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GE and Avery Dennison Developing Passive RFID Sensor Tags

The solution—signaling Avery Dennison's intention to provide RFID tags with greater functionality—will allow the detection of events such as counterfeit pharmaceutical products or spoiled produce in the supply chain.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 21, 2010General Electric's Technology Ventures division is partnering with Avery Dennison to provide a high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz RFID sensor tag solution that would enable users to detect gases or toxic compounds and transmit that information to an RFID interrogator. The tag would be the same size as conventional HF tags—large or small, based on required read range (the sensors do not significantly increase the tag's size)—and would attach to items, or to cartons of products in the supply chain, via an adhesive.

The solution is the result of approximately two years of cooperative work (building and testing sensor tag systems) using Avery Dennison's RFID technology and GE's sensor technology. Avery Dennison will take responsibility for marketing the product, and the two companies are currently in discussions with GE customers that might trial the system in a real-world setting. William Kernick, GE's VP of technology ventures, says his company hopes to have trials underway within the next 18 months with a food or pharmaceutical company, and to make the sensor tag technology commercially available in about 18 months to two years.

William Kernick, GE's VP of technology ventures
The solution is the culmination of GE's development of sensor technology and increasing proliferation of RFID tags. More than two years ago, GE Global Research began working on an RFID-based sensor. In October 2008, the firm announced that it had developed a passive 13.56 MHz RFID tag compliant with the ISO 14443 and ISO 15693 standards, with an antenna capable of functioning as sensors (see GE Develops Passive Tag That Functions as Multiple Sensors).

"GE developed the system to enable manufacture of the sensor tags to use a standard roll-to-roll process," says Jack Farrell, Avery Dennison RFID's VP and general manager. "This is critical because it offers the most efficient and highest-quality process for RFID applications. This is the process that Avery Dennison currently utilizes at our RFID manufacturing sites."

Avery Dennison, which has worked with GE to develop that technology throughout the past two years, has seen sensor data as a logical inclusion in the increasingly ubiquitous RFID tags used in supply chains.

"We believe item-level tagging will become commonplace, and with all those RFID tags, it's just logical to ask the tags to do more [than transmit an ID]," says Dave Edwards, Avery Dennison's VP of innovation. Most item-level tags being deployed by retailers employ EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) technology rather than HF, so, consequently, Edwards expects that the two companies will also develop a UHF version of their sensor tag in the coming years.

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