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RFID Vendors Launch Item-Level RFID Drug-Tracking Systems

One system reads EPC Gen 2 UHF tags on items, while the other reads both HF tags on items and UHF tags on cases.
By Beth Bacheldor
Nov 14, 2006Two RFID vendors are launching new products this week, designed to help pharmaceutical companies implement item-level tracking. The first, Vue Technology, unveiled on Monday a new RFID system for drug retailers looking to use EPCglobal Gen 2 UHF RFID tags to track pharmaceutical items in their stores. And on Tuesday, Blue Vector Systems announced the introduction of its Smart Tunnel, an apparatus that fits over conveyor systems and can read UHF tags affixed to cases, as well as HF tags attached to items within those cases.

Both solutions are designed to give companies more flexibility as they build out their RFID implementations. Vue Technology's new system lets firms use standard UHF tags to track individual items, says Robert Locke, Vue Technology's CEO. "There [has] been a number of companies that have publicly stated they want to use standard Gen 2 tags for item-level tagging in the pharmaceutical industry," Locke says. "This gives people a credible choice."

John Beans
There had been debate whether UHF—the choice for case- and pallet-tracking—was technically sufficient for item-level tracking, because UHF hadn't seemed to work as well as HF for tighter, smaller read ranges. The debate has now been settled, with mutual agreement that both RFID tag technologies will work (see RFID Vendors Unite to Promote UHF for Items).

Vue Technology's new UHF solution for pharmacies is based on the vendor's TrueVue RFID platform, which acts as middleware and provides RFID data to the company's entire suite of applications. The solution allows users to leverage Gen 2 UHF tags from a variety of suppliers, and includes Gen 2 readers, RF networking hardware that enables the readers to interrogate thousands of antennas, and VuePoints—RFID antennas that serve as read points. These can be placed within pharmacy shelves, receiving stations, countertops and other locations.

Also included is the TrueVue application suite of network management, reporting, alerting and workflow software. The suite lets end users set rules for interrogators, monitor the operational status of hardware and software, and view a variety of reports, from individual tag reads to company-wide views spanning multiple stores. Users can also set up alerts to cue employees when thresholds are met or rules are broken, such as when such a certain type of drug is out of stock on a shelf.

Though Locke declined to divulge many technical details about how Vue Technology has fine-tuned the system to ensure accurate reads of item tags used for a variety of pharmaceutical product types, including liquids, pills, blister packs and gels, the company claims it achieved inventory accuracies approaching 100 percent during testing. "We've applied our unique skills and trade secrets in the antenna design," Locke explains.

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