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Flexstr8 Offers NFC-Enabled Labels for Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Consumer Products

The startup's NFC Smart Label solution is being trialed by companies to track goods, pharmaceuticals, and maintenance and service for industrial equipment.
By Claire Swedberg

Kimdura UV is a plastic (bi-axially oriented polypropylene) material designed to be compatible with many common printing methods used in the labeling industry. Additionally, Kimdura UV is engineered to be weatherproof and resistant to chemicals and tears—a feature that is critical to the hazardous chemical industry, according to Eric Pun Casavant, Flextr8's engineer and VP of product development. The Flexstr8 labels, says Ralph Roessler, the company's president, can sustain chemical spills and immersion in water even after being printed. The clip-on encoder, manufactured by Flexstr8, comes with a USB connection and attaches to the front of the Epson printer. The Flextr8 software then manages both the printing and encoding functionality from a PC or laptop connected to the printer.

Companies that are now ordering the samples for the GHS solution include chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturers, in addition to firms with laboratories in which the chemicals are used. Most of the early interest has come from outside of the United States, Roessler says, where businesses seem to have more familiarity with NFC technology.

The Flexstr8 clip-on RFID encoder, powered by a USB connection, attaches to the front of an Epson TMC3500 printer.
According to Roessler, many pharmaceutical and chemical firms are using ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC passive RFID tags for inventory management. "They tend to use the RFID guns to read the tags," he explains. "We wanted to make that simpler," by allowing individuals to capture data via their NFC-enabled phone or tablet (including most modern Android devices, though to date, open NFC functionality is not available in iOS phones or tablets).

Eric Pun Casavant
Users do not require an app to utilize the NFC function in the labels. When a user places an NFC-enabled phone within close range of the label, the handset's Web browser opens a URL to a server hosted by the company that applies the label. He or she can then simply view data on his or her phone's screen, or download a PDF or other file that could include more specific information—such as a training manual, an operator's manual, or the labeled product's use history.

Since the label is being employed internationally, Flextr8 has created an Android-based app and multilingual Web service for use in places like Europe, where a label may pass through multiple countries. Once the app is downloaded on the phone, Casavant says, the service can automatically determine the country in which the phone is located, and thus direct the phone to data on a company's server specific to that nation's rules and regulations, and in that country's language.

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