Peel and Stick RFID Data Logger Tracks Conditions at Low Cost

By Claire Swedberg

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  • Axzon’s Opus Data Logger is a peel and stick temperature and humidity sensor that is low cost and can track perishable goods through the supply chain.
  • The printed battery can power the sensor readings, while UHF RFID readers interrogate the device to capture all those readings across a product’s supply chain.

While RFID tags are providing data about the location of goods—as they are read at portals or with handheld readers– there are gaps in the supply chain where data isn’t usually accessible. That’s just one challenge for shippers of perishable goods; yet another is tracking conditions.

Many data loggers that track temperature or fluids are relatively high cost and require batteries. That means they aren’t often employed to follow every single carton through a supply chain.

Wireless sensor company Axzon has released a peel and stick temperature data logger with a built-in UHF RFID tag to transmit data about conditions that products such as fresh food or pharmaceuticals are exposed to. And because they are disposable and low cost, they are designed for use at the carton or item level, company officials report.

Early samples of the Opus Data Logger are being deployed or tested by logistics providers now, to track temperatures around products they ship. The companies are  then able to offer resulting data as a value-added service for their product brand customers, said Shahriar Rokhsaz, Axzon’s CEO.

Tracking Conditions in Remote Locations

Shipping cold chain goods comes with gaps in visibility, contending with points of information throughout the supply chain as well as information vacuums, such as when goods were transported in trucks or vessels around the world. If conditions fell outside of acceptable parameters, it was challenging to identifying that event a well as where and when it happened.

Even if a data logger is attached to a pallet, said Rokhsaz, “once it gets to the distribution center, at that point the pallet gets broken into boxes and that’s where you really lose all that data granularity because the individual boxes aren’t tracked.”

If a carton or product is delivered to a restaurant, but sits outside for several hours, any temperature excursion currently would be unknown.

“So what we came up with was a peeling stick logger with a printed battery and a lot of technology embedded in it,” said Rokhsaz, including the RF chip and a real time clock. Current temperature monitoring is available through multiple technologies, while Axzon focuses on RFID use from origin to final destination.

How it Works

Users first configure the Opus sensor label using a UHF RFID reader. There is no need for special software. The sensor’s data security and encryption features prevent unauthorized access and guarantee the integrity and authenticity of all stored data, said Rokhsaz.

To activate the logger, workers manually touch the dedicated spot on the label. It comes with an LED light that will blink to indicate that the sensor and logging functions are working correctly. It also can be activated with a standard RFID reader.

With the Opus armed and activated, users just peel off the back and stick the label to the container of any product from wine or spirit bottles to boxes of seafood and steaks to pharmaceutical supplies. Alternatively, the label could be applied with automated machines in the same way barcode labels are attached.

The sensor then uses the printed battery to power the capture of sensor data at the pre-set intervals through the products’ transportation. The tag can record and store up to 4096 data points.

Built in LED Provides Visual Alert

To capture that data wirelessly, users interrogate it with an RFID reader. However, if the temperature falls outside of preset parameters, the LED on the label begins blinking, so that recipients of the product, even if they don’t have an RFID reader, can see that the product has been exposed to unacceptable temperatures.

“This capability is perfect for shippers sending products to consumers who won’t have access to RFID readers,” said Rokhsaz.

That means, for instance, a household consumer could see the blinking light and refuse the shipment, at which time it would be sent back to the manufacturer the customer would receive an exchange or refund.

Creating Accountability for Those in the Supply Chain

The shipper can then use an RFID reader to access the full data log history when the product is returned. The data they are able to view includes when the set temperature was exceeded, by how much, and who is  liable for the damages. If an unauthorized access data access event happens, the technology can record and report that incident.

Early companies deploying the sensors are in the logistics sector, and want to track conditions related to the perishable goods. They are preconfiguring and attaching the sensors to a shipping box and then shipping those items through their usual supply chain.

They can then offer the value-added service to their customers. The ability to offer this service provides a new source of income to shipping companies and provides a digital data record on the shipment providing valuable information if temperatures are exceeded, said Rokhsaz.

Solving Inherent Data Logging Problems

Over the last five years, Rokhsaz said the company has been working with its customers to really solve logistical problem. Axzon has finally brought the price to a level that makes it affordable to put on the box, ship it anywhere in the world and then dispose of it.

The system can be set to log temperatures at intervals from every one second to every eight hours. The latter interval setting enables the sensor to last about three and a half years on the printed battery.

Additionally, the sensor can provide real-time data if shippers also deploy a reader in a van or vessel in which the tagged product is being shipped. The reader can then use a cellular connection to forward information even while in transit.

Linking to Management Software

Data related to a product’s conditions measurements can be uploaded to a database for historical reference or analysis, or simply stored on the data logger. In that way, data remains with the label and can be accessed throughout the product’s journey, where authorized.

Axzon is providing a reference board to enable companies to test the technology before deploying.

Additionally, Axzon has been working with RFID reader companies who have written software that enabled their products to capture the sensor data with a simple UHF RFID interrogation signal.

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