When Barcelona-based Aifos Solutions was tasked with developing a new RFID-based blood products tracking system for Spain’s Balearic Islands Blood and Tissue Bank (FBSTIB), they turned to Nordic ID for readers that operate in subarctic temperatures.
BARCODE SCANNING FOUND TO BE PROBLEMATIC
Barcode technology has proven less than optimal for FBSTIB staff
at the organization's processing center on the island of Mallorca.
It has meant unpacking entire crates of frozen blood bags and
scanning or reading each bag in turn-no small task with 30,000 bags
packed 80 to a crate…in a deep freezer with an average temperature
of -35°C (-31F). Finding the right bag can take so long that staff
members often take crates out of the deep freezer to search
for the right bag, putting plasma in jeopardy of thawing.
Blood extracted from donors at any of several mobile units in the
Balearic Islands follows a complicated journey, each step of which
needs to be tracked to ensure that red blood cells, plasma or
platelets reach the right patient in perfect condition. Blood is
first put through a series of tests at FBSTIB's processing center
in Palma de Mallorca. Next, whole blood is separated into plasma,
red blood cells or platelets, which are stored either in a deep
freezer, a refrigeration unit or, in the case of platelets, in an
agitator. Then, when a hospital sends over blood parameters, the
blood bank has to respond and manage its scarce resources to
satisfy demands as quickly as possible.
"The deep freezer is most problematic for barcode scanning,"
says Esteve Jané, Aifos Solutions' COO."Frost buildup and wrinkled
labels make an already slow barcode scanning process more
Each bag is tagged with up to six barcodes as it passes through
the stages of its journey. These all need to be scanned at each
step, and all key data also needs to be readable as text printed on
the labels, in keeping with the International Society of Blood
Transfusion 128 standard.
RFID MAKES BLOOD TRACKING FASTER, SAFER,
To make the blood tracking and location process faster, safer
and more transparent, FBSTIB chose Aifos Solutions, a
Barcelona-based RFID systems specialist, to help them move from
barcode to RFID. Aifos in turn selected Alien Technologies'
Generation 2 RFID chip for tags and Nordic ID PL 3000 UHF RFID
mobile computers, used to find the blood bags that staff members
The new RFID tags will shortcut the contact scanning and visual
reading process by storing all information-including a record of
ambient temperature over time-on each bag's re-recordable 512-bit
RFID tag. Equipped with Nordic ID mobile computers, staff members
are able to quickly find blood bags in a fast-paced, frenetic
environment by scanning up to 400 bags per second and drilling down
to see all the information associated with any bag.
The total system consists of three parts. The first consists of
fixed RFID scanners installed at the entrances of freezers and
storage rooms that record what blood products are put into and
taken out of storage. These installed scanners are integrated with
the FBSTIB's blood data bank, ensuring total accuracy in asset
The second part involves Nordic ID PL3000 UHF RFID mobile
computers, used to find the blood bags that staff members
need; and the third part is the tags that contain a re-recordable
Generation 2 RFID chip that permits addition of data at each step
in a blood bag's process.
"The system we have developed promises to pay for itself very
quickly in reduced operating costs once the full program launches
in August 2010," notes Jané. "It will also significantly increase
safety," he adds, "because donor ID cannot be erased, and other
memory banks can only be accessed by those with the correct
passwords. So the information on a tag is complete, and
depending on your level of authorization, you can read or modify
only certain levels of it."
As well as increasing safety, the RFID system will help make
better use of short-lived blood product resources. Today, if a
30-day old bag is requested, staff members may send a 28-day
old bag that fits the description in order to end their search more
quickly, increasing the chance that the 30-day old blood will
expire before it is used. But with the RFID system in place,
inventory will be tracked in a transparent fashion, expediting the
process and ensuring that the optimal blood bag is quickly found
and put to use.
NORDIC ID: GREAT PRODUCT, SUPPORT,
Working with Nordic ID is a new relationship for Aifos, one the
company chose based on equipment tests, but also for strategic
reasons. "To tell you the truth, one of the reasons we chose Nordic
ID is because they are Finnish," says Esteve Jané. "This project is
a very important one for Aifos, and we couldn't afford problems
with equipment orders and support. When a Finnish company says an
order will arrive in ten days, you can expect it there on the
afternoon of the ninth day."
In addition to the mobile computer's light weight, ability to
carry a single charge all day and operate at -35°C, Jané also noted
that it was the only mobile computer on the market that would
indicate a tag's distance from the reader, making locating much
easier. But in working with Nordic ID, what Aifos appreciated most
was the company's level of technical support. "At the outset we
needed to know that the mobile computer would work in subarctic
temperatures," says Jané, "and none of the companies we talked with
had tested for that. Nordic ID support personnel did some
investigation and explained how, technically, the Nordic ID PL3000
would stand up to the job. That convinced us, and since then
support has been excellent."
A link to a video of the case.