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RFID Solution For Food Safety

Syscan International will make available in October a temperature-sensitive system to monitor perishable products during transportation.
By Bob Violino
Aug 15, 2003Aug. 15, 2003 - Syscan International, based in Montreal, Quebec, has developed an RFID-based tracking system called Tempasure that provides a permanent record of a product’s temperature history during and after shipment. Syscan has traditionally offered RFID-based tracking and tracing for meat
Syscan's Striefler
products through processing plants. The new system, which will be available commercially in October, can be deployed throughout the supply chain to the retail market.

While Tempasure was targeted to the meat-processing industry, Syscan expects the system will be used to track numerous other food, products. "This is a horizontal solution for vertical markets," says Syscan president Axel Striefler. "We can see it being deployed in the dairy, seafood, horticulture and pharmaceutical industries, as well as for tracking meat."

The company believes that having a permanent, incontrovertible record of the temperature history of a product will enhance the safety of the consumer, lower insurance costs and reduce the possibility of legal disputes over the liability for a particular loss. "When a product can be tracked right through to the consumer, where problems can be found, that's when temperature tracking data becomes vital," Striefler says.

Syscan is offering a Tempasure evaluation kit that includes five temperature-sensitive RFID labels, a personal digital assistant with a compact flash (CF) expansion pack, a CF reader, and Syscan's own software. The system for VARs and resellers is priced at $1,600.

Syscan is using RFID labels from KSW Microtec, a company based in Dresden, Germany, that operate at 13.56MHz and have a read range of around 4 inches (10 cm). The label can be programmed to record temperature data at regular intervals or to record data only when the product temperature is outside certain
Tempasure evaluation kit
pre-programmed parameters. The tags can monitor temperature at any time during transportation, as well as after shipment. The data can be read from the label using the CF reader in a handheld device, which can transmit it to a laptop or PC via cable or infrared port.

When Tempasure is employed to track a product through the supply chain and all the way to the retail destination, it’s likely that the tags will not be reusable. Tag prices are set to be under $10. Syscan maintains that the system is still cost-effective. If, say, a truckload of ground beef is worth $100,000, the financial impact of attaching new tags to each shipment is negligible.

The company is looking to expand the product line by creating fixed readers and introducing tags with a long read range. "We're looking at UHF tags to extend the read range and make data capture easier," says Striefler. "But the transponder prices remain very high."

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