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International Group Tests RFID for Food Safety to Hawaii

The project is using radio frequency identification and GPS technologies to track the temperature and location of produce as it is shipped from Taiwan and California to Armstrong Produce, a food company in Honolulu.
By Claire Swedberg
Once the tagged cartons were loaded into the vehicles, a wireless ARKNAV CT-X8 Container Tracker unit was attached to the locking bar on the back of the truck container. Each ARKNAV unit (consisting of a GPS unit and a GSM and GPRS cellular modem) was attached to the container door via magnets, with a clamp that slides over the bar. The ARKNAV unit serves multiple functions. The CT-X8 has a tamper-detection system to transmit an alert, via a cellular connection, in the event that the container bar is opened. The unit sends GPS-based location data, as well as any tamper alert, to the back-end server via a cellular connection. In addition, Zen Sensing devices that detect the presence of biochemical contaminants or explosives were wired to the ARKNAV unit. The CT-X8 unit does not have a built-in RFID reader, but during future pilots, Ryan expects to use a modified version of that model that would be less expensive and could include an RFID interrogator to capture temperature and humidity data, as well as incorporate satellite communications technology, in order to send that data back to the server.

While the containers were in transit via truck, and then shipped, temperature data was collected continuously by the RFID tags. That information could then be shared with Armstrong and other members of the supply chain, though Ryan says they did not view the data during the pilot.


John Ryan
By placing tags in a variety of locations, including at the bottom of pallets and at the top of a stack of cartons within the same container, Ryan Systems found that there could be a difference of four degrees, with temperatures ranging from 46 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius) on the bottom to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) on the top. Warmer temperatures, Ryan notes, lead to a shorter shelf life.

For the California-to-Hawaii pilot, Ryan says, the data collected also showed a rise of temperature during ship transportation as the products neared Honolulu, indicating a possible problem with the cooling system, as well as a natural increase in temperature around the Hawaiian Islands.

At a farm in Taiwan, Ryan Systems attached the same Intelleflex UHF RFID temperature sensor tags to cartons loaded with fresh produce, before they were stacked onto pallets to be transported by truck to the Taipei port, and then by ship to Honolulu. As in the California-to-Hawaii pilot, the tags were read via Intelleflex handheld readers when the tags were attached, and again when the cartons were loaded into containers. Once the cartons were loaded into a shipping container, the ARKNAV unit was deployed to read sensor data, and to forward that information to the back-end system.

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