What’s the Difference Between EAS Tags and RFID Tags?

Shoplifting has always been a major concern for retailers, but the costs of retail loss have grown in recent years. According to Hayes International, stolen merchandise that was recovered by retailers dropped by over $34 million between 2019 and 2020. To combat retail shrink, anti theft devices for retail stores have become more affordable and widely available.

When it comes to retail anti theft devices, there are two major technologies on the market: EAS and RFID. While EAS is a long-lived system with a proven history of reducing retail loss, RFID is part of a new generation of “smart technology” that offers more than basic theft prevention. So what is the difference between these types of retail security tags? Today we’ll go over the similarities between EAS tags and RFID tags, how EAS tags and RFID tags work and what differentiates them from each other.

What are EAS Tags and RFID Tags?

An EAS tag is a hard plastic tag (or sometimes a label or sticker) that uses electronic article surveillance, or EAS, technology to alert store associates when an item has been stolen.

Like an EAS security tag, an RFID tag is usually a hard tag, although RFID labels are also available. Many modern retail anti theft devices use RFID technology because RFID can do more than prevent theft.

How EAS Tags Work

An EAS system is one of the most popular anti theft devices for retail stores. An EAS system involves three main components:

  • At least one electronic antenna
  • An electronic EAS security tag or label
  • A detacher or deactivator

First, EAS antennae, usually pedestals, are installed at the store’s entry and exit points. Then an EAS tag or label is attached to an item. The electronic antennae emit a signal that detects active tags in range, which can reach from six to nine feet between two pedestals.

When a customer purchases an item, a store employee removes the tag or deactivates the label with an EAS tag remover. After the EAS tag has been removed or the label is deactivated, the customer can then leave the store without triggering the EAS system’s alarm. If an EAS tag or label is still active when passing through the antennae, the EAS system will sound an alarm to alert the staff.

How RFID Tags Work

RFID, short for “radio frequency identification,” was first developed during World War II for espionage and communication. In 1973, true RFID was born with the invention of a passive radio transponder with memory.

An RFID system consists of two main parts:

  • An RFID reader
  • An RFID tag or label with an RFID chip and antenna

The reader sends out a radio frequency signal and waits for a response from any tags in range.  In retail, an RFID tag is typically passive, requires no battery and is powered by the radio frequency signal sent by the reader. However, an RFID tag can also be active, meaning it transmits its own identification signal that an RFID reader can detect.

Because an RFID system is highly flexible, it can be customized easily with different types of RFID tags and readers. Like an EAS system, an RFID system emits a signal to detect nearby active tags.

Common Features of EAS Tags and RFID Tags

Some of the main similarities between EAS tags and RFID tags include:

  • High detection rate
  • Not obtrusive to shoppers
  • Durable, lightweight tag design
  • Multiple attachment options
  • Reusable
  • Available as hard tags or single-use labels

EAS vs. RFID Retail Anti Theft Devices

When it comes to the best anti theft devices for retail stores, there is no real one-size-fits-all solution. The simplicity of an EAS security tag offers convenience to retailers that want to “set it and forget it” while the more capable RFID retail security tags can do much more than alert store staff if an item has been stolen.

However, RFID has a shorter history in retail than EAS, which has dominated the retail industry for decades. And for good reason: As early as the 1990s, a study found that EAS reduced inventory shortages by about 17 percent over five years, while the same departments without EAS saw shortages increase by 30 percent during the same time.

EAS technology has only improved since then, becoming more reliable and accurate with higher detection rates. Some retailers might prefer to use tried-and-true EAS security tags to protect their merchandise from shoplifting.

However, for retailers interested in getting their stores ready for future innovation, RFID tags are an ideal solution. In addition to acting like an EAS security tag, an RFID tag also has read and write capabilities, meaning you can store data on the tag itself. This offers a major benefit to retailers: instead of just detecting the presence of a tag, an RFID reader can also read data about an item, like its color, size and other product information.

By installing RFID readers in their stockroom or warehouse, retailers can leverage the read and write capabilities of RFID retail security tags to automate their inventory management process, eliminating the need for time-consuming manual inventory checks. An automated inventory management system powered by RFID provides more accurate and reliable data that is updated in real time.

To learn more about whether EAS or RFID is the better fit for your business, contact us today.