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Storing e-pedigree data on the tag is a giveaway added value for users
Intelleflex, Inc., an RFID technology vendor, is targeting cold chain transportation (for food and other perishables in addition to pharmaceuticals) with tags that combine powerful communications capability with a price point—around $12 in volume purchases—that justifies tracking by cartons if not individual pharma packages. The company hopes to work with systems integrators and logistics service providers to supply an RFID-based tracking and monitoring system. And, because the chip being used has a data-storage capacity of 64 kB, it can retain pedigree or related tracking data as well as to record and communicate in-transit temperature conditions.
“Most RFID or other electronic sensors in cold chain logistics are ‘environmental’ rather than ‘product’ focused systems,” says Peter Mehring, president of the Santa Clara, CA, firm. “While it’s good to monitor the storage or transportation conditions a pharma package has experienced, the better choice is to monitor the specific packages.” He explains that Intelleflex’s XC3 tag has a battery-assisted passive design—it does not send a message until queried by a reader, but when it does that response can be sensed 100 meters away, or through the walls of cardboard and insulation that temperature-controlled containers have. Even metal containers (such as those used in the belly of aircraft) have been successfully tested. This design has been codified by the ISO 18000-6.1 Class 3 standard.
Mehring says that the technology combines the best of both worlds—being sensed through the multiple layers of packaging and insulation for cold chain shipments, but inexpensive enough for pharma companies to use on individual shipments. The tags have a two-year battery life, so they could be reused.
Intelleflex is offering a starter kit for several thousand dollars that comprises tags, readers and antennas. The company expects to ramp up production to a level of 100,000 tags/year by mid-2011.