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McDonald's, Other Companies Test TAG Sensors' RFID Temperature Loggers

The data logger—in the form of a passive RFID inlay and a battery-powered sensor embedded in an adhesive label—is designed to provide a low-cost method of tracking products' environmental conditions throughout the supply chain.
By Claire Swedberg

TAG Sensors was launched in 2012—initially to provide UHF RFID technology for track-and-trace applications, Nygard says. The company's founders came from the Visa and MasterCard credit-card industry, and were thus familiar with global RFID chip producers. They hoped to bring their knowledge of chips and security, and the encryption of data on those chips, to an RFID-based company.

To that end, they piloted their technology with a global salmon producer that has asked to remain unnamed. Quickly, Nygard says, they discovered that the salmon producer's challenge involved tracking not just its products' locations, but also their temperatures, from the point of production to the point of sale. TAG Sensors went about developing an affordable RFID-based temperature sensor system capable of tracking individual cartons via a disposable tag. Information regarding the manufacturing of the RFID chips, readers and printers used for the TAG Sensors solution is confidential, Nygard notes, and he, therefore, declines to describe any details.

The NFC version of Tag Sensors' label can be read using an NFC-enabled smartphone running TAG Sensors' app.
TAG Sensors provides the necessary printers, readers, software, app and data-logger labels, while its partner, CodeIT, provides the installation. CodeIT supplies such services as modifying the reader and printer software to ensure that it can capture sensor data from the label, as well as integrating TAG Sensors' software with customers' databases.

The TAG Sensors system typically works this way: A user would print and encode the data-logging labels on an RFID printer with not only a unique RFID number, but also instructions indicating how often the data logger should awaken, perform a temperature reading, store that data and go back to sleep. It would then use the power from an interrogator to transmit its ID number, along with the stored temperature data. NFC technology has a read distance up to 5 centimeters (2 inches), while UHF RFID offers a read-write distance of 0.5 to 10 meters (1.6 to 33 feet), depending on the label's antenna design.

Tag Sensors' label measures 54 millimeters by 85.6 millimeters (2.13 inches by 3.37 inches) and about 1.5 millimeters (0.06 inch) in thickness. Sometime next year, Nygard says, the company expects to offer a version of the label with an ecological printed antenna. The chip currently comes with a built-in temperature sensor, while future versions could accommodate other sensors, such as those that measure shock and humidity.

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