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Robotic RFID Reader Automates Inventory Tracking

Hanmi's PRISMA system features a motorized EPC UHF interrogator that travels along a rail to automatically locate and count products within a warehouse, DC or retail store.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 28, 2012Hanmi IT, the IT division of Korea's largest pharmaceutical company, Hanmi Pharmaceutical, has developed a robotic RFID-based reading system that uses a motorized reader on a track to periodically interrogate tags by sweeping across a length of shelves or racks. The solution, known as PRISMA (Precise RFID Item-level Stock Management Automation), evolved from ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID technology that Hanmi IT developed so that it could track its own pharmaceutical products. The PRISMA solution is intended for use by Hanmi's customers, such as drugstores, as well as by other types of businesses tracking tagged goods.

The self-propelled PRISMA unit takes the place of a worker equipped with a handheld RFID reader. The device travels along rails installed along shelving, walls or ceilings, reading RFID tags on such items as pharmaceutical supplies placed on shelves. It then forwards that information to a user's own management system, via Hanmi IT middleware.

As the PRISMA unit travels along a rail, it reads the EPC RFID tags of items that it passes.

In 2010, Hanmi Pharmaceutical launched an RFID tracking system developed by Hanmi IT. The drugmaker began attaching EPC passive UHF tags to the 60 million product units that it manufactures annually, in order to enable the tracking of those goods as they are picked, packed and then shipped from its factories to distribution centers (see Hanmi Pharmaceutical Uses RFID to Automate Picking, Shipping).

During the past two years, Hanmi IT also developed an RFID smart-shelf system that could be used by its customers—pharmacies and hospitals—to track, in real time, the locations and expiration dates of tagged medications on their shelves. The solution required the installation of readers at the shelves, with multiple antennas surrounding each shelf area. "However, the reading result was quite disappointing," says Jay Jun, Hanmi IT's strategy and planning manager, "and the amount of time and cost for installation and material was very considerable." Therefore, Jun's group began creating a system that could deliver a better reading success rate, and be more efficient to install and operate.

"After hard work during 10 months, we finally devised this device," Jun states.

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