Admin posted on February 3, 2014 16:36

Over the last 6 months almost every leading passive RFID tag vendor has released new thinner metal-mount RFID tags. Metalcraft, Omni-ID, Confidex, XERAFY, and most other leading tag vendors all have flexible metal-mount tags that are .05" or less thick. Although all of them seem ideal for tracking laptops because they are metal-mount and very thin, their performance varies widely.

It may seem tempting to pick the one that will look best on your laptops, but choose wisely. Don't make your selection based on the read ranges documented by the vendor, because these were likely obtained on a solid metal object in an ideal lab environment. A lot of laptop cases are plastic or "metalic" at best, so the performance will not be the same as placing the tags on solid metal. We saw read range variances of more than 10 feet between the different tags we tested. It is also important to note that some tags may work better on different laptops, so it is important to test with the make(s)/model(s) of laptops you are using. Also test on a variety of locations on the laptop as the performance can vary significantly from one spot to another. Although most organizations would prefer to place the tag on the bottom of the laptop, this will typically significantly reduce the range of the tag. Generally placing tags somewhere on the lid will provide the best performance. Unfortunately there isn't a clear-cut best tag for laptops. It really depends on the make/model and where you want to place the tag.

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Admin posted on April 13, 2013 10:55

NOTE: Also read this updated post: RFID Laptop Tracking - Update

Tracking laptops with RFID can be a challenge, especially if the application is security-related. 


  • Metal
  • Tag placement
  • Ensuring good read rates

Because laptops contain a lot of metal, typical passive RFID tags will be pretty much useless.  Even though the laptop may have a plastic outer shell, the amount of metal in the screen and other components will generate interference.  Therefore a "metal mount" RFID tag will be required. 

Because "metal mount" RFID tags are thicker than a label, they cannot be mounted flush on the laptop.  Most people don't like the idea of a tag that is 1/8-1/4" or more thick stuck to a laptop.  Partially for aesthetic reasons, but also because they don't want the tag catching on something when going in/out of a laptop bag.  Tags with a tapered edge would be ideal to prevent the tag from catching, but the edges of most tags don't taper.  Sometimes placing a short metal mount tag along one of the sides will work, but most laptops have too many ports and no flat surface areas large enough to place a tag on the side.  Therefore placing a tag somewhere on the lid is usually the only option.

When placing the tag on the lid of the laptop is the only option, the thinner the tag the better.  However, thinner tags usually provide shorter read ranges, so a performance vs. aesthetic/usability decision will need to be made.

If security is a requirement, passive RFID typically won't be a good option.  Because passive UHF RFID cannot read through metal or liquid, something as simple as your hand covering the tag can prevent it from being read when moving past a reader.  Active RFID provides better read rates, has less interference issues, and provides options for motion and tamper detection making it a much better choice for securing laptops.  The only downside is that the size of the tag will be even larger than a passive RFID tag because it has a battery.  The larger more visible tag can act as a deterrent. 

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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway.

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