Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is playing a crucial role for item-level tracing systems in healthcare scenarios. The pharmaceutical supply chain is a fascinating application context, where RFID can guarantee transparency in the drug flow, supporting both suppliers and consumers against the growing counterfeiting problem. In such a context, the choice of the most adequate RFID tag, in terms of shape, frequency, size and reading range, is crucial. The potential presence of items containing materials hostile to the electromagnetic propagation exasperates the problem. In addition, the peculiarities of the different RFID-based checkpoints make even more stringent the requirements for the tag. In this work, the performance of several commercial UHF RFID tags in each step of the pharmaceutical supply chain has been evaluated, confirming the expected criticality. On such basis, a guideline for the electromagnetic design of new high-performance tags capable to overcome such criticalities has been defined. Finally, driven by such guidelines, a new enhanced tag has been designed, realized and tested. Due to patent pending issues, the antenna shape is not shown. Nevertheless, the optimal obtained results do not lose their validity. Indeed, on the one hand they demonstrate that high performance item level tracing systems can actually be implemented also in critical operating conditions. On the other hand, they encourage the tag designer to follow the identified guidelines so to realize enhanced UHF tags.
Performance evaluationRadio frequency identification (RFID)Supply chainUltra-high frequency (UHF)Item level tracing