Role of RFID in Industry
The basic principle of RFID, i.e. the reflection of power as
the method of communication, was first described in 1948.
One of the first applications of RFID technology was
“Identify Friend or Foe” (IFF) detection deployed by the
British Royal Air Force during World War II. The IFF
system allowed radar operators and pilots to automatically
distinguish between friendly and enemy aircraft using RF
signals. The main objective was to prevent “friendly fire”
and to aid the effective interception of enemy aircraft. In
the following, the applications of RFID technology in
logistics and supply chain management and the
pharmaceutical industry are discussed.
Rapid Adoption in Logistics and Supply Chain
The rapid increase in the use of RFID technology in the
retail industry has been driven by major players such as
Gillette, Tesco, Wal-Mart and Metro AG in Germany.
Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has started deploying
RFID applications and implementing new procedures in
some of its distribution centres and stores. By January 1st,
2005, Wal-Mart required its top 100 suppliers to put RFID
tags on shipping crates and pallets, and by January 1st,
2006 this was expanded to its next 200 largest suppliers.
The aim of the applications is to reduce out-of-stocks by
providing visibility into the location of goods using RFID
tags. Out-of-stock items that are RFID-tagged have been
found to be replenished three times faster than before, and
the amount of out-of-stock items that have to be manually
filled has been cut by 10 percent.
Gillette and Tesco implemented an item-level RFID project
in the United Kingdom. Gillette razor blade cartridges were
tagged with RFID tags and Tesco, the retailer, used an RFID
reader embedded smart shelf system to search for items
in the field in order to take on-shelf inventories.
Metro AG has implemented an item-level RFID trial in its
future stores. RFID tags are attached to each Gillette razor
blade, Proctor and Gamble (P&G) shampoos, Kraft cream
cheese and DVDs. In addition to enhancing stock
replenishment operations, consumers also benefit.
Shopping trolleys which automatically update shopping
lists and self check-out systems have also been
implemented using this technology. This demonstrates
how RFID can revamp the retail industry and provide new
With better tag and reader technology, declines in the cost
of RFID tagging and the release of information sharing
platforms, it is likely that RFID will be widely adopted
across the supply chain.
Counterfeit Prevention in Pharmaceutical Industry
As a means of fighting the growth of counterfeit drugs, in
Feb. 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
endorsed the use of RFID technology to help track and
trace pharmaceuticals securely and accurately from
manufacturer to distributor to retailer. The regulations
will be lifted until December 2007 with the primary goal
of this action being to boost adoption of RFID technology.
The adoption of RFID enables detailed electronic history
(e-Pedigree) of product shipments to be automatically
produced, making it harder for counterfeit goods to enter
a supply chain. In addition, adding RFID should also raise
the complexity and cost of trying to make counterfeit
products appear to be genuine.
Several major pharmaceutical manufacturers have
incorporated RFID into pharmaceutical packaging as a
counterfeit prevention measure. For example, during the
packaging of each bottle of Viagra, a label with a passive
high-frequency (13.56 MHz) tag is applied. The drug maker - Pfizer, has integrated a tag application and verification
process for Viagra sold in the United States. In 2005, Purdue
Pharma conducted a pilot programme to secure the flow
of prescription drugs from manufacturers to distributors
and on to pharmacies by providing a system for tracking
and tracing medicines. Accompanying electronic pedigree
technologies, RFID tags are placed under the labels of bottles
of its pain killer tablets, which are shipped to the drug
wholesaler, H.D. Smith, who receives the product,
authenticates the pedigree information using digital
signatures, certifies the pedigree and makes sure each bottle
of medication matches the corresponding serial number
on the bottle’s RFID tag.
IDTechEx’s report indicates the worldwide market for
RFID tags and systems in health care will rise sharply from
$90 million this year to $2.1 billion by 2016. Much of the
growth is expected to be spurred on by the item-level
tagging of drugs.
Our RFID Applications
With funding from the Innovation and Technology Commission of the Government of the Hong Kong Special
Administrative Region, and support from various industrial collaborators, the Department of Industrial
and Systems Engineering of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) launched in 2005 a project titled “The
Development of RFID-based Business Solutions for Counterfeit Prevention, Physical Asset Management (PAM), and
Commercial Applications (開發應用於防偽、有形資產管理及商業應用的射頻識別技術及解決方案)”.
Based on the deliverables of this ITF project, a case book entitled "Realizing the potential of RFID in counterfeit prevention, physical asset management, and business applications: case studies of early adopters (RFID在有形資產管理、防偽和商業應用：先導應用案例研究)" was published in 2007. This publication summarizes our completed projects that demonstrate the benefits RFID-enabled solutions can offer.
It also aims at providing a vehicle for sharing our knowledge and experience gained from these projects. In particular,
the cases are presented in three chapters, each of which addresses one of three types of application, namely “Physical
Asset Management”, “Logistics”, and “Counterfeit Prevention and Healthcare Management”. The last chapter of this
book introduces the patented RFID-enabled technologies developed at PolyU.
If you are interested to our solutions, please click_here to join us. As a member, you can get a copy of casebook.
(English version & Traditional Chinese version)