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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