer which serves to protect the Contactless signal of the chip. This can ensure that the NFC Tag does not suffer from reliability issues, or worse still, become unusable.
From a business perspective, On Metal NFC Tags can be a savvy choice for organisations, even if only a few of the surfaces they are using are metal. That's because On Metal NFC Tags can also be stuck easily on other types of surfaces, meaning that they offer versatility to the user, and can negate the need to invest in two different types of NFC Tags. This flexibility makes them suitable for a wide range of purposes - from some industrial uses to marketing smart posters and asset control.
For customers who have made durability, branding and versatility their priorities, On Metal NFC Tags can be the best solution.
Clear NFC Tags
For NFC systems which do not require the tag to be on display, there is usually no need to print, and in these cases, Clear NFC Tags can be the most suitable choice. These tags are transparent, doing away with the opaque top layer possessed by General NFC Tags, and showing the Contactless circuit beneath.
In the absence of this top layer, they are typically thinner than General NFC Tags, and for this reason are well suited to being embedded into larger objects. These bigger items include wearables such as jewellery or product labels, cards or posters, and promotional products such as pens or drink mats. The key thing is that they are protected by this larger object with an additional layer of material which is capable of shielding their thin structure.
Their comparatively basic structure means that they can be priced at a lower point than other types of NFC Tags.
NFC Custom Labels
NFC is called upon to perform an aesthetic, as well as an operational role. There are many use cases which require NFC Tags to look the part, as well as function without a hitch. When it comes to making an impact with your marketing, there are plenty of customisation options for NFC Tags. That's good news for business who are aiming to engage their audience with NFC Tags.
From Permanent Adhesive NFC Labels to Repositionable NFC labels and NFC Clothing Labels, there are a number of choices for NFC Custom Labels which can tick the marketer's boxes. These labels are typically large enough both to catch the eye and relay any important information to the audience. That could be instructions of how or why to swipe the NFC label; for example 'tap here to enter', for a competition; 'swipe for more information', in the case of a special offer; or 'touch your phone here to watch', where a free media download is being offered.
The potential for customisation extends to the type of sticker, with some Custom NFC Labels being suitable for sticking on metal surfaces, and others having the same properties as General NFC Tags. There are also very few size constraints - just a specification that the dimensions must be a minimum of 74mm x 105mm.
That's the beauty of NFC: The possibilities are, quite literally, endless. And this doesn't just apply to the technology itself - increasingly, it is also true of NFC Tags! With the NFC market expected to reach a value of over £36 billion by the year 2024, the expansive range of NFC Tags which are now available will be crucial in ensuring the technology continues to become more accessible across the globe.