RFID Monitors Beer - InformationWeek

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RFID Monitors Beer

Sun Microsystems is working with an undisclosed beer distributor to install an application based on radio frequency identification technology on cases and kegs. The RFID tags, which will help track the age and temperature of the beer, is a sign of product tracking to come.

No one likes to buy spoiled beer. That's why Sun Microsystems Inc. is working with an undisclosed beer distributor to install an application based on radio frequency identification technology on cases and kegs.

The goal is to track the age and temperature of the beer that is sometimes returned by distributors. Beer would ship to the retailers but it would never make it to the store shelf fast enough. "If the beer sits too long either in extreme hot or cold temperatures it could go bad," said Julie Sarbacker, director of the RFID business unit at Sun. "They sent a second shipment of product to our facility in Dallas for testing within the last quarter."

Distributors' hope RFID will ensure food items are fresh. By 2015, about 900 billion food items could be RFID tagged, and 824 million livestock will have more sophisticated, expensive tags attached to their ear or implanted in them, according to Research and Markets.

Recent outbreaks such as foot and mouth disease, mad cow disease and avian flu plus contamination recalls and bioterrorism are driving new legislation on food traceability. The European Union's 2002 laws that require traceability went into affect in January and apply to all food and feed and business operators. Food processors are required to trace food, feed and ingredients through all stages of production, processing and distribution, the report said.

There is also legislation pending in the United States. Identec Solutions LLC, a provider of active long-range RFID systems, on Friday also rolled out a wireless temperature logging RFID tag targeted at food processors and handlers who must comply with new European Union requirements and pending U.S. traceability legislation.

This wireless temperature logger samples, time stamps and stores up to 13,000 temperature readings in memory that can be retrieved on demand using a handheld PDA or dock-door reader at distances of up to 300 feet. An optional tag feature is an external temperature probe that monitors and logs the internal temperature of food product during processing and cool-down.

In other news, the market demand for retail RFID technology is also soaring. Revenue in the RFID market for retail totaled $400 million in 2004, and estimates put the technology at about $4.2 billion by 2011, according to a report released Thursday by research firm Frost & Sullivan.

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