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Hach Lange Incorporates RFID in Water Testers

The company is attaching RFID tags to the packaging of its chemical vial kits and adding readers to its spectrophotometers to automatically update the calibration of the instruments, ensuring accurate test results.
By Claire Swedberg
With RFID the process is done automatically. Each box, containing 25 vials of testing chemicals, now comes equipped with an HF 13.56 MHz RFID tag, complying with ISO 15693, attached to the box's interior. When a test is being conducted, users place the box within five centimeters of a MetraTec reader built into the front right-hand section of the DR 3900 (the read range is set low to prevent inadvertently reading any tags attached to other nearby containers of reagents).

Each TagStar Systems tag, made with an STMicroelectronics RFID chip with 2048 bits of memory, stores data that includes the reagent's serial and lot number, the expiration date, calibration data and ISO standard information. When the DR 3900's RFID interrogator reads this calibration data, the spectrophotometer's firmware is instructed to recalibrate the device, based on that data.

In that way, says Schroers, the system provides the laboratory with assurance that the test was carried out appropriately and therefore the results can be trusted as being accurate.

Hach Lange continues to market its spectrophotometers both with and without RFID technology, however all vial containers will come equipped with RFID tags, says Schroers, at no increase in price.

Each lab technician can be assigned an RFID key fob (manufactured by AEG ID), and the spectrophotometer's reader can be set to operate only after the unique ID number of that key fob is read, thereby preventing any unauthorized use of the spectrophotometer.

In August, Hach Lange will also provide a sample-tracking system in which users can use RFID to record data about the location, time and date a water sample was obtained and by whom. In this case, Hach Lange will provide 13.56 MHz AEG ID tags that can be attached to a stationary object to identify the location from which water samples are poured, as well as a tag for the container itself. Hach Lange will also provide a similar tag for each staff member to carry or wear. When the tagged container is filled with water, the employee will use the handheld device to read the ID and name encoded to his own tag, then the location tag, and input data such as date and time the sample is being collected. All that data is then written to the tag on the container.

When the container is taken to the laboratory for testing, it can be placed within read range of the spectrophotometer and the tag data will be read and stored with the test results. In this way, a system that was previously managed with pen and paper can be completed electronically, with data stored in the spectrophotometer itself.

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