RFID gets temperature sensitive

Enterprises that deal will perishable goods distribution and handling can now use RFID to track assets and any change in temperature with the government-backed Cold Chain Validation project now in its trial stage.

Lead by Carter Holt Harvey’s Global Licensing and Innovation (GLI) business, the Cold Chain Validation project’s participants include CSL, National Pharmacies, Independent Vet Supplies, and RG Medical. The Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts has provided seed funding of $176,000 for the project.

GLI now has six “large” trials being conducted with seafood, ice cream, pharmaceuticals, meat, fruit, and flowers, as the technology is ideal for “anything that is shipped chilled or frozen”.

GLI’s global business development manager Michael Powell said typical asset tracking involves a “dumb” RFID tag which can prevent cargo items from theft and tampering.

“Our tags measure temperature and changes in temperature can be logged for a graph of temperature versus time data, and it will also asset track,” Powell said. “Each tag has a small battery so data points can go into memory. The first generation tags can save 64 data points but generation two will hold 512 data points.”

GLI imports the tags from Germany but is working with a local company, Exago to develop a real-time ERP and SCM application.

“Exago has developed a unique backend (interpretation software) which can record maximum and minimum temperatures, and can log exceptions,” Powell said. “The data can be read at points along the supply chain and once the data has been read it’s available anywhere in the world.”

Exago’s system is Web enabled so tracking RFID-enabled goods can be done via a standard browser.

“You can turn a PocketPC into an RFID reader and with GPRS you can get data instantaneously,” he said. “If you have a temperature reading it’s a quick ‘yay or nay’ if a product is acceptable or not.”

Regarding the promise of RFID as a technology for the enterprise, Powell said although he hasn’t seen many live systems he believes we are on the “cusp of something big”.

GLI is now working on a system that will start an e-commerce application when a signature is uploaded.

Capgemini’s global technology head for RFID Jonathon Loretto urges IT managers no to go with “a beta test of RFID on your company”.

“RFID doesn’t do anything, it gives information to solve SCM problems,” Loretto said. “It’s about changing an organisation to see how it can augment current ERP systems as ERP systems were never designed to run in real-time.”

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