Putting the Charge in RFID

UPM Raflatac and Blue Spark Technologies are collaborating to develop new battery-assisted passive (BAP) RFID solutions that could find utility in the pharmaceutical and biological supply chains.

Matt Ream of Blue Spark says that the launch of a new EPC Gen2 BAP RFID chip from Swiss-based EM Microelectronic has opened up a host of applications for RFID. The EM4324 RFID chip is capable of battery-assisted read ranges up to 50 meters (154 feet) and features 1024 bits of non-volatile memory. The technology will be coupled with UPM Raflatac’s tag and inlay design and Blue Spark’s thin, flexible printed battery solutions, including the ultra-thin Blue Spark UT Series.

“Battery-assisted RFID inlay’s strength is in applications where longer read range and robust reading are required,” says Samuli Stromberg, marketing vice president for UPM Raflatac.

Giving RFID a battery boost will allow companies to add functionality to RFID in the future, with functionality such as sensing and logging time and temperature, explains Ream. “BAP effectively bridges the gap between pure passive RFID technology and high-end active and real-time location systems (RTLS), from both a price and performance standpoint,” explains Ream.

The companies will focus their efforts on developing high-volume BAP RFID-enabled products for consumer, life sciences, and industrial markets. “BAP isn’t just for high-value goods,” Ream says. “If a pharmaceutical or biologic is sensitive to temperature, there is a safety issue as well as a liability issue.” If a product is compromised, patient safety is at risk.

He adds that even the automotive industry has found value in using RFID tags on low value assets, even if it means putting a $1 tag on a tote worth $10. “It may not cost that much, but if that tote is lost, it could shut down a plant.”
Ream expects BAP to find its niche in case-level packaging.

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