Is 134 KHz the most efficient RFID frequency band for use in animal identification and tracking?

  • No. We believe the following scientific and commercial facts illustrate that 13.56 MHz RFID technology is much more efficient:

13.56 MHz and 134 KHz are both universally accepted in all countries with their respective ISO standards. For 125-135 KHz band (basically AM radio frequency band), the applicable ISO standards are ISO 11784 for coding convention and ISO 11785 for specified frequency and communication protocol.

For 13.56 MHz (basically FM radio frequency band), the applicable ISO standards for communication protocol are ISO 15693 and the emerging ISO 18000- (May merge with the upcoming electronic product code standard (EPC)).

The same coding convention of ISO 11784 is applicable for any frequency and most RFID chips with standard burned in unique identifiers and/or write-once unique identifiers. Other established conventions will also be applicable (such as EPC with their corresponding chips).

The fact that 13.56 MHz is 100 times higher in frequency provides scientific advantages in terms of wider bandwidth and faster response time for 13.56 MHz RFID tags.

The fact that 13.56 MHz is 100 times higher in frequency, a wavelength of more than 20 ft. still means that they both used the near-field effect for passive tag energizing and responding. For the same geometric form-factor (size of the tag) and same energy level of usage, it means that RFID tags operating at 13.56 MHz are much more sensitive in terms of their ability to track animals at a longer distance. For example, for a tag the size of a credit card, 13.56 MHz can read the tagged animal at more than 3 ft. while at 125-135 KHz the read distance is much less than 3 ft.

Both 125-135 KHz and 13.56 MHz RFID tags are not affected by water, humidity, mud, and standard animal related environment factors.

The tag antenna for 13.56 MHz is between 3-15 loops that can easily be etched and formed into a single layer. The tag antenna for 125-135 KHz requires 100-200 loops. These loops of wire must be isolated and stacked onto each other thus making the tag much more bulky.

Are there other frequencies that are applicable for animal identification and tracking other than 125-135 KHz and 13.56 MHz?

  • No. No other frequency bands that have ISO standards and are usable across the world are applicable for animal identification and tracking. The other frequency bands used in the United States for RFID tags include 2.45 GHz and 915 MHz. While both of these frequencies are used for identification of products to some extent, because of their higher frequencies of operation, the energy absorption by water in animals is just too high. They simply cannot be used effectively to tag animals.

Why are 13.56 MHz RFID tags for animal identification and tracking much lower in cost than 125-135 KHz RFID tags?

  • The cost factors for any RFID tag has to do with the cost of physically producing the antenna inlay, the means of attaching the chip onto the inlays with reliability, and the scale of economy based on total volume of usage. These technical and commercial realities favor 13.56 MHz over 125-135 KHz.
  • 13.56 MHz in the more common size of 2” x 3” requires approximately 6 loops to be resonant with the reader/encoder’s signal. Using copper etching or additive copper traces on low cost plastic sheets with antenna inlays of 6 loops can readily be produced. The placement of chips to connect with these antenna inlays is also a standard fair. Low costs and industry standard pick-and-place equipment and infrastructure make the cost of manufacturing low and the availability abundant. They can be easily reflowed and soldered for optimal reliability and laminated with a protective layer for usage environment. The average cost of such tags as of 2004 is in the range of $0.25-$1.0 depending on volume and size of the tags.
  • The same size inlay at 125-135 KHz typically requires more than 100 loops. These wire loops must be wound by mechanical means using fine wires that have been pre-coated with insulation. While insulated wires are not expensive, the mechanical winding process requires specialized equipment. The interconnection with chips must also be handled with specialized equipment. They must also be protected with special encapsulation or protective casing that increases both the cost and bulkiness. All of these technical factors add to the cost of manufacturing such RFID tags. The average cost for such a tag is still in the range of $2 – 4 each.
  • Another cost factor comes from the volume of usage. 13.56 MHz RFID is being geared up for the large volume applications of EPC at the item level, the availability and the economic scale of manufacturing allows a much faster drop in unit price than the relatively lower volume use for the 125-135 KHz.
  • Another cost factor involves the cost of ownership during usage over the lifetime of the animals. This will be discussed in more detail in a separate question and answer.

Are there any health concerns for using RFID tagging and tracking of livestock animals?

  • No. This is true for both 125-135 KHz and 13.56 MHz RFID operations. These frequencies correspond to the AM and FM radio frequency ranges respectively. These frequency bands and the relative low power level of less than 4 watts have been used for decades without any health concerns.

What contributes to the cost of ownership and why would there be any difference in cost of ownership between 125-135 KHz and 13.56 MHz?

  • The cost-of-ownership includes at least the following factors:

The initial cost of purchasing the RFID tags differs by at least 2-3 times in cost and the ease of tagging the animals and the comfort of the tag on the animals differs between the tags. The heavier and bulkier tags using 125-135 KHz may add to the cost because they may not be as comfortable for the animals and thus it is likely that losses will occur that require replacement.

The cost and ease of capturing the data while the animal is being treated or monitored during its daily activities. For example, it is commonly known that when cattle are coming through a chute and are lined up head to tail, the antennae placed on each side of the chute frequently miss the reading at 125-135 KHz. It could be quite a task to manually scan the animals to assure all data is captured as needed.

It is also common knowledge that smaller tags used for smaller animals operating at 125-135 KHz typically only have a read distance of less than ½ in. It is not an easy task to locate and read the tags on each animal. Tags as small as ½” or 1” square operating at 13.56 MHz can be readily captured at distances of 12 in. and 24 in. respectively.

Because the potential usages of 13.56 MHz are much wider, there is substantially more technology developed for antenna arrays for automatic data capturing in the form of portals similar to the anti-theft detection doorways in retail stores. As long as the animals pass through the portals, a time-stamp of the event can be recorded automatically using antenna arrays such as the SMART-PORTAL patented by AVANTE.

Difficulty in capturing data tends to encourage non-compliance in a busy farm operation. Non-compliance may induce possible fines and defeat the purpose of tracking animals to ensure the quality of our food supply. The cost of non-compliance has the potential to be very high for the industry as a whole.

Can the use of RFID tags for animal identification and tracking improve the efficiency of farm productions rather than act as a pure cost center imposed by the government?

  • AVANTE believes that the infrastructure built into the identification and tracking of livestock can contribute to the productivity of farm productions with relatively little effort.
  • The identification from birth to slaughter of farm animals can easily be compiled to examine the productivity due to pedigree. The resistance to disease and other potential losses due to pedigree differences can be easily evaluated and help improve productivity.
  • The effectiveness of medical treatments to feedstock management or to other environmental factors can also be easily documented for possible improvement.
  • Implemented computer and database infrastructures can be piggybacked with best-practice reminders to monitor each of the species being raised on any farm.

Why was 125-135 KHz chosen by USAIP initially?

  • We believe it is historical rather than technical.
  • 125-135 KHz was made available earlier and used as active tags for tracking wild animals as well as domestic animals. 13.56 MHz has become a commodity product only since 1998.
  • Because of the advantages explained in the previous questions, such as ease of use and relative low cost, 13.56 MHz RFID for animal identification and tracking is much more cost effective and an overall more ideal solution.

Can both the 125-135 KHz and 13.56 MHz RFID tags be used side-by-side for USAIP applications?

  • Yes, Absolutely! The data requirements and formats based on ISO 11784 can be applicable for any RFID disregarding the frequency of operation.
  • The acceptance of ISO 15693 along with ISO 11785 will not cause any interference between the systems at all.
  • We believe that it may be wise to make sure that ISO 11784 be examined in conjunction with the emerging EPC coding scheme (in conformance with GTAG). The compatibility of the data may help the retailing end of the business. The compatibility will ensure that the products coming from the farm when packaged for retailing can automatically be mapped or ported into the EPC commercial codes in the retail and consumer markets.

Is there a low cost RFID solution that one can use to monitor the health of an animal 24/7 during its lifecycle?

  • Yes. AVANTE developed a low cost active RFID ZONER™ tag that RELAYER™ monitors to facilitate the monitoring of high value animals:

Each of the LIVERSTOCK-TRAKKER™ ZONER™ tag is equipped with temperature and pulse sensors.

Each ZONER™ tag measures less than 1”x1” and weighs less than ½ oz and can easily be tagged on an ear or strapped around the animal body (particularly for those applications requiring monitoring of heart rate and temperature).

The temperature and pulse is monitored in real-time. Special alerts will be transmitted for immediate actions based on exceptions to normal temperature and pulse rate.

Normal temperature and pulse rate is transmitted and also recorded periodically on the embedded memory in “First-in-First-out” (FIFO) in cyclic mode when memory is used up.

With a grid of RELAYER monitors spaced at 300 ft apart, real-time locating capability is enabled to facilitate locating and responding to high value animal needs.