Developments in RFID – An Overview (Part 02)

As I wrote in my previous post: Let’s walk through some of the most interesting developments of the last couple of years. In chronological order. Here we go.

The SmartCorq
In 2006 Lab-ID patented a system using artificial corks embedded with RFID inlays. The, so called, SmartCorq, allowed wine producers to provide their customers with greater assurance of the quality and provenance of each bottle of wine. The tag can be encoded with such wine data as bottling date, type of grape and alcohol percentage, along with other characteristics.

Once in the bottle, the cork’s tag can be read by wine producers to help them store and distribute their products. Distributors, retailers and consumers, meanwhile, can use the cork to determine specific details about each bottle of wine.
The read-write tags embedded into the corks use a Philips’ ISO 15693 I-Code SLI 13.56 MHz chip with 1,024 bits of memory.

The Smart Paper Tag
In Sept. 2006 the Hyogo Paper-Box & Corrugated-Box Industry Association in Japan, together with the University of Hyogo, Carton i Co.,Ltd., Technolinks KK and Yaka Paper Manufacturing Co., Ltd. introduced their jointly developed first smart paper tag in Japan. The tag consists of a 0.5mm-thick chip attached to paper that is 1x 5cm in size, using highly conductive ink containing silver functions as the antenna.


Reportedly being the first smart tag in Japan to be fashioned in this way, it has a transmission range of around 80 cm, which developers aim to increase.
By using an antenna made of ink rather than metal, the tag can be recycled while still attached to the cardboard. In addition, the new tag is less costly to produce than conventional products.

Pharmaceutical Bottles
At the end of 2006 the health-care packaging division of Owens-Illinois (in these days Rexam) unveiled a plastic pharmaceuticals bottle with an RFID inlay embedded directly into the base of the container. The RFID-inlay is situated in a cavity centred in the bottom of the bottle, covered by a plastic disk that protects the embedded tag from incidental damage that could render it inoperable. RFID-inlays are fragile and can easily be damaged or broken, when embedded in the base, it’s protected. The disk also provides security, were someone to remove the disk.

Owens-Illinois (now Rexam) RFID-inlay

The company claims the embedded tags ensure more consistent read rates, because the inlays are always in the middle of the bottle, they are always evenly spaced apart, so you get better readability. And because they are always on the bottom, so that the antenna can be oriented.
In the first demonstration, the UHF Gen 2 system programmed 96-bit EPC numbers at rates exceeding 600 tags per minute on bottles containing the four most common dose types – liquids, gel caps, solids and powder. In the second demonstration, the system flawlessly read 600 tags per minute on cases containing 48 individually tagged bottles and a case-level tag.

It isn’t surprising that the RFID-technology for individually tagged products first found its way to the upscale category of consumer products (electronics, pharmaceuticals, wine, fine food, etc), where it both could be used for data collecting as well as in a bid to thwart counterfeiters.

The eProvenance Authentication System
In 2008 eProvenance introduced a neck seal and authenticator produced in conjunction with InkSure, which is offset printed on a foil material into which the InkSure taggant has been incorporated. The taggant is a chemical marker that emits a specific electro-optical signal tied to a specific brand (in this case eProvenance).

Uniquely coded RFID-tag in the base of a bottle

The system, designed by eProvenance, includes three physical components: a semi-active RFID-tag placed inside the shipping case to monitor and record temperatures and improve shipping and receiving operations throughout the distribution chain; a passive RFID-tag with a unique code attached to the base of the bottle to automate tracking and inventory management, and discourage pilferage; and a proprietary, tamper-proof neck seal with a covert code applied at the base of the capsule to authenticate the wine inside the bottle.

A high-speed, encrypted, online database links each unique bottle, case and capsule, collecting identification numbers, along with authentication data from the château, shipment data, temperature records to create the electronic pedigree for each bottle.

Battery-Free Wireless RFID Sensors
Although, in October 2008, still at research stage General Electric went public with the results of its Battery-Free Wireless RFID Sensors, creating a battery-free, multi-detection RFID sensing platform that could enable a wide range of low cost wireless sensing products in healthcare, security and food packaging. GE’s unique RFID sensors are built on traditional RFID-tags.
This “first-of-its-kind” sensing platform, in which a single sensor can provide a highly selective response to multiple chemicals under variable conditions, operates without a battery. GE’s sensor technology overcomes limitations in sensors such as inadequate response selectivity and the need for an on-board power source.

GE's RFID with a ruler at the side

Without a battery, new sensors can be designed to be smaller than a penny and manufactured at very low cost, making it possible to produce them for one-time use. Similar to how your groceries get barcode scanned for a price, imagine pointing a handheld sensor reader at a milk carton or packaged food to see whether it has been spoiled. This is just one of the new applications possible with disposable, low cost multi-detection RFID sensors.
These new RFID sensors using a conventional RFID-tag, are coated with a chemically or biologically sensitive film. The sensor reader can obtain several varied responses, which allows the sensor to identify and measure individual chemicals in different mixtures and variable conditions.

In the meantime we have reached the year 2009, in which RFID gets its extra dimension. Were the first pilot-projects of Wal-Mart and Metro, as described in part 01, concentrated around pallets and shipping cases, and later selectively implemented, due to the high prices of the tags, around up-scale consumer products, in 2009 RFID entered into mass production.

Read part 03 of the series.

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