RFID and the Miracle of Life

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Nov 19, 2010 @ 01:11 PM

Delivers Insight into Fertility Cycles and Prevents Mistakes at IVF Labs

This week’s post is contributed by my friend Lucie…

DuoFertilitySince my children have been born, I have gladly forgotten all about the Basal Thermometer and the monthly regimens that went along with it. None of which were guaranteed to bring me closer to parenthood; just potentially increase my chances. Many people don’t realize that there’s more to getting pregnant than just watching the calendar every month – among a few other things! To complicate matters, if you were fortunate enough to calculate the precise window of opportunity for conception, you can’t assume it’ll be the same time the following month, or the month after. Add that to the list of life’s cruel jokes.

Cambridge Temperature Concepts in Cambridge, U.K. didn’t think the joke was any laughing matter. So, they developed an RFID-based system to help women more easily and accurately track their ovulation cycles. The European product is called DuoFertility.

The system contains a small waterproof module with a basal temperature sensor and a passive 125 kHz RFID inlay, a handheld RFID interrogator and a USB port. The module adheres to the skin and logs and stores thousands of temperature readings throughout the day. The same module can stay put up to 28 days; hence the waterproof element. A woman can also enter certain information such as ovulation indicators or results of other tests, such as hormone level tests that she might also be using. About one month's worth of data can be stored in the module's 2 megabytes of memory. Because it relies on a passive RFID tag to transmit the information, the battery is not necessary for data transfer.   

When the woman wants to download the temperature data, she holds the handheld reader (which can read through clothing) up to the module. The handheld device will indicate her fertility level on that day. And unlike the Basal Thermometer, it can predict fertility levels for the next five days. It can take a lot of the emotional drain out of trying to conceive.

Tracking fertility isn’t the only way RFID is helping couples conceive…that is conceive according to plan. According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in London, there were eight mix-ups in IVF clinics in 2008. That means eggs, sperm or an embryo used in an IVF procedure came from the wrong person. Apparently the mix-ups occur when items are mislabeled because of mistakes in the lab's verification procedures.

Research Instruments in the UK developed a system called IVF Witness. It uses small, plastic RFID tags to label dishes and vials that house the eggs, sperm and embryos. The tags contain a memory chip and a coiled copper radio antenna. Each tag is programmed with a unique ID code that is transmitted via the antenna when the tag is interrogated.

It constantly monitors the identity of the dishes and vials that are brought in close proximity of each other on an IVF lab bench. It sounds an alarm if, for example, eggs about to be introduced to sperm, are from the wrong person.

If RFID can prevent mistakes that have such devastating, life-lasting consequences, I wonder if it’s not long before it’s a federal regulation that all IVF clinics deploy it for identity tracking purposes. I’m sold.

[Image source: DuoFertility]

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Temperature Monitoring

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