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Study Says HF Rules for Pharma Items

In tests performed by ODIN Technologies, HF tags outperformed UHF tags for use on pharmaceuticals at the item level.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Mar 29, 2006Within RFID item-level tagging applications, specifically within the pharmaceutical industry, both ultra-high frequency (UHF) and high frequency (HF) tags are being tested and deployed in the supply chain. This is causing some debate among vendors and end users regarding which technology is better suited to item-level tracking of pharmaceutical products.

ODIN Technologies, a Dulles, Va., systems integration firm, has just released "Battle of the Frequencies," a report based on a battery of tests the company conducted using three commercially available UHF EPC Gen 2 tag models and four commercially available HF tags compliant with the ISO 15693 specifications. ODIN ran the tags through five separate performance tests and against three pharmaceutical use cases, for a total of eight test categories. Overall, according to the report, HF tags outperformed the UHF tags. HF tags performed best in five of the categories, while UHF tags won in two. In one category, the two frequencies performed equally well.

ODIN collaborated with its clients and partners in the pharmaceutical industry to choose these use cases, which are germane to drug manufacturers, distributors, regulators and retailers alike. Systems integrator Unisys sponsored the test.

The report bases its findings on the performance of the two frequency types as a whole—it does not provide any information as to how specific tag models performed, nor does it name the tag models tested. Rather, it lists only the manufacturers of the tested tags: Symbol Technologies, Texas Instruments, Omron, RF IDentics and UPM Raflatac. No prototypical tags—such as UHF tags designed for item-level, near-field reading, but not yet commercially available—were allowed in the benchmark.

Patrick Sweeney, ODIN Technologies' president and CEO, says these details were kept out of the report because the firm wanted to base the results of the tests on the outcome of a frequency as a whole, rather than on the performance of individual tag models. "The big 'so what?' of the report is that it can help those who need to tag pharmaceuticals to know which camp to support," says Sweeney. He adds that the report will show end users that overall, even the poorest-performing HF tag models on the market today are better suited to item-level pharmaceutical tagging than currently available UHF tags.

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