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2011 RFID Journal Award Winner: Best New RFID Product—Reducing Food Spoilage and Waste

Intelleflex's battery-assisted passive sensor tags and readers make tracking perishable goods easier and more cost-effective.
By Paul Prince
Jun 01, 2011—Tracking and monitoring perishable foods with sensor-equipped RFID tags can deliver many business benefits to food producers and grocers, including reduced waste and longer shelf life. If distributors can determine in real or near-real time when food conditions have been compromised, they can correct the problem by, for instance, rerouting a shipment to a closer location or advising retailers to sell the goods upon arrival. That, in turn, means safer, more appealing foods for customers. And by reducing waste in the supply chain and making the food supply safer, we could take a step toward ending world hunger, according to the United Nations' World Food Programme.

RFID Journal has covered the progress as RFID technology providers have developed more reliable tags, and food producers have tested and deployed systems to track fruits and vegetables from the field to the retail store. But technology limitations have prevented widespread adoption. Intelleflex's new TMT-8500 temperature-monitoring battery-assisted passive tag promises to make it easier and more cost-effective to monitor the condition of perishables.

The TMT-8500—a semi-passive ultrahigh-frequency temperature-tracking tag—has advantages over both active and high-frequency (HF) semi-passive tags. Active tags, which rely on an onboard battery to power both the sensor embedded in the tag and the data transmission between the tag and reader, have a long read range but are expensive. HF semi-passive tags cost less, but have a read range of only about 10 inches.

Intelleflex's TMT-8500 complies with the EPC Gen 2 standard and supports the ISO 18000-6:2010 (EPC Class 3) standard. That gives it a read range of up to 100 meters (328 feet), making it easy to collect data when the tag is placed in the middle of a pallet of RF-absorbing fruits or vegetables.

The TMT-8500 tag can measure temperatures ranging from -30 degrees to 70 degrees Celsius (-22 degrees to 158 degrees Fahrenheit), taken as frequently as once per minute. Its 60 kilobits of memory can store up to 3,600 temperature samples.

With a base price of $25 (lower when purchased in volume), the TMT-8500 is less costly than active RFID tags. What's more, the tag is designed to be simple to use by workers as they pack harvested food for shipment. "You hold the button down, and you throw it in the pallet," says Daniel Gopen, an Intelleflex applications engineer.

Clifford Produce, a Canadian vegetable distributor, is using TMT-8500 tags to track and manage produce from many local growers, as well as food trucked thousands of miles from Mexico in winter. The groundbreaking Intelleflex system likely will motivate more companies to RFID-track perishables, reducing waste and extending shelf life.

To learn about this year's other winners, see 2011 RFID Journal Awards: Excellence in RFID.
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