Amcor Uses NFC RFID for S.M.R.T Pill Dispenser

By Nathaniel Prince

The device, which can be configured for any pill bottle, records when pills are removed, enabling a doctor or caretaker to utilize NFC-enabled smartphones to monitor a patient's compliance.

Amcor Rigid Plastics, a division of Australia-based packaging company Amcor, has announced the release of an RFID-integrated pill-dispensing solution. The battery-powered system, known as the "S.M.R.T Bottle" (the initials stand for separate, monitor, release and track), has a clock-calendar function that registers and stores the time, date and number of each dose taken. Smartphones equipped with Near Field Communication (NFC) functionality can then read, display and transmit the information.

The system contains a passive RFID tag made with an NTAG chip produced by NXP Semiconductors. Amcor collaborated with Netherlands-based Confrérie Clinique, which specializes in smart medical packaging, to develop a new system designed to help ensure user and child safety, as well as drug compliance. Greg Rosati, Amcor's marketing director for health care, says this is his firm's first commercial RFID-enabled product, though others are currently in the process of being developed.

The S.M.R.T. RFID-integrated pill-dispensing system counts the number of pills entering or leaving a bottle, and also monitors the container's temperature.

The pill dispenser, custom-designed and built by Confrérie Clinique, consists of a two-piece assembly that can be designed for any pill bottle and existing filling lines, without the need for a bottle's sealing process. Amcor injection-molds a polypropylene insert custom-designed to match the tablet geometry, monitors the container's temperature level and ensures product integrity.

The dispenser's electronic system counts the number of pills going into or out of the container, and also tracks the container's temperature. The device was designed to make it easier for seniors to access pills. Furthermore, the chances that a child will ingest a toxic dose of medication or consume the desiccant are reduced—it is difficult to remove multiple pills at once, the company reports, and nearly impossible to remove the desiccant. For compliance purposes, doctors and caretakers can use NFC-enabled phones to monitor whether or not pills have been dispensed to the patient.

The system shuts off when closure is applied, thereby allowing for a minimum battery lifespan of two years. The technology is currently undergoing field trials, consisting of human-factors studies with patients.