UK team develops concept of sensory-perceptive RFID tags

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Supply chain, Supply chain management, Rfid

Scientists in the UK are pushing forward the concept of Super RFID
tags capable of sensory perception in harsh and difficult-to-access
environments.

While it has been predicted that this technology will not be widely available for the next ten years, Instrumentel, a spinout company of the University of Leeds, has already developed a wireless - and notably a battery-less - system that is ready for manufacture.

Super RFID incorporates sensing using the RFID tag, enabling the supply chain data to be monitored and where necessary, an alert to be sent out - if for example, a refrigerated item should rise above a prescribed temperature limit. The scientists believe that there are many benefits of Super RFID; from the economic savings made by reducing supply chain losses, through to increased efficiency and quality control procedures.

In addition, the technology can be designed to give access control to authorised personnel only. This technology is suitable for a wide range of applications in the food, sector, as well as for controlling access to laboratory samples and forensic evidence.

"We can develop our technology to fit different customer's needs,"​ said Instrumentel CEO Steve Couchman. "For instance, a company working with food may need the combination of RFID with sensing and actuation to ensure the quality of food arriving on the shop floor, while for non-food goods, or items that need to be secured during the supply chain, RFID with locking and access control may prove to be the right choice."

Instrumentel's core technology enables critical parameters to be sensed in harsh and difficult-to-access environments. The battery-less operation of the Instrumentel system allows readings or data transfer to take place at scan points in the supply chain for control and asset management.

The system can also actuate, and Instrumentel has designed unique locking mechanisms that can be applied to containers of virtually any size to secure goods throughout the supply chain.

This security aspect of Super RFID is a vital consideration given the current emphasis on supply chain security and could also help suppliers and manufacturers under pressure to realise better cost margins. A recent report carried out by Deloitte Research for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (DTT), suggest that rather than taking a holistic, global view of their businesses, most global manufacturers focus on addressing the individual pieces of their far-flung global network - the complex web of suppliers, production facilities, distribution centres and customers - that comprise their supply chain.

Instrumentel's locking system is already being trialled in the supply chain sector by award-winning Sheffield Company Loadhog (a subsidiary of Gripple). The combination of Instrumentel's locking system and Loadhog's revolutionary method of securing loads to pallets is gaining significant interest from the supermarket sector.

"For Loadhog, the Instrumentel technology provides a significant advantage over the use of conventional 'pull to open' security-seals because it effectively prevents its unauthorised removal,"​ said Mark Jackson, production director of Loadhog.

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology, which hooks miniature antennas up to tiny computer chips smaller than a grain of sand to track items at a distance, is being driven hard by retailers such as Metro, which see RFID as the natural replacement of industry's current bar code-based tracking systems. This will allow companies to automatically track inventory throughout an entire supply chain.

Information from RFID-tagged cases on a pallet can be read automatically using fixed, mobile or handheld readers rather than requiring individual bar code scanning.

Related topics: Packaging & Design

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