When we think of food, we don’t necessarily think of technology, or the supply chain process that takes place before we are able to purchase an item at our favorite grocery store. RFID – or Radiofrequency Identification – is a relatively new technology that the Federal Drug Administration, food suppliers and other organizations are using to track the shelf life of food and pharmaceuticals.
Intelleflex, which provides “actionable” data for the intelligence supply chain, helps provide the underlying technology for RFID products. RFID, which is becoming more widely used all over the world, is a tool for identifying and tracking items. In an RFID system, a small memory-storage chip or tag (News - Alert) is placed on an item and RFID readers send out radio waves to detect tags and read their data.
In a recent interview with TMCnet, Kevin Payne, senior director of marketing at Intelleflex, explained what the company is doing to help advance this technology. Two major markets that are implementing RFID technology at a rapid pace are cold chain operators that provide perishable foods, and pharmacy organizations producing temperature-sensitive biopharmaceuticals.
RFID tags can store a range of information from a serial number to several pages. Readers, or emitters, can be mobile so that they can be carried by hand, or they may be mounted on a post or overhead. Reader systems can also be built into the architecture of a cabinet, room or building.
During the interview, Payne explained a common scenario among consumers. You bought fresh strawberries, placed them in your refrigerator, and when you went to eat them the next morning for breakfast, they were covered in mold – meaning the product had a long shelf life. This kind of situation not only creates waste, but it also makes unhappy consumers.
In fact, according to Payne, the food industry is losing anywhere between $35 billion to $40 billion each year, and some industry insiders say half of that loss is due to temperature management issues.
“We put tags in the package and follows it all the way through the packaging house and collects the temperature data off of this using wireless RFID readers and that information can be used to calculate remaining shelf life so they can prioritize routing,” Payne explained. It’s also beneficial for taking tainted food off the market in a recall.
“The result of that is, they save money because they are not tossing a product that didn’t have enough remaining shelf life,” he added.
Another space Intelleflex works in is the biopharmaceuticals industry to measure temperatures throughout the supply chain and correct any issues before a vaccine could be potentially ruined due to temperature issues, Payne said, adding that eight out of every 10 pharmaceutical products now have to be refrigerated and closely monitored.
Intelleflex works exclusively with channel partners, including integrators, VARs, and software companies who specialize in specific industry solutions, and the company’s RFID technology is being deployed in the Americas and Europe.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman