• Barcode Ireland Team

Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS)

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

The shoplifters nemesis!

Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) is considered to be the most, successful, effective and scalable anti-shoplifting system worldwide. Used primarily within the retail sector, it is also employed to prevent pilferage of books from libraries or the removal of properties from office buildings.

It has been demonstrated that upon implementation of an EAS system, retailers experience an estimated 60-80 percent decrease in external theft, the electronic tags alone proof of theft should a receipt not be in evidence.

As important as such a system is to retailers, it should not be an obstruction to customers. EAS allows for the tagged stock to be easily seen and accessed by customers, thereby providing a positive customer experience.

We are all familiar with EAS as being the pedestals erected at the entrance/exits of major retail stores which sound an alarm should an item leave the store that has not been scanned and ‘deactivated'.

This innovative system uses electronic tags, invented by Woodbury, (Long Island, NY) resident Arthur Minasy in 1966 and which spawned a $40 billion industry. The device was developed in response to an alert of a proliferation of pilferage by an Ohio retailer in 1964. (Incidentally, the first UPC barcode was scanned in Ohio 10 years subsequently! Read more in our previous blog, George Laurer 111 - inventor of the UPC barcode https://www.barcodeireland.ie/post/george-j-laurer-iii-inventor-of-the-upc-barcode)

Often embedded inside the barcode label itself or on a label that can be deactivated at the same time that the EAN-13 retail barcode is scanned at checkout.

There are two main types of labels that can be included in a product for this purpose - 'hard' tags that are affixed by a pin and physically removed by the checkout assistant, and soft ‘labels’ that are made to be disposable. Each of these systems works with three main components - an electronic antenna, the electronic tag itself, and decouplers or deactivators.

Hard EAS tags are most commonly used on clothing. They require removal by the sales person when a purchase is made and can then be reused on another item. Some hard tags contain small cartridges of ink, which if tampered with, will damage the garment providing a further deterrent.

Upon purchase the sales person will deactivate the tag by passing the item over a device or simply through a specialised barcode scanner. For this reason, it is recommended that the electronic tag be located within 3 inches (7.62cm) of the UPC-A/EAN-13 barcode appearing on the product, especially on products such as CD’s and DVD’s that are normally affixed with EAS tags.

Soft ‘labels’ come in various sizes and are affixed to the product outer packaging and deactivated by a specialised pad.

All EAS systems work in the form of a defined frequency emitted by a transmitter, which is picked up by a receiver. This means that a “surveillance zone” is created.

The different EAS systems work at frequencies that range from very low to the highest radio frequencies. For example, acoustic-magnetic EAS tags respond to signals sent at 58 kHz (58,000 cycles per second), while RF (Radio Frequency) scanning transmitters, which are made for very large surveillance areas, emit from 7.4 to 8.8 MHz - or 8.8 million cycles per second.

When a tag enters an area where its corresponding frequency is being emitted by the EAS transmitter, it will activate and respond with a corresponding signal. The EAS receiver will take this and then check the match using a microcomputer. If the signals match, an alarm is triggered.

Types of EAS systems

There are several major types of Electronic Article Surveillance Systems. Acoustic-Magnetic (AM), RF (Radio Frequency), Electro-Magnetic, Microwave and more recently, Concealed EAS, all designed for different retail purposes.


Made from a strip of amorphous metal, these tags are the most commonly found type of EAS tagging system as they are a cost-effective security solution and because of their ease of attachment/detachment. The strip on the tag is lined with a ferromagnetic material that gives off a coercive field detected by the tag sensing low-frequency signals generated by a pedestal system. These tags are more commonly found on books, food packaging and clothing items. They are particularly useful for small or round items and products with foil packaging or metal objects, such as cosmetics, medicines and tools. They are ideal in retail where there are many and various products to protect. Acousto-Magnetic.

Similar to Electro-Magnetic tags but are made of two strips, a ferromagnetic material and a magnetic metallic strip. This strip increases the signal strength of the tag, delivering a stronger and more accurate tagging solution in a wider field of detection. By virtue of this capability they are primarily found on more expensive items such as apparel, alcohol and electrical goods often targeted by shoplifters. They are also relatively inexpensive.

Radio Frequency.

Also known as RF or RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) these tags employ a tiny chip that can be sensed by a magnetic field generated by the security system. As with barcode tags, RFID tags have the capacity to include information about the product that they're attached to. In terms of deactivation, Radio Frequency is the most efficient of the 3 technologies. The reliability of 'remote' deactivation allows for fast and efficient processing at the POS. For example, it’s common to find RF deactivation built into barcode flat and vertical scanners at the POS in food retail.

Concealed EAS systems.

Aesthetically more pleasing, concealed EAS Systems have become increasingly popular in retail as there are no visible pedestals or hindrance in the store facade. They are either installed below the floor (mat) and dropped from the ceiling allowing for coverage of the entire door or secreted in the entrance.

When used in conjunction with barcodes, EAS systems can therefore provide a robust deterrent against theft, reducing billions in losses to the supplier, retailer and ultimately the consumer.

Our barcodes work internationally. Should you require barcodes for your product, please visit our Buy page www.barcodeireland.ie/buy, or contact us on info@barcodeireland.ie or through the contact form on our website www.barcodeireland.ie/contact and let Barcode Ireland help your business.





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