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Case Studies

Accurately Tracking Sensitive Biological Samples in High Density Environment

Criminal investigations are won and lost on the reliability of sensitive biological samples, so when an agency of the federal government wanted a better system for tracking and warehousing large numbers of said samples, they needed an RFID solution that was incredibly secure, accurate and complied with challenging dimensional and proximal specifications.

RFID could allow the federal agency to make a quantum leap in speed and accuracy when storing and retrieving biological samples, if a method for tagging the storage boxes and reading the tags could be developed. But several challenges stood in the way.

The samples are stored in small metal-coated bags which are impervious to water vapor to prevent degradation, so a mount-on-metal tag is required. However, these types of tags are either fairly thick or have a large footprint to produce a read range that extends beyond a few inches.

The sample bags are also small and thin, and stored in very high densities for space and cost efficiency. Existing off-the-shelf UHF mount-on-metal tags were either too thick or too large to suit this application. To overcome this problem, the agency and its software partner turned to Vizinex to develop a custom solution.

Custom Development Delivers Sleek Solution

Vizinex was able to quickly develop a tag that met all of the physical requirements of the application. The new tag measured just 0.4” x 1.4” x 0.060”, had a read range of 4” and could easily be applied to the small bags. It also had the durability and reliability required to function properly over time and met the cost objectives of the agency.

However, a new problem arose when the tagged samples were packed into their storage boxes cheek-by-jowl. Close proximity is a challenging communication problem for RF antennas in general; mutual interference leads to shadowing and corruption of signals. The issue is exacerbated for passive RFID tags as the signal must not only carry information to the tags, but also provide sufficient power to keep each tag functioning.

Although the tags met all of the physical requirements of the application and functioned well on the bags individually, the device developed to read the tags was unable to meet the speed and accuracy requirements when faced with samples packed 400 per box.

Fortunately, the tags were built on Vizinex’s patented ViziCore technology which made is easy and well within budget for the agency and their software provider to work closely with Vizinex to develop variations on the original tag.

In an iterative process, the tag, the reader mechanism and the software were adapted to create a robust system that functioned more effectively in the high-density environment and that met all the customer’s requirements—without breaking the bank or wrecking the schedule for the implementation.

The result is a system that allows the federal agency to accurately manage millions of samples in a single facility, including taking precise inventory of 400 individual samples within a single box in less than 30 seconds—all without opening the box.

If you have a challenging RFID tag application, contact us today and realize the benefits of Vizinex RFID.

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