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Tamper-Proof Tagging

It was a big opportunity. Sitting in their offices in San Diego, officials at Neology, a provider of passive RFID-enabled solutions, were anticipating a project that would be the result of a contract with a foreign government. The project would establish a radio frequency identification (RFID) system for vehicle ident

It was a big opportunity. Sitting in their offices in San Diego, officials at Neology, a provider of passive RFID-enabled solutions, were anticipating a project that would be the result of a contract with a foreign government. The project would establish a radio frequency identification (RFID) system for vehicle identification and tracking.

Having successfully navigated the research, design, and approval processes, the company was ready to go with the project. However, the customer had one last request — could Neology make the tag tamper-proof?

Under normal conditions, Neology’s standard UHF MHz tag would function without qualms in a vehicle identification application. The foreign government presenting the proposal had already developed proprietary technology that incorporates RFID devices into identification documents, which store vehicle identification numbers (VIN), as well as license plate and owner information in an RFID-enabled vehicle control decal (VCD). Neology’s VCDs have read/write capabilities of more than 100,000 times and can be read on a hot spot at a distance of seven meters and at speeds of up to 100 miles an hour, allowing for fast and efficient monitoring of vehicles at various checkpoints.

However, this project was unique. The tags would be used to better control the country’s borders and provide increased national security by preventing registration and circulation of stolen vehicles, identifying vehicles and owners in any procedure that requires contact with the authorities, preventing the informal purchase and sale of stolen cars, and monitoring vehicles that enter and exit controlled areas. A tamper-proof solution would further ensure that the system would remain uncompromised.

To provide the required extra measure of security, Neology turned to its supplier-partner, MACtac. A supplier of pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) tapes, MACtac produces total system solutions for the RFID industry. A component supplier to Neology since 2002, MACtac provides printed-conductive antennas, polyester modules, PSA tapes, and a variety of face stocks for use in RFID chip and tag designs.

MACtac began by working with Neology to understand the specifications of the RFID tag and to identify the components that would best support a tamper-proof safeguard. Through this process, engineers discovered a formula to alter the way their conductive inks interact with the PSA printing surface and to provide tamper evidence.

The new tamper-proof RFID construction incorporates a process that allows for normal production of each antenna and tag. After application on the intended surface however, the tag becomes tamper-proof. If an attempt is made to tamper with or remove the tag, the ink layers fracture, inadvertently altering the electrical characteristics of the system and rendering the tag unreadable. The tampering destroys the electrical circuit and leaves it non-repairable, providing a fail-safe solution.

Within days, the technical team had produced a working prototype for Neology and in less than two weeks it was moved into production trials. After no more than two months of total development, both Neology and its customer had a working, tamper-proof tag. Since then, millions of tags have been produced and implemented for the government project.

“This project showcased one of the main reasons why we rely so heavily on our supplier-partners to provide high-end, creative solutions,” says Joe Mullis, director of operation at Neology. “Without their expert development of the tamper-proof construction, it would have taken much longer to generate a solution.”

In the end, Neology had its contract with the foreign government and was able to produce a tamper-proof RFID tag. Now, the government can more easily keep tabs on the vehicles within its borders.

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