Tracking drugs and life-sciences goods thanks to RFID temperature tag

DHL Global Forwarding has commercialized DHL Thermonet, an RFID-based air-freight service allowing customers to track the temperatures of their goods throughout the shipping process.
DHL Global Forwarding, the air and ocean freight specialist within Deutsche Post DHL, has commercialized DHL Thermonet, an RFID-based air-freight service allowing customers to track the temperature of their goods throughout the shipping process, for temperature-sensitive products such as pharmaceuticals or biomedical items.

The DHL Thermonet SmartSensor tag consists of an EPC Gen 2 passive UHF RFID inlay integrated with a battery-powered temperature logger, manufactured by CAEN RFID. The sensor continually captures temperature data and stores it until the tag is interrogated.

The SmartSensor tag is read at four points: upon arrival at the first origin station (which is typically where the tag is applied), when the item leaves that station to be tendered to an airline, when it is received at the destination station located nearest the intended recipient, and when it is shipped from that site to the delivery address.

At each of these SmartSensor reading stations, a tag's ID number and temperature recordings are captured and then forwarded via a wireless connection to the LifeTrack software residing on LifeConEx's server, where the data is interpreted and stored. If the software determines that the temperature readings have deviated from acceptable levels, it issues an alert to a Global Proactive Monitoring & Intervention Center, which can work with the appropriate local Certified Life Sciences Station to forward a message to the shipping customer, as well as dispatch a staff member to address the problem.

According to DHL, the solution provides customers with assurance that their products were shipped at a safe temperature, and they can also share that data with regulatory bodies, as necessary. In addition, if a temperature discrepancy occurs, the technology will help DHL identify the problem faster, and thus address the issue before other goods are damaged.

At present, about 20 DHL sites worldwide have been set up as SmartSensor reading stations, with plans to expand to 60 such stations at the end of 2014. While most life-sciences and health-care companies are currently based in the United States and Europe, China, India and Brazil are among emerging areas of growth in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, and SmartSensor reading stations would need to be included in these countries.