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RFID Vendors Unite to Promote UHF for Items

Six industry leaders have joined together to promote the use of UHF for drugs, and have issued a paper to argue their case.
By Beth Bacheldor
Jun 08, 2006A band of vendors have joined forces to advocate ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID technology for item-level tagging in the pharmaceutical industry. The companies, which include ADT/Tyco Fire & www.adt.com Security, Alien Technology, Impinj, Intel, Symbol Technologies and Xterprise, have cowritten a paper entitled "RFID and UHF: A Prescription for RFID Success in the Pharmaceutical Industry," which outlines the benefits of UHF technology.

"We all felt that as the adoption of this technology is occurring, there is a lot of misinformation in the market, driven from competitive dynamics and the fact that the market is changing so rapidly," says Joe White, VP of engineering for Symbol's tag division. "This is an opportunity for us to update what UHF RFID is, and what it is capable of delivering today."

Symbol's Joe White
The 30-page paper, released today, is the vendors' counter to what they deem a long-held but misinformed opinion that UHF is not a viable option for item-level tagging. UHF tags have been the choice for case- and pallet-level tagging because the UHF frequency can operate over longer distances, such as ranges that span dock doors. UHF tags designed for case and pallet tagging, however, haven't seemed to work as well for tighter, smaller read ranges. The companies say they wrote this white paper to dispel the myths regarding UHF RFID tags, and to educate the pharmaceutical industry, in particular, on the advantages of using UHF RFID tags for item-level tracking. The vendors in the group all offer products related to UHF RFID and, of course, want to sell them to the pharmaceutical market, which has been identified as a likely revenue boost for RFID sales.

The vendors began working on the white paper several months ago. It can now be downloaded at the Pharmaceutical Online Web site.

With item-level tagging gaining traction, especially within the pharmaceutical industry, there's been a growing debate among RFID users and vendors, pitting UHF tags against high-frequency (HF) tags. Both types are being tested and deployed within the supply chains of several pharmaceutical companies. Purdue Pharma, for example, is using UHF tags in its item-level RFID implementation (see Purdue Pharma Tags OxyContin), and Wal-Mart has stated it also favors UHF tags (see Wal-Mart Seeks UHF for Item-Level). Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, meanwhile, are both using HF tags (see Pfizer Using RFID to Fight Fake Viagra and GlaxoSmithKline Tests RFID on HIV Drug).

The paper refutes a recent report from ODIN Technologies, a Dulles, Va., systems integration firm, which concluded, after various tests, that HF tags are better suited than UHF tags for item-level tracking (see Study Says HF Rules for Pharma Items).

According to Vinay Gokhale, vice president of business development at Impinj, the UHF Gen 2 specification has gone a long way in ironing out some of the problems associated with early RFID trials using UHF tags on cases and pallets. Still, he says, many considered the UHF technology not the best for item-level tagging. About six months ago, therefore, Gokhale and his colleagues decided to look more closely at HF tags to learn why they appeared to work better for item-level tagging.


Patrick Sweeney 2006-06-09 07:18:06 PM
Keeping things in perspective Three points that you should know: - The white paper is only opinion of vendors (who just sell UHF). No scientific testing substantiates the claims. - The paper intermingles production technology (UHF far field) with prototype (UHF Near Field) showing the benefits of both - There are potenital intellectual property issues around UHF NF. Dr. Peter Cole patented the concept 12 years ago and the patent is now owned by a company who may wait until there is traction before laying claim. (US Patent 5,305,008 Cole & Turner) Clearly HF is the best, most proven, universally avialable technology for pharma. UHF near field holds huge promise for item level tagging, but just not for the pharma industry. We look forward to testing production units later this year when they become availble and are very supportive of the concept. ODIN technologies is the honest broker in this debate, we don't care which frequency wins, only that the clients win. In fact most of our clients are UHF, however the vast majority of our pharma clients deployed HF. The reason more pharma companies have deployed HF is it is the best technology - data and client adopyion prove that.
BRAD TODD 2006-06-13 04:05:11 PM
UHF C1G2. Now why would they want this? Of course these companies have heavily invested in the UHF technology and would like to see something come of it eventually. But also consider that Alien, Impinj, Intel do not offer anything else. May not have much to do with the technical merit or user application but just plain survival. Brad

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