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RFID Could Wear Well in Clothing

RFID may become a large part of the “fabric” of the clothing industry to avoid counterfeiting of garments with high price tags.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is a low-cost wireless technology that provides a practical means of sorting through different items when used as electronic tags. RFID has also been increasingly used to add identification functionality to clothing, such as for electronic ski-lift passes at vacation resorts.

Justin Patton, director of the RFID Lab at Auburn University, feels that there’s great potential for growth in the use of RFID technology in clothing. However, conquering counterfeiting will be one of the concerns in establishing the widespread use of RFID as part of the “fabric” of commercial clothing products.  

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Justin Patton is the director of the RFID Lab at Auburn University, which focuses on the application of emerging technologies for retail, supply chain, manufacturing, and aerospace uses. (Courtesy of Auburn University)

As Patton notes, “Most ski-lift passes are RFID. There is a concept to embed a UHF RFID tag in a ski jacket so that a skier could just enable the lift pass directly to their jacket and not have to carry a separate item. I don’t think we’ve really cracked the killer app for wearable persistent RFID yet, but the capability is definitely there.”

One of the concerns for embedded RFID tags in garments will be to properly apply the technology to avoid counterfeiting of clothing products. “Counterfeiting is a massive market, and it’s getting worse,” explains Patton. With uniquely coded RFID tags embedded in clothing products, customers can be assured of receiving authentic goods for the premium prices they pay.

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