Japanese company to conduct first medical waste trial using RFID

Kureha Environmental Engineering and IBM use leading technology to reduce impact on public health and environment

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Tokyo, Japan - 14 Jul 2004: . . . Kureha Environmental Engineering Co. Ltd., a leading waste management company in Japan, will begin verification tests on the traceability of medical waste using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. This is the first medical waste traceability testing in Asia Pacific and will be done in collaboration with IBM Japan at IBM's RFID Solution Center in Yamato, Japan.

The verification testing will check the effectiveness of RFID tagging in tracking medical waste materials as they are moved for disposal. The primary goal for the RFID system is to prevent illegal waste disposal by creating a traceability system for medical waste with a number of different hospitals and transportation companies in Japan.

Amendments to Japan's Waste Disposal and Public Cleansing Law have resulted in stricter regulations on illegal dumping of industrial waste. Under the latest regulations, not only would individuals committing acts of illegal dumping be punished, but the businesses (such as hospitals or plants) where the waste originated from would also be incriminated. This revision to the law has made businesses increasingly aware and mindful of the importance of closely monitoring discarded waste to ensure that it is processed and disposed of safely.

Medical waste is extremely hazardous and needs to be handled with care as it is transported from medical institutions to the final licensed waste processing site.

Containers, (made from different materials such as cardboard and plastic) which are regularly used by Kureha Environmental Engineering, will be equipped with RFID tags, and signal-reading antennas will be installed at IBM's RFID Solution Centre. This testing will investigate signal sensitivity and read-out precision parameters and will enable the evaluation of issues, such as optimum RFID tag mounting methods and an analysis of the influence of obstacles.

The trial is expected to be completed by early August and then, if successful, onsite testing will take place at Kureha Environmental Engineering's waste processing site. When the effectiveness of RFID tagging is confirmed the company plans to equip Kureha General Hospital, in Fukushima, Japan, with the RFID technology to track their discarded medical waste.

IBM is working with a number of leading retail and manufacturing organizations globally on implementing RFID solutions. IBM was recently selected by the U.S. Department of Defense to help manage and support the development of policy on the use of RFID tags by 43,000 defense suppliers. On behalf of the International Post Corporation (IPC), IBM is using RFID technology to constantly track and measure the quality of mail delivery worldwide to provide IPC with feedback on whether 36 countries in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific are delivering the mail on time.

In Asia Pacific, IBM is building an RFID system for Philips Semiconductors division manufacturing and distribution facilities in Taiwan and Hong Kong.