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RFID News Roundup

NXP, Enfucell unveil biopharmaceutical cold chain monitoring solution ••• Beacons influence retail sales to grow tenfold in one year ••• LAB ID NFC tags prove authenticity for new, limited-edition art ••• New GS1 US Advisory Services program offers customized GS1 standards implementation guidance ••• CenTrak adds Bluetooth capability to RTLS platform ••• STMicroelectronics intros NFC RFID chip for applications such as smart signs, Bluetooth pairing.
By Beth Bacheldor
Feb 19, 2015

The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations: NXP Semiconductors, Enfucell, Quad Industries; BI Intelligence, Business Insider; Lab ID; GS1 US; CenTrak; and STMicroelectronics.

NXP, Enfucell Unveil Biopharmaceutical Cold Chain Monitoring Solution

NXP Semiconductors has developed a battery-powered Near Field Communication (NFC) chip for temperature logging—the NHS3100. The NHS3100 integrates a temperature sensor accurate to 0.3 degrees Celsius, an NFC interface, a real-time clock (RTC), a non-volatile temperature logging memory and an ARM programmable Cortex M0+ processor. To showcase the chip, NXP and Enfucell have jointly developed a disposable temperature-logging foil demonstrator designed to help track and monitor biopharmaceutical products (vaccines, hormones and blood) as they move through the cold chain, from production to administration. Not yet commercially available, the NHS3100 will be launched later this year, with mass-production planned for year's end.

NXP's disposable temperature-logging demonstrator
Typically, cold chain monitoring is performed using either chemical temperature loggers or reusable electronic loggers—but according to the two companies, both are inadequate. Chemical temperature loggers can detect only simple cold chain excursions, and do not indicate when an event occurred. Reusable electronic loggers are expensive and bulky, and are thus deployed only at the pallet level, and not at the item level. Moreover, they are cumbersome to recycle.

This new disposable temperature-logging foil demonstrator supports logging functionality similar to that of a reusable logger, according to NXP and Enfucell, but with a form factor and product cost that enable item-level logging. The foil contains NXP's NHS3100 IC, Enfucell's printed battery and a printed NFC antenna. The substrate is composed of flexible, thin PET plastic foils, and the connecting surfaces and the NFC antenna are screen-printed onto it, with the chip bonded to the foil. The Enfucell battery is printed between two PET foils by Quad Industries, which also printed the antenna and the conductive circuitry onto the foil and performed chip-on-flex assembly. The prototype foil is about the size of a business card—8.5 centimeters by 3.5 centimeters (3.3 inches by 1.4 inches)—but NXP says it expects customers will be able to optimize the foil's size without having to change the functionality and logging interval.

The NHS3100's programmable architecture offers biopharmaceutical manufacturers the option of defining a product-specific temperature excursion limit profile, the companies reports. Different from the simple caloric model used in chemical loggers, they explain, the more elaborate profile can minimize product waste in the logistic chain say. The internal time reference offers traceability across the logistics chain of exposure beyond excursion limits. The embedded NFC interface supports readout of the product's status by means of an NFC-enabled smartphone or reader, at any point in the logistic chain, or by medical personnel administering the product.

While similar to NXP's NTAG 1²C chip (see NXP Announces Commercial Release of NTAG I²C Chip)—because they both include wireless NFC and connected I²C serial interfaces>)—the NHS3100 chip is more of a specialty package, with an integrated microcontroller, a temperature sensor and an RTC. This is particularly well suited for applications requiring temperature-sensing capabilities, NXP notes, and for which the integrated microcontroller is an acceptable option. There are, however, myriad applications in which the design calls for connection to an existing microcontroller, or for which a temperature sensor is not required; more often than not, a simple bidirectional tag or "modem" is more than sufficient, NXP reports, and the existing NTAG I²C serves that building-block requirement well.

Enfucell's battery technology offers a thin, flexible and eco-friendly power source, NXP and Enfucell add, which can be printed onto the flexible foil. The demonstrator's battery capacity, along with the ultra-low-power characteristics of the NHS3100, offers a shelf life of one year and supports active logging for two years following activation.

The temperature-logging foil solution is designed to help reduce biopharmaceutical waste, increase the safety and efficacy of biopharmaceutical products, and provide visibility when and where the product was handled incorrectly. The foil can be used as a starting point for a flexible temperature-logging tag. While the disposable temperature-logging foil demonstrator is not yet commercially available, NXP says it is in early discussions with several potential customers.

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