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Several Pilots Planned for NFC Temperature-data Logger

American Thermal Instruments intends to launch several three-month pilots to test Near Field Communication RFID data loggers used in conjunction with NFC-enabled smartphones.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 24, 2011American Thermal Instruments (ATI) plans to launch pilots with six global companies in order to test its new RFID-enabled data logger. The testing will enable the firms to record temperatures using a smartphone's built-in Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID reader, through a product's box, as the goods are shipped through the supply chain. The six participants, to be selected from the logistics, pharmaceuticals, retail and manufacturing sectors, will employ the new data logger to track vaccines, flowers, fruits, vegetables, wine and other products.

For ATI, the pilots will provide a testing ground for the software and applications that manage data related to each NFC read event. Participants will receive the entire system at no cost, and will be allowed to continue using the technology after the pilots' completion.

The Logi-IC NFC tag measures 2.28 inches in length and width, and is 0.07 inches thick.
To date, says Matty Toomb, ATI's VP of sales and marketing, more than six companies seek to pilot the Log-IC NFC data-logger technology. Only six, however, will be approved for participation, based on particular use cases. Toomb has been traveling the world this month, meeting with businesses in Asia and North America, to determine their needs and how the technology would best suit them.

The solution consists of a tag approximately the size of a matchbook, comprising a passive NFC RFID chip combined with a battery-powered temperature sensor and data logger that can store up to 4,000 temperature measurements. For the pilot, ATI is also providing Nexus S NFC-enabled mobile phones, codeveloped by Google and Samsung, with an application to enable the phones to collect temperature data from the logger. The app is available in 11 languages. The system also comes with free software that captures information from the mobile phone, and can then interpret and present that data back to a user in a variety of forms—for example, as a PDF file containing temperature breakdowns, e-mailed to an authorized party, or a dedicated Web page that users can log onto to view their own raw temperature data.

ATI developed the Logi-IC data logger four years ago, in order to collect temperatures and store them until the device is retrieved from a box of goods and plugged via a USB port into a PC, where the information can then be uploaded. That system's shortcomings, the company reports, are that it requires the logger to be removed from the box before it can be interrogated, and that each time it is read, the data is permanently extracted from the logger. In addition, ATI is developing a temperature data logger integrated with a proprietary active high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz RFID tag built into the device (see ATI Partners to Deliver Passive RFID Sensor).

The tag that will be used for the pilot, on the other hand, combines a passive NFC tag and a battery-powered data logger that performs temperature readings at preset time intervals. With such a tag, an NFC reader could simply be placed on the outside of a box to capture the data. In that way, readings can be taken more often and faster, throughout the supply chain. What's more, reading the tag data does not erase temperature information from the tag. As such, multiple parties could read the data, such as at the point of shipping, at a DC, at a store's loading dock, or at a hospital or doctor's office.

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