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Magellan Creates Specimen-Tracking System

The 13.56 MHz RFID system has been designed to enable hospitals and laboratories to quickly identify hundreds of specimen-carrying glass slides stored closely together.
By Beth Bacheldor
Feb 06, 2008Magellan Technology, an Australian manufacturer of 13.56 MHz RFID systems, has unveiled a system designed to catalogue and track thousands of medical specimen slides.

The system was created specifically for laboratories, hospitals and other organizations that need to store and track thousands of tiny glass slides containing lab samples and other biological material. Labs and other health-care institutions must accurately label and track specimens throughout processing and storage to avoid—in a worst-case scenario—mix-ups between patients.


A tunnel antenna is used to allow tags to be identified irrespective of which end of the slide the tag was placed in.

Being able to track the specimens, particularly during the development and production of new pharmaceuticals, can help companies comply with regulations issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other agencies, says Ken Laing, Magellan Technology's VP of sales and marketing. "As you can imagine, there can be up to 10,000 slides produced during the development process of a drug," he says, "and each of these slides must be stored and easily accessible in the case of a recall or FDA query."

But tracking the slides isn't easy. According to Laing, specimen slides typically measure either 20 by 15 millimeters or 20 by 10 millimeters, and are generally tracked using bar codes, or typed or hand-written labels. Slides are generally stored very close to or touching each other, in specially designed boxes.

Magellan's system leverages the company's Phase Jitter Modulation (PJM) StackTag technology. In 2007, the firm incorporated the technology in a document-tracking application designed to identify, read and encode passive tags, even if the documents to which they are attached are buried at the bottom of a deep stack of other tagged documents (see Magellan Technology Releases RFID Products for Document Tracking). PJM StackTag employs Magellan's PJM technology, which complies with the ISO 18000 Part 3 Mode 2 standard, to enable tags to be encoded at a data rate of up to 424 kilobits per second, and read at a rate of 106 kilobits per second.

The system for tracking specimen slides uses a newly designed boxlike antenna, Laing says, and can read the tags on up to 1,000 slides in about two seconds, even if they are stacked one on top of the other. Not only can the interrogator read the tags, but it can also be used to write to the tags, though that process takes slightly longer than two seconds.

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