Driven by government requirements aimed at securing the integrity of the healthcare system in the United States, the pharmaceutical industry has been piloting trials of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag technology as a way to secure the prescription drug supply chain via an electronic pedigree. Beyond meeting legislative requirements, RFID track-and-trace trials have strong commercial promise to reduce counterfeit drugs and boost supply chain efficiency.
It is widely believed that the pharmaceutical pilots will lead the way to widespread deployment of Item-Level Tagging (ILT). What has worked to track and trace inventory at the pallet-and-case level, however, is not optimal when dispensing item-level products.
The crux of the matter: A centralized, online authentication scheme adds significant cost and complexity to RFID authentication. A decentralized approach, however, can provide both item-level authentication and privacy in real-time, without full-time access to a centralized database, which is more flexible and cost effective. A decentralized approach, based on Elliptic Curve Pintsov-Vanstone Signatures (ECPVS), extends the benefits of ILT where online access is too costly or not possible.
|The tag data structure for the TI-VeriSign trial is shown for a 2000-bit ISO 15693 RFID tag. Each tag is factory-programmed with a Unique Identifier, providing a critical element of the digital signature.|
Retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores have been early adopters of RFID tagging technology for improved supply chain management. As RFID goes mainstream, EPCglobal, an international non-profit aimed at achieving worldwide standardization and adoption of electronic product codes (EPCs), is driving RFID standardization, with a comprehensive numbering system and centralized IT infrastructure intended to deliver RFID benefits to the supply chain on a global scale.
EPCglobal enables electronic supply chain management using track-and-trace of shipments at the container and pallet level, with a uniform EPC that can be used by OEMs, shippers, distributors and retailers to manage inventory flow.
In addition to supply chain management, EPCglobal is addressing the growing counterfeit product problem. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security seized more than $93 million in counterfeit products in 2005, according to government statistics. Counterfeit products can put the public at risk, with pharmaceuticals a special concern.