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USF Polytechnic Researchers Helped Cephalon Improve Item-Level RFID Performance

By setting up and operating a replica of the conveyor system used at the drugmaker's Salt Lake City plant, the lab's research team was able to raise read-write accuracy to more than 99 percent.
By Claire Swedberg
The greatest takeaway from the experience, Uysal says, is that the lab was able to demonstrate that a problematic RFID installation can be resolved via appropriate research and testing. "A lot of people say RFID is cool, but when they have it installed, it may not work the way they need it to," he states. "What we take away from this is that this kind of study will save a lot of trouble." Those first installing a system should be prepared to conduct such field trials, he notes, or to visit the type of research institutes that can test the system for them, prior to installation.

Once the Florida researchers reconfigured the Fentora manufacturing plant's RFID solution in August 2011, Uysal says, Cephalon's staff were satisfied with the results. "We went in there on maintenance day," he says, while the conveyor was temporarily deactivated. The team installed new antennas in the same orientation that had been the most effective at the lab, while applying tags at the same location within the pills' packaging that had been used during testing. "It was impressive to see the same accuracy," he says, noting that thanks to the high read rate, "they were happy to see the results."

At the time of this writing, it is unclear whether the drug company will opt to continue with the pilot, or to permanently adopt the use of item-level RFID tagging for Fentora.

Uysal will describe the tests, as well as the takeaways that his research team gained, on Apr. 5, at RFID Journal LIVE! 2012, taking place next week in Orlando, Fla.

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