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Southwest Accepts RFID Device to Track Cargo Temperatures

The solution, which the airline has been testing on its flights, uses Cold Chain Technologies' insulated containers and Intelleflex's RFID sensor tags.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 29, 2012Following the testing of an RFID-enabled temperature-tracking device built into a shipping container, Southwest Airlines Cargo (Southwest Airlines' cargo services branch) has approved the device to be used by shippers on its aircraft. The solution is intended to provide data regarding the environmental conditions within a Cold Chain Technologies container of temperature-sensitive goods, such as vaccines or drugs, measured and recorded throughout the flight via an Intelleflex battery-assisted passive (BAP) RFID sensor. At the end of the flight, a handheld reader could be used to capture information from the tag or tags placed inside the box. In this way, users can view temperature data without opening containers at airports or other locations. The solution will be marketed by Cold Chain Technologies, a provider of thermal packaging products.

"Our goal is to make it easy for our customers to ship their time-critical and temperature-sensitive cargo," says Wally Devereaux, Southwest Airlines Cargo's director of sales and marketing. "To that end, we accept a variety of passive packaging solutions, and the Cold Chain Technologies package with the embedded Intelleflex temperature tag is a proven solution for maintaining 2 to 8 degree Celsius [35.6 degrees to 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit] temperatures for any journey on the Southwest network."


Intelleflex's TMT-8500 temperature-monitoring RFID tag and HMR-9090 handheld reader

Certain foods, biomedical goods and pharmaceuticals are shipped within refrigerated containers, explains Lawrence K. Atupem Jr., the strategic account engineer at Cold Chain Technologies, which designs and manufactures insulated shipping containers. He notes, however, that narrow-body planes, such as 737s, cannot accommodate large refrigerated containers, which have active cooling systems. Southwest does not fly any wide-body planes. What's more, refrigerated containers are considerably more expensive than passive insulated containers (which lack refrigeration mechanisms), and are more expensive to transport due to their weight. Goods being shipped domestically often only travel for a day or two, Atupem says—and in such a scenario, a passive container, such as those provided by Cold Chain Technologies, suffices. Cold gel packs, also manufactured by Cold Chain Technologies, are typically placed within the passive container in order to keep goods cool.

Southwest already offers a cargo-tracking solution known as Cargo Companion, for customers that ship goods on its planes. Cargo Companion employs GPS devices that transmit location data and other information via cellular connections. The GPS devices are affixed outside the container, or can be placed inside, and also measure temperatures within the box.

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