RFID Talk Blog

RFID makes major inroads into supply chain, healthcare and financial sectors

In case you missed Wednesday’s issue of RFID 24-7, here is our lead story.

There is major traction for item level RFID in the retail environment, but several other industries are also seeing rapid adoption. That’s been evident by the RFID-enabled hygiene systems being unveiled at this week’s annual conference hosted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

In addition, there’s a big story unfolding in Europe, where Confidex has filled an order for 3.5 million tags for Container Centralen to use in tracking floral deliveries. The deal is the largest UHF RFID tag implementation for returnable transit items in the world, and is also the largest purchase order of EPC Gen2 specialty tags ever.

Lastly, keep an eye out for greater use of RFID in financial circles, including tagging bundles of cash. The recent publicity RFID gained in the theft of RFID-tagged poker chips from a Las Vegas casino has put more focus on how RFID could help to track large amounts of cash — from casinos, to armored cars and banks, to the large amounts of money moved by retailers like Walmart.

The European Central Bank has been using bar codes to help track large bundles of cash for several years. Recently, it began to look into using RFID. Central banks in the U.S. are also looking at the technology. Although the U.S. is far behind its European counterparts, the idea of using RFID to track and trace hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash is intriguing and makes sense.

Just as the healthcare industry is using RFID to track assets worth a quarter million or more, it makes sense to tag cash for the same reasons. Aside from providing visibility into the movement of money, such a solution would also guard against theft and counterfeiting and would assist in providing more accurate cash counts for banks, retailers and others.

“There has been a very aggressive effort with the banks in Europe to take those same [bar code] practices and add RFID where appropriate,” says Sue Hutchinson, director of industry adoption at EPCglobal. “When you think about retailers like Walmart and casinos and all of the other places on the planet that have to manage cash, RFID will be an interesting initiative. It’s in the very early stages here in the U.S. and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.”

Another recent deployment playing out in Europe is the tagging of a fleet of 3.5 million containers used to transport floral goods throughout Europe. The tracking system went live last month, with special UHF Gen2 RFID tags from Confidex being used for Container Centralen’s full scale RFID rollout called “Operation Chip It.” Confidex developed and delivered tags to IBM Denmark, which are used as an electronic seal by Container Centralen. The tag has been in development for over two years.

The new tag brings unprecedented transparency to the supply chain and improves overall quality of the CC container pool by reducing the risk of counterfeit containers working their way into the pool. Confidex developed the electronic RFID “e-seal” which securely authenticates the origin of the CC Container. The anti-tampering feature was achieved without compromising the small tag size and the read performance requirements of logistics operations.

To be effective, such a high quantity of tags also had to be easy to attach, without additional tools, in any conditions. The tag also needed to withstand harsh use outdoors. The e-seals are identified and verified with RFID handheld devices, supplied by NordicID and others.

Since the CC Container is also used as a retail display unit, flowers and plants can be transported directly from the grower to the consumer in the store. By eliminating the need for product handling in between, goods are less likely to get damaged and overall distribution costs are reduced.

“We’ve developed a unique total solution system for an incredibly demanding security RFID application,” says Jarkko Miettinen, vice president of new business development at Confidex.

Similar asset tracking systems are rapidly gaining acceptance in the healthcare and hospital environment, as are RFID-powered systems that track the hygiene habits of hospital personnel. So while hospitals benefit from operational gains, patients see distinct advantages as well.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that hospital acquired infections cause almost 100,000 deaths a year in the U.S. That’s why improving hand hygiene habits is so crucial. Birmingham, Ala.-based Princeton Baptist Medical Center recently registered a 22 percent reduction in healthcare associated infections by implementing Proventix’s nGageā„¢ RFID based hand hygiene monitoring system.

The nGage system monitors hand hygiene compliance 24 hours a day, 7 days week. Healthcare workers wear badges that are uniquely recognized by control units at soap dispensers throughout the hospital. When a worker enters a room or area where there is a control unit, they are recognized and, upon the completion of a quality hand hygiene event, they are given important, patient-specific information (such as “the patient is at risk for a fall”), general employee information, or employee-specific information. The messaging creates incentives for healthcare workers at the point of care, improves workflow and creates opportunities for efficiencies while enhancing patient safety and quality of care.

“The information gathered in these case studies will help the industry understand how valuable health IT as a tool can be to improving patient safety and quality,” said David A. Collins, the director of healthcare information systems at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. “By sharing notable quality improvement outcomes, we hope these innovative examples will serve as guidance to others for improved healthcare delivery and demonstrate the benefits of health IT adoption.”

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