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IBM Launches End-to-End RFID Solution for Pharma

IBM today announced what it calls an end-to-end solution RFID track-and-trace solution for the pharmaceutical industry to help combat the growing problem of counterfeit drugs. The blended offering includes hardware, a middleware stack, use cases, and services.
Aug 08, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

August 8, 2006—IBM today announced what it calls an end-to-end solution RFID track-and-trace solution for the pharmaceutical industry to help combat the growing problem of counterfeit drugs. The blended offering includes hardware, a middleware stack, prepackaged use cases, and services. RFID Update spoke about the solution with John Del Pizzo, global solutions executive for the Sensor & Actuator Solutions division at IBM.

There are three major pieces to the solution: technology services, business services, and software components. The technology services include the installation, configuration, testing, and general deployment of the RFID solution. Del Pizzo claims IBM will achieve 99% read rates for its pharma clients. Once the RFID hardware is deployed, said Del Pizzo, the next question invariably is: How do I leverage the data? "That's where our business services organization comes into play," he said. The business services include the consulting and expertise on how to achieve competitive advantage and value from the RFID deployment. Finally, the software components include IBM's WebSphere middleware application, which gathers and processes the data, starting from the pharmaceutical supply chain edge and delivering it in into the enterprise via linkages with the existing ERP, WMS, or MES.

Another key component of the solution is the use cases, which are codified processes that IBM has developed specifically for the pharmaceutical industry. "We harvest the processes and try to find the commonalities among them," explained Del Pizzo in reference to how the use cases were developed. Four use cases are offered: pharma packaging with high frequency RFID, pharma packaging with ultrahigh frequency RFID, distribution center operations, and rework processing. The latter addresses supply chain errors, such as when a bottle is detected on a pallet for which it is not associated.

Inclusion of the prepackaged use cases make it a turnkey solution, said Del Pizzo. "Eighty percent of the base functionality is available out-of-the-box," he said. "[Pharma manufacturers] will only have to incrementally customize the additional 20%."

The solution makes heavy use of EPCIS, the EPC protocol for data exchange among trading partners over the EPCglobal network. "We believe that the EPCIS is how trading partners are going to collaborate and exchange information," asserted Del Pizzo. In the case of pharma track-and-trace, EPCIS allows easy and immediate access to information on a bottle of drugs, for example. "You can query the network and say, 'Who has information on this particular bottle of drugs?'" That query to the EPCIS will produce a response that not only includes relevant information, it also dynamically determines how much information the originator of the query is authorized to access.

IBM has industry-leading credentials for RFID pharma track-and-trace due to its participation in high-profile, early-adopter pharma pilots like Cardinal Health (see Cardinal Health's RFID Adoption Expands) and GlaxoSmithKline (see GlaxoSmithKline Tags HIV Drug). Big Blue has also touted its work with EPCIS, a still-nascent technology framework. Last week the company announced successful interoperability testing of the EPCIS with RFID data analytics provider T3Ci.

Read the announcement from IBM
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