A number of large pharmaceutical and food manufacturers are piloting a new data logger with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology that is designed to track and monitor the conditions a product is kept in.
The technology has been developed by Sensitech, a US firm specialising in cold chain monitoring technologies for the food and drug industry, in partnership with wireless networking specialist Ember, according to a report from packaging consultancy firm Pira. The two companies started to work together on the project last September.
Sensitech and Ember have developed a radio frequency version of the former's TempTale data logger that can record and send information about the product instantaneously.
The device can record the condition, time, location and temperature and humidity level of the products as they move around. The information is then automatically sent to where it can be downloaded to a printer, computer, palm-pilot or the Internet.
The TempTale RF has enough memory to detect RFID tags and store their codes, according to Pira.
Jeff Grammer, Ember 's chief executive, said: "Every day, billions of dollars of temperature-sensitive goods are transported from one location to another - from fresh grapes selling for a couple dollars per pound to life-saving vaccines that cost hundreds of times more. By providing an accurate picture of the treatment of goods in transit, Sensitech helps customers take control of these sensitive products."
The US companies have been trialling the TempTale RF for three months and the technology is likely to be commercialised in the third quarter of 2004 by a pharmaceutical manufacturer.
The RF-based system can be fixed permanently to a container, whereas the traditional TempTale has to be removed after every trip so the information can be downloaded from it, according to Sensitech
This will allow the receiver of temperature-sensitive goods to know immediately, before accepting the shipment, if products have remained at the proper temperature for the entire trip.
Sensitech is intending to keep the price of the new TempTale in line with the old version, which sells for between €16 and €32.