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Bavarian State Mint Gives RFID Its Stamp of Approval

The mint employs passive HF tags to track the making of euro coins, from the time unstamped blanks arrive at its production facility until finished coins are shipped to banks.
By Rhea Wessel
Jan 28, 2008The Bavarian State Mint is using RFID to track the production of euro coins from the time unstamped blanks arrive until the moment finished coins are shipped to banks. The system provides the mint with greater security, enabling it to control production more effectively than in the past. Before the system was implemented in 2005, the mint used paper routing slips to guide containers through production.

The system utilizes high-frequency (HF) RFID tags made with NXP Semiconductors' Icode SLI passive 13.56 MHz RFID chips, which comply with the ISO 15693 standard. The transponders are embedded in a plastic sheath resembling a luggage tag, attached to containers using a plastic cable strap. Schreiner LogiData and smart-Tec provided the tags and coverings for the deployment.

Coins, both blank and stamped, are tracked by means of passive HF transponders attached to containers.

The tags are applied to about a dozen types and sizes of containers able to hold up to 50,000 coins apiece during production. Containers vary from 20 by 20 centimeters (7.9 by 7.9 inches) in width and length to 1 by 1 meter (3.3 by 3.3 feet). Production steps include stamping the coins, assembling those made of two separate materials—such as coins with €1 or €2 denominations—and performing quality checks. During the entire process, each container goes through approximately 20 interrogations.

Before a finished batch is loaded onto a truck for delivery to banks, the tags are removed for reuse. About 3,000 tags are in circulation, 2,000 of which are in use at any given time, says Michel Dorochevsky, chief technical officer of Softcon IT-Service, the Munich-based software developer and integrator that designed and deployed the system.

The coin blanks arrive in suppliers' containers made of wood, metal or plastic. A worker transfers the blanks to one of the mint's containers, using a Casio DTX 10 handheld computer with a standard RFID module to read the container's RFID tag, and to key in basic information such as the supplier's name and the ID number printed on the container. This information is transmitted to a database via wireless LAN, along with the tag's unique ID—the only data stored on the tag.

Each container is subject to occasional quality-control checks. When instructed via the handheld to carry out such a test, employees first interrogate the tag on the container of coin blanks to be tested, then read a tag inside a thick plastic bag used to transport a sample of blanks. Next, they take out a scoop of coin blanks and place them into the plastic bag. The database is then updated with the blanks' new location, and the system confirms that the transfer has been properly carried out.

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