Getting Around The Product-Within-A-Product RFID Challenge

One of the many challenges with RFID has been doing simultaneous scans of a product and the product's container. For example, manufacturers have long wanted to be able to scan a case of products that supposedly contains 50 bottles of a pharmaceutical while at the same time scanning each of those bottles to verify the contents. The problem is interference between the bottle-attached tags and the container-attached tags.

A Palo Alto, Ca., vendor claims to have concocted a simple workaround involving using UHF tags on the containers and HF tags on the individual products. Blue Vector Systems next week will announce its workaround, to be described as a dual-frequency RFID conveyor tunnel and positioned initially for the healthcare space. "An embedded Blue Vector Edge Manager in the tunnel manages the multiple sensors required and executes business rules in real-time as cases and items are scanned," according to a draft a company statement. "These rules can be used to remove cases from the line, to load EPC-compliant information into backend systems, to authenticate items with the original manufacturer, and to send advance shipping notices to supply chain partners. The tunnel can be configured and monitored via a web interface."

Although the system is being positioned to thwart drug counterfeiting--Blue Vector is working with the manufacturer of Viagra--their current approach doesn't attempt to identify tampering. As long as the number of tagged bottles is what it's supposed to be, it gets a greenlight. None of the individual bottle wrappers are, at this stage, tagged, theoretically permitting someone to replace the bottle's contents if they can get around packaging protections.