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Magellan Creates Specimen-Tracking System

The 13.56 MHz RFID system has been designed to enable hospitals and laboratories to quickly identify hundreds of specimen-carrying glass slides stored closely together.
By Beth Bacheldor
The PJM StackTag labels can be affixed to one end of the slides, and a Magellan MARS interrogator can be mounted under or in a convenient position near a lab table. The tunnel antenna is plugged into the reader with a cable, but sits on top of the table. "The antenna was designed in a tunnel shape to allow for the box of tags to slide in, and to allow for the tags to be identified irrespective of which end of the slide the tag was placed," says Laing. When a box of slides is set on the table, the interrogator reads the tags' unique ID numbers.

Magellan offers several reader options that can be employed to track slides. According to Laing, the company suggests the MARS-24 if a customer wants to identify 1,000 slides in less than two seconds. "If speed is not an issue and you only want to identify the tags in, say, eight seconds, then a MARS 1-6 can do the job," Laing says. "The difference is that a MARS-24 has eight reply channels, and the MARS 1-6 has only two reply channels."

Magellan created the new system, which is available now, at the request of a company that had been using RFID tags based on the ISO 15693 standard to track specimen slides. "However, for [that system] to work, only 16 slides could be stored [together] in a box, and the slides needed to be stored in a particular way to ensure the tags did not touch," Laing states. "The RFID technology that supports ISO 15693 was developed many years ago for asset and access-control applications. It was not developed for item-level tagging, unlike Magellan's PJM technology."

A global drug company is currently testing the Magellan slide-tracking technology. The firm, which Laing says he is not at liberty to name, has a number of scientists developing new pharmaceuticals or working to enhance existing drugs. During drug development, Laing says, "samples of the prospective drugs are placed on slides together with, say, a sample from a frozen tumor, and the results are tested. These samples need to be referenced all the time—hence the need for an efficient method of identifying the location of the sample."

The drugmaker is testing the PJM technology to help it determine which box contains a particular slide. Then, to pinpoint the exact slide, the company breaks the box down further into 10 other boxes, each containing 100 slides. Each box is placed in the tunnel antenna until the specific slide is located. "This takes a couple of minutes, instead of hours," Laing says.

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