Hartford Encourages Its Food-Industry Clients to Deploy RFID Temperature Tags

By Claire Swedberg

A strategic alliance between Hartford Financial Services Group and Intelleflex is designed to improve visibility into the conditions of perishable-food shipments, thereby reducing spoilage and helping to lower the cost of insurance premiums.


Insurance company Hartford Financial Services Group—also known as The Hartford—is recommending that its customers employ Intelleflex‘s RFID system for tracking the conditions under which fresh produce is transported throughout the supply chain. The partnership involves the use of Intelleflex’s XC3 RFID technology to monitor temperature conditions at the pallet level, by placing ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) battery-assisted passive (BAP) RFID tags with built-in temperature sensors within each container, or on every pallet, and by then using Intelleflex readers to capture that data throughout the supply chain.

The partnership was established between Intelleflex and Hartford Ventures, a corporate venture capital group focused on early- and expansion-stage opportunities that are strategically relevant to the insurance and wealth-management industries. Although Intelleflex might qualify as such an opportunity, Hartford Ventures is not currently investing in Intelleflex, according to the RFID firm, and neither company will comment on whether Hartford would do so in the future.

Intelleflex’s TMT 8500 Temperature Tag

Thanks to this partnership, Hartford could request information from clients in order to gain a greater understanding of supply chain conditions at the time that loss of product occurred due to spoilage. And customers using the system would benefit not only from greater visibility into the supply chain, as well as the opportunity to respond to temperature fluctuations, but also from better insurance plans from Hartford, due to the reduced risk of product spoilage. In some cases, for example, clients that might not have previously qualified for certain insurance policies would now be able to do so with the RFID system in place.

Alexander McGinley, marine underwriting officer, Hartford Financial Services

What’s more, by using Intelleflex’s XC3 RFID technology, existing clients of Hartford could qualify for a reduction in their insurance premiums, according to Alexander McGinley, the company’s marine underwriting officer, who oversees insurance policies involving the transportation of goods. For Hartford, he says, the solution could provide valuable data from its insured customers in the event of a claim.

“If a covered cause of loss were to have occurred to covered property—spoilage, in this instance—we would ask the insured to furnish us with the temperature records of the [relevant] transit venture,” McGinley explains. With the RFID data, he says, “we would have a better understanding of when the product spoiled, in whose care, custody or control, etc.”

The partnership is intended to address food waste that occurs in the supply chain; worldwide, it is estimated that as much as one-third of all fresh fruits and vegetables are discarded at various points between the field in which they are harvested and a consumer’s table, according to a 2011 study commissioned by the United NationsFood & Agriculture Organization. Most waste, according to Pete Mehring, Intelleflex’s CEO, results from food being exposed to excessive temperatures, as well as an extended amount of time spent traversing the supply chain—such as sitting in a warehouse—before reaching consumers. Intelleflex’s technology, he says, was designed to reduce that risk, by capturing supply chain data regarding the temperatures to which produce might be exposed in fields, in warehouses or on trucks, as well as the length of time that the goods remain at a given location.

Approximately one year ago, Hartford and Intelleflex began planning a partnership in which the insurance firm would recommend the use of the system to its customers that grow, process, transport or sell food. Hartford now has customers utilizing the Intelleflex system, McGinley says, though these businesses have asked to remain unnamed. The insurance company was interested in the benefits that the RFID firm’s technology could provide to its customers.

Rohit Bodas, director of strategic investments, Hartford Ventures

“We have been aware of Intelleflex,” says Rohit Bodas, Hartford’s director of strategic investments. His company, he explains, embraces innovative new technologies and solutions, aimed at helping customers control their risks, and it determined that Intelleflex had a solution that would reduce product loss, and thus could also decrease the incidence of insurance claims. “We really believe in an open-innovation model,” he states, in which the company seeks innovative solutions to risks. Hartford, he notes, focuses not just on insuring companies and products, but also on helping customers control loss and manage risk. “Hartford is interested in helping cold-chain customers avoid their losses.”

The partnership’s goal is to provide users with a view into the conditions to which their products were exposed while on the pallet. Simply tracking temperatures within a truck using a single temperature logger read at the end of transit, for instance, does not indicate the conditions of each individual pallet. With Intelleflex’s RFID-enabled solution, a user could gain automated updates pertaining to the products’ conditions while they are still in the supply chain.

According to McGinley, the partnership will enable Hartford to gain a greater understanding of the damage that occurs when insurance claims are filed (clients would provide the RFID data to the insurance company), and to potentially tailor its offerings of underwriting policies based on data trends culled from the RFID data. The partnership will also allow users to document products’ temperatures throughout the supply chain, thereby reducing the risk of disputes between a customer and other supply chain members.

For example, McGinley says, if a prospective Hartford client were experiencing a large percentage of spoilage, the insurer might recommend the Intelleflex system as a means of reducing loss, by allowing that customer to receive alerts when conditions could potentially cause spoilage—which, he says, “might make an uninsurable risk insurable.” For those already insured, he indicates, they could utilize the system to further reduce loss “and possibly reduce their premiums.”

Intelleflex’s RFID system consists of the company’s TMT 8500 Temperature Tag—a BAP transponder complying with ISO/IEC 18000-6:2010 Type B (Manchester) UHF RFID standard, as well as the EPC Gen 2 standard. The TMT 8500 has a built-in sensor that can measure temperatures ranging from -30 degrees to +70 degrees Celsius (-22 degrees to +158 degrees Fahrenheit), and 60 kilobits of memory—enough to store up to 3,600 temperature readings and timestamps. The tag can be placed within a container or on a pallet, Mehring says, to track the temperature of the produce stored on that pallet or within that container. If used by a grower, the temperature tag could be placed within a carton in the field as the produce is being harvested.

Peter Mehring, Intelleflex’s CEO

Intelleflex also provides its X3 FMR 6000 fixed readers and HMR 9090 handheld UHF interrogators. Both models can be used in the field as produce is harvested, as well as at points in which the goods pass through dock doors, in trucks or at other locations throughout transit to a store. The tags monitor the temperature as shipments travel along the supply chain, and potentially provides data to distributors, retailers and logistics providers. If a temperature threshold is crossed, or if excessive time is spent at any particular location, an alert can be issued to the users, enabling them to take action—such as contacting a driver or warehouse staff member, for example—before the product spoils.

Intelleflex works with several software providers whose software systems would manage the read data and send the alerts, as well as store information regarding the temperatures for supply chain participants.

“I think this is a great way for two companies in very different industries to meet the needs of their customers,” McGinley states. With the partnership in place, Hartford is initially recommending the technology to its customers in North and South America, though the two companies hope to expand their partnership to the rest of the world. Hartford’s clients are based in the United States, but import and export products to and from other nations worldwide.