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4/16/2012 8:10:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

iTECH: Advanced RFID Tracks More Than Location

By Daniel P. Bearth, Senior Features Writer

This article appears in the April/May 2012 issue of iTECH, published in the April 9 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

While radio frequency identification technology has been viewed for years by freight carriers as simply a way for shippers to keep track of inventory, the marriage of advanced electronics and RFID technology is, in fact, creating new ways for carriers and shippers to utilize the tags.

RFID tags with built-in sensors can monitor everything from temperature and humidity to shock or vibration, providing a way to certify product integrity and quality for goods — such as pharmaceuticals and vaccines, high-value electronics, fresh and frozen food and priority loads for military and government agencies.

Transportation service providers also can use data from RFID systems to improve service, prevent theft and generate additional revenue, industry executives and technology vendors said.

“It gives us more control,” said John Dwiggins, director of life science for Panther Expedited Services in Seville, Ohio. “For the shipper, it is peace of mind.”

Panther uses RFID technology in two different applications. One provides temperature monitoring and redundant tracking on refrigerated trailers in North America. A second system, called Sentinel, is being deployed on international freight and uses a combination of cellular and satellite networks to relay data on shipments as they move.

Having constant access to information on loads means that Panther can respond to problems much more quickly, Dwiggins said.

Some responses are simple, such as an adjustment to the refrigeration unit or shifting of the load inside a trailer. But under some circumstances, the company could swap out a truck or a trailer if doing so would prevent spoilage or late delivery.

In fact, one of the driving forces behind the development of RFID tags with advanced sensing capabilities is a trend toward tighter federal regulation of food and drugs in the supply chain.

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