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DHL Thermonet Tracks Drugs and Life-Sciences Goods With RFID Temperature Tag

The solution, employing UHF RFID tags with built-in temperature sensors applied to containers, will enable DHL's customers to maintain a record of shipping temperatures, and receive an alert if an exception occurs.
By Claire Swedberg

DHL's Solutions and Innovation division selected the RFID and sensor hardware components, and the company's IT services staff developed the RFID middleware to receive the read data and then forward that information to LifeConEx's LifeTrack software. The DHL Thermonet SmartSensor tag consists of an EPC Gen 2 passive UHF RFID inlay integrated with a battery-powered temperature logger, manufactured by CAEN RFID. The sensor continually captures temperature data and stores it until the tag is interrogated. For customers that opt for the Thermonet service, DHL applies the SmartSensor to each box, such as a carton filled with medications that must remain at a refrigerated temperature. The tag can be mounted on the exterior of the box inside a DHL pouch designed specifically for the Thermonet system, or the shipper can request that the box be opened and the sensor be placed inside. The SmartSensor measures approximately twice the height and width of a credit card, but is similar in depth to such a card.

The tag ID is linked to the shipper's identity in the LifeTrack software, as well as to shipping details, including that product's destination address and the temperature requirements. The SmartSensor tag is read at four points: upon arrival at the first origin station (which is typically where the tag is applied), when the item leaves that station to be tendered to an airline, when it is received at the destination station located nearest the intended recipient, and when it is shipped from that site to the delivery address.

At each of these SmartSensor reading stations, a tag's ID number and temperature recordings are captured and then forwarded via a wireless connection to the LifeTrack software residing on LifeConEx's server, where the data is interpreted and stored. If the software determines that the temperature readings have deviated from acceptable levels, it issues an alert to a Global Proactive Monitoring & Intervention Center, which can work with the appropriate local Certified Life Sciences Station to forward a message to the shipping customer, as well as dispatch a staff member to address the problem.

If there are no deviations, however, the data is simply stored in the LifeTrack software. When the package is delivered to the designated recipient, the information becomes available to the customer that originated the shipment, and that company can then log into the system, input a password and view all of the temperature readings.

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