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Hawaiian Group Readies Cold-Chain RFID Pilot

The state's agricultural department will test RFID-enabled temperature sensors in reusable pallets as they are used to ship produce between the islands, while information will be stored on an Internet-based application hosted by GS1 Hong Kong.
By Claire Swedberg
According to Ryan, the research team—which includes representatives from APP, GS1 Hong Kong, Armstrong and the agriculture department—also plans to test Intelleflex fixed interrogators to create portals at some locations. Currently, though, the team is employing only six modified Motorola 9090-G handheld readers, all of which will be operated by Armstrong's staff, including truck drivers transporting the product to and from airports.

Ryan is currently in the process of building relationships with agriculture agencies in other countries interested in participating in an international pilot that would include utilizing the tagged APP pallets to ship produce from their nations to Hawaii, as well as reading the sensor tags on pallets of products being shipped from the state. Thus far, Ryan says, Mexico's Department of Agriculture has expressed interest in testing the system.

To prepare for the upcoming Hawaiian pilot's launch, Ryan says, the team tested the Intelleflex tags by placing them between cartons filled with tomatoes. There were no problems reading the tags, he notes, though the RF signals of the reader and the tag had to pass through a carton's worth of produce.

Reflecting on the Hawaiian agricultural department's 2007 pilot involving passive UHF tags on cartons from Hawaiian farms, Ryan says, "The technology is great, but it has to be cost-effective for everyone"—and at the time of the pilot, it was not. A 15-cent tag for each carton, he adds, is too expensive for small farmers. However, he hopes that if the current pilot proves RFID data can be effectively linked to bar-code data, a system could be developed in which a pallet tag would provide cold-chain tracking, with information about the produce transported on that pallet stored via a bar-code system. Printing bar-coded labels for cartons, he notes, would be an inexpensive solution for farmers, since most office printers can easily print a bar code.

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