Insights into pharma and RFID frequencies, and RFID's 'Project Jumpstart' shortcomings

Shahram Moradpour, CEO of RFID consultancy Cleritec, notes, "There are a lot of pharmaceutical companies leaning toward high frequency (HF)," referring to 13.56 MHz radio waves. "HF can often be a better solution than current UHF technology for item-level tagging. A drug manufacturer isn't as concerned about a $1 RFID tag on bottled medicine that costs dozens of dollars. It's more important for them to track the pedigree of the product." Speaking of frequencies, ultra-high frequency (868 MHz to 915 MHz) shortcomings (such as low read rates) were uncovered during the Project Jumpstart pilot, conducted by pharmaceutical stalwarts such as Pfizer, Abbott Laboratories, and Cardinal Health.

Pete Beckwith, Cardinal Health's director of business integration, noted that one group of tests found read rates as low as 85%—and it took up to 15 minutes to read the item-level tagged packs inside a corrugated case. The cases contained more than 48 item-level tagged products. Other tests, for case counts fewer than 48, had reached 95% read rates.

"There have been some discussions among pharmaceutical companies about HF," says Beckwith, "and some retailers are talking about it. Since it works in close proximity, there's less chance that noise in the environment will create false reads."

--By Rick Lingle, Editor, RFID Antenna