SmartCard America Blog

Syringes with RFID Technology Track Vaccines, Not Recipients


Tracking when and where vaccinations occur is essential for pandemic defense, according to Rapid Aseptic Packaging of Drugs Consortium, or RAPID.  With RFID technology, health officials can access real-time vaccination coverage maps and reports from around the country by scanning a Near Field Communication, or NFC chip.

“By scanning the chip on a cellphone app, the chip will transmit information about the drug’s expiration date and that it is not a counterfeit product.”

“The chip will also transmit the location of the injectable’s use so that public health officials can monitor use numbers in a given geographic area, particularly hot spots or medical facilities. No personal information on the patient being injected is gathered by the chip or the cellphone app.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), the technology of the future, has long established itself in our everyday lives. It is already deployed in various areas ranging from efficient inventory management and road toll collection through to timing the performance of individual participants in mass sporting events. With its enormous potential it is only right that RFID is on everyone’s talking RFID chips combine the physical world of a product with the virtual world of digital technology.

RFID technology builds a bridge between the physical world of a product and the virtual world of digital data. The technology thus meets the demands of companies cooperating in a closely knit value chain and is being deployed promisingly in all sectors of the economy. RFID will soon be considered an indispensable part of the chain.

RFID or Radio Frequency Identification is a system that uses radio waves to transmit an object’s identity. There are several methods of identifying objects using RFID, but the most common is to store an ID or serial number that identifies a specific product along with other information, on a tag, which is a small microchip attached to an antenna. The antenna enables the chip to transmit whatever identification information it contains to a reader. The reader converts the radio waves from the RFID tag into digital information that software systems can use for processing.

Typically, when a reader reads a tag, it passes three things to a host computer system: the tag ID, the reader’s own ID, and the time the tag was read. By knowing which readers are in which locations, companies can know where a product is, as well as what it is, and by tracking the tag data by time, they can know everywhere it’s been.

Most industry analysts argue that RFID tagging is a transformational software development activity that will ultimately change the way businesses plan, price, distribute, and advertise products. But for the present, enterprise application vendors are extending their products to handle an expected boom in RFID data.

Until recently, a bar coded item used to sit on a retail shelf and did not generate any data until it was scanned by a bar code reader. And then the data was read only once. RFID, on the other hand, is a passive technology that does not require human interaction to scan. A reader can extract location and product description data from a tagged item every 250 milliseconds. Some readers are capable of reading data from 200 tags per second. The result is a data increase of more than one thousand times above traditional scanning methods.

With the rate at which the market competition is rising, inefficiencies in a company’s value/supply chain and their continuous efforts to shore up internal security are driving the rising demand for RFID. The retail trade is playing a decisive part in the broad-based roll-out of RFID projects. RFID represents an all-encompassing structural business concept that far transcends simply superseding the bar code. Considering the current scenario, RFID systems are rapidly gaining significance. This holds especially in areas where they can be used to manage processes within the value chain.

RFID is such an intriguing business concept, as it cuts inventory and supply chain costs through its implementation. The ultimate goal is for RFID to replace barcodes. RFID allows for individual product identification, not for product line identification like barcodes. If this takes place, individual products can be read letting stores locate those items if needed. Stores can also track when items leave the store allowing them to easily replace items when one is purchased.

Furthermore, shipments can be easily and quickly sorted and accepted by the receivables department. With the reader, products can be received without even opening the pallet cutting logistical needs. Obviously, RFID is a great tool for the supply chain and companies wishing to better track their products and inventory.

RFID will also serve as a supply chain management tool. It will replace manual processes for tracking supplies in warehouses and at loading docks, e.g. a crate passes by a networked RFID -portal on a loading dock can help transmit information about it to a backend system. This facilitates automated creation of shipping manifests and other data, whose generation currently involves some degree of manual labor. In principle, speedy data generation by RFID means that information about, say, a crate of oranges, can reach a destination even before the oranges are loaded onto the truck. In other words, RFID is a form of automation support for the supply chain management systems of today.

Now it’s being used in the fight against COVID-19. Microchips embedded in RFID tags can track and authenticate the vaccine journey from manufacturing to clinical site, along with antibody test kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), medical equipment and high value drug treatments and other pharmaceutical product line.

Source: USA TODAY, RFID Journal and Research & Development Team of SmartCard America.