Frequently Asked Questions

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a technology whereby a reader can wirelessly query one or more uniquely identifiable tags.
Typically, the reader transmits a signal and listens for a tag-modified echo. The differences between the transmitted and received signal encode information from the tag. Tags that are in the range of the reader can be requested to provide encoded information, one example of which is an EPC (see below).

  1. Samples do not need to be removed from a box to be located. 
  2. Samples can be read through ice and frost - vision based 2D barcodes often require an alcohol wipe to eliminate ice and frost from the bottom of the box before reading.
  3. Freezer efficiency is increased because boxes can be filled without the fear of mixing samples from different projects.

Yes, the short version is that BioTillion tags adhere to the EPC Gen2 standard.   

In 2006 the International Standards Organization (ISO) approved the EPCglobal UHF Class 1 Generation 2 standard - or EPC Gen2 for short.  The ISO designation is ISO/IEC 18000-6c and is titled  "Information technology - Radio frequency identification for item management - Part 6: Parameters for air interface communications at 860 MHz to 960 MHz".   

The EPC Gen2 standard supports several different data formats. We use the SGTIN-96 format, which was created for cases in which each individual physical object must be assigned a unique serial number.  This serial number is called an Electronic Product Code (EPC). For more details, check out the GS1 website.

BioTillion is a registered member of GS1, the international organization that developes standards for barcode and RFID technologies.  They also assign company codes to members.

The EPC Gen2 standard dictates every bit in the EPC.  The EPC includes the following information: a header, the chip manufacturer, the chip model, our Company Prefix (CP) assigned to us by GS1, an Item Reference Number (IRN) for the vials and a Tag Identifier (TID). These numbers are then combined in a very specific way defined by the EPC Gen2 standard. The end result is a 96-bit EPC that is unique to every vial.

The chip manufacturers are responsible for the uniqueness of the resulting bit sequence. An agreement among RFID chip manufacturers prevents any overlap of the number space, so even chips produced by different companies can never have the same EPCs.

The short answer is that the EPCs are reported in hexadecimal (also called hex) format by default.   

A 96-bit EPC is a long binary number, for example: 001100000010100000110010110000100001100001001100000000100010100100111001100100001111010000011101.  

For convenience, this long binary number is usually represented in hexadecimal (base 16, or hex) form.  In hex format the digits {0,1 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9} in hex format are represented by the familiar  {0, 1 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9} characters, while the values {10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15} are represented by the characters {A, B, C, D, E, F} or (a, b, c, d, e, f} respectively.  To represent a binary number in hex format 4 bits are be grouped together to define a single hex digit.  Four binary bits can have 16 values:  0000, 0001, 0010 ... 1110, 1111.  These values are represented in hexadecimal as 0 to F.  So 0000 is represented by 0,  1001 is represented by 9 and 1101 is represented by D.  

Thus the long binary number above becomes 302832C2184C02293990F41D in hex. Finally, to aid readability a hyphen is often added between every 2 characters.  So, all of these represent exactly the same EPC:

1.   001100000010100000110010110000100001100001001100000000100010100100111001100100001111010000011101,

2.   302832C2184C02293990F41D,

3.   30-28-32-C2-18-4C-02-29-39-90-F4-1D.

As we stated above, we use a particular flavor of the EPC Gen2 standard called SGTIN-96.  This is used where each individual physical object is to be assigned its own serial number.  While we use SGTIN-96, there are other acceptable data formats – some with different bit lengths. 

To remove any possibility of confusion, we have to state explicitly what protocol was used to interpret the RFID information sent from the tag.   To do that we prepend a 16-bit Protocol Control word (PC) - that is reported by any RFID tag reader - to the actual EPC.  So, for our SGTIN-96 encoded tags we record and provide the user with a number which is the PC plus EPC  which is 16 + 96 = 112 bits or 28 hexadecimal characters in length.  Thus, using the example above a tag with EPC 30-28-32-C2-18-4C-02-29-39-90-F4-1D will be reported as 30-00-30-28-32-C2-18-4C-02-29-39-90-F4-1D.

Only the last 38 bits come from the serial number. Because of the grouping explained above, these 38 bits are contained in the last 10 hex bits of the EPC. The 10 rightmost characters in the example above, 29-39-90-F4-1D, contain the 38-bit serial number (and an additional 2 bits from the Item Reference Number assigned by BioTillion). These two bits and all of the leftmost characters, 30-00-30-28-32-C2-18-4C-02, typically do not change from vial to vial. Thus, if a user would designate the unchanging part of the EPC (30-00-30-28-32-C2-18-4C-02 in the example above), by the letter Q, for example, then a short form of this particular tag ID can be written on a label as Q293990F41D which is only 11 characters long instead of 30-00-30-28-32-C2-18-4C-02-29-39-90-F4-1D which is 41 characters long.

However,  it should be noted that the 30-00-30-28-32-C2-18-4C-02 part of the EPC could change if we introduce new tag types, for example.  So any scheme intended to abbreviate the EPC should represent the left most characters with a known token.  If the number represented by the "Q" should change, another token can be used instead of the "Q".

An RFID reader, roughly speaking, has two parts, the reader electronics and an antenna. Using a properly designed antenna, BioTillion tags can be read with any reader that complies with the ISO/IEC 18000-6 standard. For example, our tags can be read with Austria Micro Systems' Leo and the Impinj Indy R2000 readers. We have used these readers routinely during our R&D efforts. This capability provides Biorepository and Biobank owners the assurance that identification of their samples can survive technological and business circumstances that can change over the years  

The BioTillion inserts we produce today (May 2013) fit Wheaton vials. We have successfully tested our retrofit solution (not yet in production) on Nalgene, Nunc, Corning, VWR, Sarstedt and Greiner vials.  If you are interested in adding our tags to your vials please contact us .

he RF energy deposition in the sample is extremely small. Our measurements show that there is no measurable difference between sample (2 ml of standard saline) warmup during continuous RFID scanning and no scanning at all. 

Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) are software packages that facilitate sample tracking, workflow management, document control, instrumentation control, data exchange, etc. in a laboratory environment. BioTillion integrates with LIMS packages to transfer box maps for updating and verifying the biobank / biorepository database.

This list is expanding all the time. As of May 2013 the list includes

  1.     FreezerPro (RuRo, Inc.)
  2. Several other proprietary sample tracking packages
  3. LabCollector (AgileBio)
  4. PACS (Black and Veetch)
  5. Freezerworks (Dataworks Development, Inc. - in development),

Not yet, but we can arrange PayPal invoicing if you wish to pay by credit card.

Longer than most of us.

After programming the EPC of each tag, we read each one many times during testing. Every single tag is tested repeatedly before shipment.  This is done both before and after repeatedly cycling the tags to ultra-low temperatures. Tags with weak signals or unreliable reads are rejected. 

The short answer is theoretical yes but practically no - let us explain.

In general, modern EPC Gen 2 RFID chips ( e.g. the Monza 5 ) come with at least two types of memory: (a) A Tag IDentifier, or TID and (b) Electronic Product Code or EPC.

The TID is hard wired into the tag during production and cannot be changed by anyone.  It contains information about the tag model, the chip manufacturer and a unique serial number.  It uniquely identifies each individual tag.  In theory, and as far as we know in practice, no two EPC Gen 2 tags will ever have the same TID.  It is possible to read the TID but it has no error detection or other safeguards.

The EPC has a very specific format that is written to the tag before it is deployed for use.  All companies that want to deploy compliant tags must register and receive a Company Prefix that must appear in the EPC in a very specific way, along with other parameters such as Item Reference Number, etc.  The structure of the EPC is specified down to the last bit.  Any deviation from this will create a nonstandard EPC.   

Importantly, the EPC also contains data that is used for error detection so that a reader can detect that the EPC it received from a tag is a proper EPC.  In a noisy environment, for example, if an EPC error was detected the reader can ask for the EPC to be retransmitted.  Using a standard EPC guarantees that a RFID reader can read an EPC from a tag and be certain that it is correct.   

In summary,  we write the EPC to the Monza 5 before we send it out.  However, every bit in the EPC is predetermined and cannot be modified without loosing compliance to the EPC Gen 2 standard.

Usually nothing. We provide support and many examples if you want to do it yourself. If you want us to do it for you, please contact at:

Yes.  You can but the vials and boxes directly from Wheaton and attach the RFID inserts supplied by BioTillion.