Fujitsu Electronics

Fujitsu Semiconductor: FRAM Allows RFID Usage in Health Care

Articles | By Fujitsu Electronics | 04 December 2013
Blood bag equipped with an FRAM RFID tag by Fujitsu Semiconductor Blood bag equipped with an FRAM RFID tag by Fujitsu Semiconductor Photo: Fujitsu Semiconductor

RFID in health care

FRAM is the non-volatile memory technology of the future

RFID labels (so called „tags“) based on Ferroelectric Random Access Memory (FRAM) are ideal for gapless device and equipment tracking as they do not lose any data when exposed to gamma particles in contrast to EEPROM tags. FRAM is the non-volatile memory technology of the future, combining S-/DRAM and EEPROM/Flash advantages. Through combination with RFID technology a great deal can be achieved particularly in healthcare.

By Jozef Miho, product marketing engineer at Fujitsu Semiconductor Europe

UDI project: duel between RFID and barcode

Machine-readable identification as well as plain writing on products goes along with the global UDI-Projekt (Unique Device Identification) which is to be introduced step by step in Europe by 2018. UDI is supposed to counter counterfeit problems and to ensure traceability as well as market surveillance.

2D and 3D barcode labels (EAS = Electronic Article Surveillance) are often used for identification purposes in tracking and tracing procedures. However the necessity of optical reading is a major disadvantage. As a consequence cardboard packages have to be opened and every product needs to be scanned individually. As this is quite impractical, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology is used in modern logistics processes. By using electromagnetic waves which penetrate the material, multiple tags can be read simultaneously thanks to anti collision techniques. Through strategic antenna placement every article equipped with a tag can be identified, tracked and even written on fully automatic.

Another advantage of RFID compared with barcode is the ability of storing additional data on the tags. During the production process the same antennas which are used for identification can store additional data such as product type, product quantity, production date or best-before date. In the field of health care production procedure documentation is particularly important as mistakes could threaten the patient's life. Authorities keep monitoring that severe directives on this subject are complied with. The written tags can record time and duration of sterilization, delivery date but also the peak temperature in refrigerated transports of blood reserves for instance.

Storing relevant data on the tags furthermore allows decentralized data storage. For identification with EAS every read and write access requires data base connection, leading to higher backend infrastrucure expenses. Decentralized data storage simplifies and speeds up product handling and helps to avoid mistakes and to save costs. The option of changing data on the tags all the time allows the implementation of an effective copy protection. In order to identify original goods, terminals can identify a key on the tag for instance which is only programmed when the product is handed over. In this way the health care industry can counter the risk of counterfeit inferior drugs.

Combining of FRAM and RFID provides the option of using a technology for the whole life cycle. Barcodes do not allow writing and EEPROM technology does not survive sterilization. FRAM is the key enabling RFID usage in medicine.

FRAM RFID by Fujitsu

Fujitsu supplies FRAM RFID ICs in HF (13,56MHz, ISO15693) and UHF (860MHz - 960MHz, ISO18000, EPC Class 1, Gen 2) frequency bands with different memory sizes (up to 8 Kbyte user memory). By using fast FRAM the theoretical maximum which can be achieved with HF technology can be achieved in practice with these ICs. In both frequency bands pure RFID products as well as dual interface products are available. Dual interface products are available as pure Die or in package.

Practical benefits

Cost pressure in health care often results in thin personnel cover and overworked staff – breeding gound for human error. Using RFID and implementing automatic checks the situation can be improved in different terms.

Infusion bag fasteners could contain small tags opening the valve only after verification by the reader located at the patient's bed. Thus it could be avoided that the patient receives the wrong medicine or blood bag. Coolers can be equipped with antennas permanently checking the blood reserves' temperature so that expensive reprocessing operations only need to be carried out when really necessary.

By means of RFID localization expensive instruments could be surveilled in real time and found quickly, allowing more efficient use and cost reduction. Old files yet not digitalized could be found more quickly, too, and data collection, recording real waiting times for instance could be used to improve efficiency. RFID combined with sensors for body functions such as blood sugar levels or heart frequency would enable patient to measure such data easily but also make an emergency call if these body functions reach critical levels.

Everything mentioned above might sound like science fiction now but it is already part of the practice in the US. Implementing and automizing such processes can not only reduce expenses in terms of time, work and costs, but also save human lifes. First insurance companies have realized the potential and offer discounts if the damage risk can be minimized using RFID technology. Thus RFRAM RFID helps to face the big challenge of health care – Saving lifes and remaining affordable at the same time.

The complete article was published in the November issue 2013 of the magazine "RFID im Blick".

Last modified on Wednesday, 04 December 2013 12:23