Traditionally, text and images were printed on pharmaceutical products to convey important information. In recent years, the use of smart labels allows the developer to convey a greater amount of information about the product to the consumers, without the need for additional packaging space. It is worth noting that smart labels contain a transponder code which can be read by sophisticated devices, including radio frequency identification device (RFID Smart Labels) tags and near-field communication (NFC Tags) chips. While most smartphones can read NFC Tags, RFID Smart Labels can only be read by specialized receivers. Further, smart labels play a critical role in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals. Some of the ways in which smart labels can aid the pharmaceutical production process include enhancing productivity and accuracy, managing inventory, and maintaining the quality of products.
Types of Smart Label
There are various types of smart labels which function in different frequency ranges and eases the workload of healthcare professionals and stakeholders in this domain. Details related to key types of smart labels have been mentioned in the subsequent section.
Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID)
RFID Smart Labels function in conjunction with an RFID reader, a data processing system, and a tag, with an embedded identification chip. The reader is an electronic system, with one or more antennas that transmit radio waves and read signals from RFID Smart Labels. In addition to the features of typical barcode labels, RFID Smart Labels offer numerous advantages. Since these labels use radio waves, scanning them does not require a clear line of sight. As a result, products are not required to be unpacked from their containers in order to be scanned and multiple products may be scanned at once, thereby, saving time.
Moreover, based on the frequency ranges employed to convey data, RFID Smart Labels may be classified into three categories: low frequency (LF), high frequency (HF) and ultra-high frequency (UHF).More details on the aforementioned categories have been discussed below:
LF RFID Smart Labels systems have a scan range of up to 10 cm and operate in the 30 KHz to 300 KHz band. Although they operate better in the presence of metal or liquids, as compared to other technologies, they have a shorter read range and a slower data read rate (which may interfere with other types of RFID tag transmissions).
HF RFID Smart Labels systems provide reading distances of 10 cm to 1 m and operate in the 3 MHz to 30 MHz frequency range. The applications of HF RFID include tracking surgical tools and secured access control.
UHF RFID Smart Labels systems provide quicker data transfer rates, read ranges of up to 12 m, and operate in the frequency range between 300 MHz and 3 GHz. Although they are more susceptible to electromagnetic interference, metals, liquids and other impurities, recent design advancements have helped in alleviating some of these issues. Due to their lower manufacturing costs, UHF tags are more frequently used in applications such as pharmaceutical anti-counterfeiting, inventory tracking and patient tracking.
Near-Field Communication (NFC Tags)
NFC Tags are a type of RFID Smart Labels, which is a contactless technology used for communication, that operates in a frequency range centered on 13.56 MHz. This technology enables users to wirelessly transfer identity data to the recipient for security and tracking purposes. Further, NFC Tags technology is utilized in a variety of fields, including manufacturing, medical, banking and finance sectors, due to its ability to be is used within a defined range and reasonably safe nature. NFC Tags chips may be included into product tags, labels and marketing materials, providing customers with an easy approach to extend their brand experiences into the digital world. NFC Tags are also used to point customers to websites where they can find out more about the product or the brand than can be put on a label.
These smart labels thus assist in preventing counterfeit pharmaceutical / medical products coming into the market. The technologically advanced tags and chips are seeing increased adoption in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry owing to their several advantages.
Tag Manufacturers Are Developing Labelling Solutions for the Healthcare Industry:
Over 90 NFC Tags and RFID Smart Labels companies are developing and launching tags that are suitable to the requirements of the healthcare industry. These NFC tags and FRID Smart Labels are being used for tracking of patients, medicines, inventory, samples, instruments and more. Companies have launched tamper-evident, luminescent, small sized labels that are suited to the needs of the healthcare industry.