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Software Simplifies RFID Input for Pharma Applications

Blue Vector announced a new version of its RFID automation platform that includes specific features to help pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors and retailers combine multiple RFID and sensor technologies for track-and-trace, shipment automation, inventory management, and product authentication applications.
Apr 26, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

April 26, 2007—The pharmaceutical industry doesn't have a single, common RFID standard for item and shipment identification, but Blue Vector has created a system that allows companies to capture and format data from multiple RFID technologies and sensors so software systems can use it for pharmaceutical track-and-trace, product authentication, and supply chain applications. Blue Vector announced the Pharmaceutical Edition of its RFID platform, which collects, filters, and formats RFID and sensor data so it can be used by software applications.

John Beans, Blue Vector's vice president of marketing, told RFID Update that the Pharmaceutical Edition includes the features that are most popular with its customers in the pharmaceutical industry, including retailer Rite Aid and wholesaler McKesson. These features include support for intelligent dock door, conveyor, and shelf monitoring, support for input from high frequency (HF) and ultrahigh frequency (UHF) passive RFID and active RFID technology, plus temperature motion and other sensors.

As Blue Vector does not provide application software, applications are not part of the package. The Pharmaceutical Edition collects and manages event-level data required by application software further up the enterprise stack. "We don't make EPCIS or e-pedigree systems. Our job is to take events that occur in manufacturing and distribution and get them to those systems," Beans said. "Those applications don't want tag reads, they want to see business-level events."

EPCIS is the EPCglobal standard that was ratified earlier this month for exchanging EPC data among organizations (see RFID Data Sharing Standard EPCIS is Ratified). In January, EPCglobal passed a drug pedigree track-and-trace standard based on the draft EPCIS standard (see E-Pedigree Standard Ratified, Supports RFID).

Beans said Blue Vector has not encountered any customers or prospects who have implemented systems based on the new pedigree standard, but said that was not surprising given the relatively short time it has been available. Several vendors -- including IBM and SupplyScape -- have released RFID application software for the pharmaceutical industry based on the pedigree standard and drafts of the EPCIS protocol.

Because Blue Vector's RFID platform supports numerous input technologies, including motion and temperature sensors plus UHF, HF, and active RFID, it doesn't require the use of standardized RFID tags. However Beans said the lack of an item-level tagging standard and consensus on frequency are inhibiting RFID adoption in the pharmaceutical industry.

"It's especially messy for the middle of the supply chain. A large pharmaceutical manufacturer can pick the technology it wants to use, but a retailer would need to support all of the various technologies," he said.

The problems caused by the lack of standards and efforts to create them have been well documented, most recently last week in a report by Health Industry Insights (see Analyst Outlines Hurdles to RFID Adoption).
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