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Analysts admitted it would be a long time before radio frequency tags replace checkout staff, but suggested that retailers could use the technology in warehouses.
QinetiQ, formerly part of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, said it has developed a cheap, cost-effective method to produce the tags, which do not need to be scanned individually by a light beam.
The metal printing process uses fewer production stages than current techniques and rapid bespoke production - down to individual labels - means it is economically viable, said Chris Coomber, director of QinetiQ Metal Printing. Using the magnetic properties of cobalt to provide the base metal in the printing process, Qinetiq could produce barcodes that do not require a line-of-sight to be read, he said.