RFID Arena


RFID Arena Guest Blog: Single use or reusable tags? There are good reasons for both in the RFID fashion retail world

The first Guest Blog post onto the RFID Arena is written by Peter Perecz, head of Sales and Marketing at QID Solutions Ltd. He has written about the choice of an RFID tag for apparel retail market.

Single use or reusable tags?  There are good reasons for both in the RFID fashion retail world.

In many areas of our lives we face the same question - whether using a disposable or reusable shaver, cutlery, camera or packaging is the better choice. The one thing that all these very different things have in common; there is no single right answer for the selection, the purpose determines the choice of using either the disposable or the reusable one. Even though many of us are environmentally conscious, probably most of us would not expect food to be served on porcelain plates in a summer festival or turning it around; supper served on thin plastic plates would not be so welcomed on a wedding party.There is one more thing that all those things have in common - originally the reusable ones were developed earlier and used for many years and as our life has become faster in pace, more and more disposable items have been developed to serve our needs.

RFID in fashion retail - as in many other ways - is different from this angle too; many of the applications follow the traditions of the RFID world and utilize disposable tags though reusable UHF RFID tags are now widely available in many variations. There are manufacturers, which simply encapsulate a chip and a dipole antenna increasing original durability, there are tags, which combine RFID and EAS functions in a single plastic device and then there are tags, which can be added to existing EAS tags completing the original surveillance functions with intelligence.

The only place where there is no room for differentiation is performance. Independently whether the transponder is disposable or reusable it shall perform equally well at high power gate reading at the distribution centers as well as shall support shop personnel in inventory taking, which is normally exercised with a handheld device. As the intelligent electronic article surveillance function of UHF RFID is getting widely recognized none of them can fail under a head antenna at the shop entrance or in front of a fancy kiosk.

Most probably wearing a pair of transparent nylon gloves for the opera wouldn't become a fashionable thing to do just like a pair of silk gloves may not be the most practical attire when fueling your car. The same way evaluation of all the characteristics before selecting a tag seems to be a good idea. Selecting transponders for fashion retail RFID application is said to be a bit more of a difficult task, so probably it is worth collecting the most relevant differences in this case as well. So, let `s identify them;

Single use tags are usually low cost RFID inlays, which are converted to hang tags for the article and then as the item is sold the tag is lost. The reusable tags represent couple of times higher purchase price and are but then re-circulated. However, the benefit of the re-use considerably decreases the total cost of ownership.

The logistics of returning the tags into use can cause some headaches without a properly planned and supported supply chain and data management flow. Once this has been solved there is no need to be worried about privacy issues as oppose to the disposable ones, which needs to be killed, deactivated at the point of sales. POS is a critical area for managing the returnable ones from a different perspective - this is the point where the system needs to recognize that the RFID code is no longer associated with an item, and then it can be released in the back end system for a new round and tags also need to be physically returned to the starting point of the process.

RFID-price -tag -3

One of the biggest challenges with the RFID hard tags is arranging the internal logistics of tags and securing that they are always paired with the articles on the most efficient and accurate way, while going for single use inlays would simplify or even eliminate this process. Nevertheless, the disposable tags shall be purchased and transported to the desired location quite frequently too.

On the other hand there is the Electronic Article Surveillance function, which everyone speaks about in the area where RFID is replacing the old technology. This change - just like any other change - is easier to make if the difference between old and new does not require more than a slight step between the old and the new. From this point of view the returnable tags, which are made of hard plastic and are as difficult to remove or damage by shoplifters as the authentic EAS hard tags could expect a higher level of trust from security representatives than the hanging inlays, which are quite easy to crumple, stick-over or cut.

And finally, which of them is the more environmental friendly solution? The question seems to be pretty similar to the question of milks delivered in bottles versus in disposable boxes; the glass bottles have only to be produced once but the amount of the used up resources as well as the emission of the trucks with heavier load are the factors, while the boxes are often just wasted to the bin and transported to the landfill, which probably will happen with the disposable tags too.
As there are so many ways how the different approaches differ from each other here is a table, which tries to summarize the most of them;

Disposable RFID inlays Reusable RFID hard tags

Cost of the inlay


Cost of the internal logistics X
Cost of pairng RFID data with SKU X
Cost of ownership (RFID tags) X
Cost of purchase and external logistics X
Cost of application X
Privacy management X
Resistance to harm X
Similarity to old, trusted technology X
Environmental impact in manufacturing X
Environmental impact rest of the life-time          X

(o - Considered to be more advantageous by the writer of this article)


However the differences seem to be as many as between the disposable nylon gloves and the silk gloves. Both of them have a good reason for existence - they are serving the aim best when selected properly. Taking the main characteristics into consideration maybe it is fair to say that disposable tags are an ideal choice for supporting source tagging with high volumes in a well controlled supply chain, where the initiating party can make all the suppliers interested in participating.  On the other hand the hard tags could be a better choice for starting small in-shop applications or when the diversity of the supply base does not allow the retailer to extend the project further than shops and distribution centers.

So, try to evaluate carefully and please do not wear nylon gloves at the premier of a Puccini opera.

More information about QID Solutions on their website.

7 comments on “RFID Arena Guest Blog: Single use or reusable tags? There are good reasons for both in the RFID fashion retail world”

  1. Posted 09 January 2012 at 10:36:12

    Thank you Peter for this interesting reading! You have successfully pointed out many details an apparel retail should concider when choosing the ideal RFID solution/tag. The more info the merrier RFID users within apparel :)

  2. Gravatar of Yanyan TeodonesYanyan Teodones
    Posted 28 May 2012 at 04:45:52

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  3. Gravatar of WayneWayne
    Posted 16 May 2013 at 04:09:14

    What does a person do if thay have a rfid. Implant in them without there consent

  4. Posted 17 May 2013 at 10:20:17

    Hello Wayne,

    I don't quite understand your question.

    It is not that people have these RFID tags on them. They are attached on clothes. And they are also easily removable.

    If you mean identity cards and such, it is a policy that every government has to make and they also need to ensure privacy for their citizens.

    Most of the time, RFID is not a threat to privacy anyways. More harmful for your privacy will be your telephone, usage of internet and credit cards.

    Our company made a video on RFID in retail and privacy issues. It is made with a twinkle in the eye to keep it light but the facts are there and real.
    You can watch the video on YouTube:

    I wish you got at least some answers.

    BR, Mirva

  5. Gravatar of Davey HiltzDavey Hiltz
    Posted 29 April 2015 at 23:37:24

    Hmmm. That's an article that has gotten me thinking. I've wanted to upgrade to getting security tags, but I wasn't sure if it would be worth the cost. Sure, I could get the reusable ones, but from what you said it might not be the best idea. We'll have to keep looking around then. I'd love for a good alternative, but we might just have to settle for what we can get.
    <a href='http://www.sensortags.com/product-category/security-tags/' >http://www.sensortags.com/product-category/security-tags/</a>

  6. Posted 01 May 2018 at 13:40:32

    it unravels spacious interiors and luxury that adds a spin of modernity to your pet cat's way of life.

  7. Posted 01 July 2018 at 12:02:01

    thank you

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