RFID innovation has blue cheese in its sights

By Charlotte Eyre

Radio frequency identification (RFID) has now been adapted to track Spanish blue cheese as it travels along the food chain.

A team of scientists from the University of Dortmund department of logistics, said yesterday that they have developed a method of tracking and tracing the production of “Queso Cabrales”, a blue cheese from northern Spain.As stricter laws force companies to invest in ways of tracking the food they sell, RFID is becoming a necessity not only for large, international companies, but also a for smaller, family-owned businesses.Cheese-makers using the new system will be able to put an RFID transponder on the product, which is then replaced by a serial number during packaging.“The goal of the project is to develop a reliable labelling for each individual cheese which is applied at the first stage of production – filling the raw milk into the mould –  survives the ripening process and finally follows the cheese on the wrapping into food shops,” said Thomas Jansen, who led the team in its experiments.

Customers purchasing the cheese can then use the serial number to track the stages of its journey to their table. The number will allow them to identify which farmer supplied the milk, when the cheese was produced and for how long the cheese was in the ripening cellar.

During the development of the new system, the scientists had to deal with problems such as using RFID on fresh cheese, and creating a transponder that survives the ripening process, Jansen said.

RFID was created in response to the EU guideline 178/2002, he added. This legislation stipulates that all companies in the food and feeding stuff industry have to completely track and document the flow of their ingredients, including the food as well as materials and wrappings coming into contact with the food.

“And these European guidelines don’t make exceptions for the small farmers in Asturias”, he said.

RFID uses a wireless system that helps enterprises track products, parts, expensive items and temperature-and time-sensitive goods. Transponders, or RFID tags, are attached to objects. The tag will identify itself when it detects a signal from a reader that emits a radio frequency transmission.

Each RFID tag carries information on it such as a serial number, model number, colour, place of assembly or other types of data. When these tags pass through a field generated by a compatible reader, they transmit this information back to the reader, thereby identifying the object.

The use of RDID along the food chain is set to rise to $5.8bn (€4.3bn) in 2017, and it will become most important new food technology, according to a new report by IDTechEx.

Thirsty Koreans fight duff whisky with mobiles

Bottle-squealer tech stops you hiding the good stuff

Published Wednesday 1st August 2007 10:48 GMT

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What’s the best way to tell if you’re being given duff whisky? Ask your mobile phone, of course. At least, it is if you’re in South Korea.

The Korea Times last week reported that the South Korean government intends to crack down on fraudulent whisky sales by making producers put Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chips in premium bottles.

“Starting next year, we plan to recommend local distillers incorporate RFID chips to their 21-year-old whiskey blends,” Assistant Minister of Information and Communication Yang Jun-cheol told the Times.

“Then people will easily be able to check through their cell phones whether or not any whiskey is genuine. Plus, the tag will show other data like the distiller and the production date,” Yang added.

This seems like lunacy at first, as the RFID chip would be attached to the bottle not the booze. Unscrupulous bartenders could still siphon off the good stuff and replace it with swill, and their luckless thirsty dupes’ attempts to expose them using mobiles would be unavailing.

Presumably some crooked retailers, in the habit of putting fake labels on bottles of cheap rotgut, might be frustrated by this ploy. That said, the scoundrels could always use mobiles to find empty tagged bottles in rubbish bins, fill them up again with cheap pop and fool phone-toting connoisseurs with impunity.

To be fair to the Koreans, they don’t actually seem all that bothered about people who’ll buy top-end Scotch but need a mobile phone to tell them whether it’s pukka. Twenty-year whisky is being pushed for tagging simply because it’s expensive, and so the cost of the RFID tech might be worthwhile. As more chips get made, costs will fall and more products will become eligible.

“An RFID chip sold for 2,000 won (£1) in 2004 and the price fell to as low as 300 won (15p) now. However, it is still too expensive to use broadly,” Yang said.

“The government looks to channel 311.9 billion won (£155m) to 16 RFID-related projects through 2012. This will prompt the shift to RFID,” he added.

This suggests worrying social implications for this technology. Say you’re visiting a friend’s house, and he pours you a large gold medal. For whatever reason, you don’t see the bottle – perhaps he uses a decanter, perhaps the drinks get brought through from the kitchen. Do you sneakily use your phone to scan his house for RFID tags? Imagine the horror as you taste cheap blended crap in your glass but detect several bottles of aged single malt in the swine’s drinks cabinet.

And imagine the horrors of the future, once Yang’s frightful government schemes have come to fruition and all kinds of stuff is tagged up. Intending merely to spy on your host’s liquor supplies, you inadvertently scoop in full details of his afternoon purchases at the marital-aids emporium or the specialist lingerie supplier.

Even the famously unbothered-about-privacy Koreans might find they’ve got a tiger economy by the tail here.

The Korea Times report is here

Noticias sobre RFID

Westgate Logistics Focuses on RFID
RFID Journal – Melville,NY,USA
By Beth Bacheldor July 17, 2007–Following a successful RFID pilot with multiple business partners using RFID to track shipments of wooden pallets in
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RFID and barcodes will work together
ElectronicsWeekly.com – UK
by Melanie Reynolds An increasing number of mandates and the adoption of standards is driving the use of RFID technology, but this does not mean the end for
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