NFC Tags Buy: Which are best?

NFC Tags Buy: Which are best?

 

What NFC tags should you buy? So many choices, how do you know what NFC tag to buy?

 

NFC tags have many uses for example, payment, pairing devices and authentication. Here at SIRV we use NFC tags to help our clients:

 

  • Evidence who has been where and, when (proof of presence)
  • Track assets
  • Track people

 

To satisfy customer demand we’ve purchased tens of thousands of tags from ZipNFC.

 

NFC Tags Buying Mistakes

Over the years we’ve made mistakes:

 

  • Putting the right tags in the wrong place
  • Buying tags too small to be seen
  • Branding tags that didn’t need branding

 

These mistakes are expensive and reputationally damaging; no one wants to be responsible for replacing hundreds of NFC tags from beautiful new buildings.

We put together an NFC tag buying criteria to avoid these and other mistakes. Below are the things we think about when purchasing NFC tags along with our two recommended tags.

Buying NFC Tags Criteria

 

1)     Environment

What elements will the tag be exposed to? Some tags are toughened and can handle +60 and -30 degrees Celsius, stormy weather and washing machines. Some tags look great but can only handle air-conditioned offices.

 

Tags will lose their adhesion if affixed to surfaces that expand and contract, therefore avoid placing them on wood. 

 

We define our tags as for use inside, applied to an office environment (internal). Or, for use in a non-office environment and outside (external).  See below recommendations. 

 

2)     Storage

How much information do you want to store on a tag? Some tags have as little as 48 bytes of storage.

 

Generally, a mobile app will read a tag that contains a nondescript identifier and interpret accordingly. For example, a tag may store the code ‘CVX65’, the mobile app will read this and translate it into a full text string ascribed to the tag ‘Rear Entrance’.

 

The storage limit of a tag is not important to us. Our app will translate the tag code.

 

3)     Appearance

Do you want a tag that is noticeable or discreet? The former may be easy to see but inappropriate in a beautiful office building.

 

Depending on the fabric colour to which the tags are affixed, the internal tags we order are usually white. This tag is very discreet. The external tags are not large but are always coloured black and more easily seen.

 

4)     Coding

An NFC tag is ‘naked’ until it is coded. Your mobile app won’t be able to read a tag until it is encoded.

 

You can code a tag through a smartphone app but if you’re ordering hundreds of tags this is needlessly time consuming. ZipNFC offers a service that codes tags en masse. The tag arrives encoded, ready to deploy.

 

We code all our NFC tags.

 

5)     Labeling

If you order more than one tag of the same type you may find yourself asking the question ‘how do I tell them apart?’ To the naked eye they will all appear identical.

 

A mobile app can read the tag’s code but if you’ve bought a lot of tags this is time consuming. It’s far easier to ask the supplier to add a removable external label to each tag.

 

We ask ZipNFC to add labels.

 

6)     Closed or Open

When purchasing NFC tags, you may be asked to select ‘open’ or ‘closed’. If a tag is ‘open’ the tag code can be overwritten by you at a later date, useful if you want to repurpose the tag. However, an open tag gives someone other than you the opportunity to maliciously overwrite your tag. ‘Closed’ tags cannot be overwritten once coded.

 

Because some of our tags will be moved and repurposed, we leave our tags ‘open’.

 

7)     Anti-Metal

If the tag is placed on or near metal surfaces, there’s a risk communication is distorted, and the tag can’t be read. Anti-metal tags are built to cope with metal surfaces.

 

Our default is to order anti-metal tags. This provides maximum flexibility. 

 

8)     Branding

Some tags can be branded and have a short message added. For example, a tag could have a company logo along with the message ‘Security’.  If you select this option avoid adding messages such as ‘do not touch’. This message only encourages people to touch the tag. You will also need to be patient as most tags will be off the shelf and only need minimal processing before being shipped. Branded tags on the other hand can take months to produce.

We avoid offering clients branding. It slows both the manufacture of tags and the client decision making process (other departments such as marketing communications will need to be consulted.) 

Our favourite NFC Tags to Buy

Internal Use

NFC sticker Anti-metal NTAG213 30mm Round – white PVC 

 

This Internal tag is ideal for placing indoors because it is slim, small (30mm diameter) and can be ordered in different colours. We typically order this tag in white.

 

There’s two drawbacks that are not unique to this type of tag:

i)               Idle fingers can be deployed to peel them from walls.

ii)              If you order the tag in white you may discover decorators paint over them.

 

External Use

ANTI-METAL 30mm Black ABS NFC Disc Token NTAG213 

Only slightly thicker than the internal tags, this is a tough tag. We’ve deployed them outside for over six years. Its central hole allows it to be screwed to most surfaces. It is also suitable for affixation by super strong glue. 

Conclusion: Buying NFC Tags

We developed our software to read NFC when it first became available on the smartphone (circa 2010). Since then we’ve found NFC tags to be super reliable. Using our selection criteria has meant ordering through ZipNFC is just as reliable.

Author: Andrew Tollinton, SIRV