RFIDasset(tm) system for monitoring assets
This system will allow the current position of up to 1000 assets to be monitored at regular intervals, producing reports on discrepancies and maintaining a database to show the current location of the assets.
The system comprises of transponder tags for attaching securely to the items, a long range portable UHF RFID reader, a software package running on a laptop/notebook computer and a Bluetooth communication link between the the UHF reader and the notebook computer to pass information.
The system uses the long range capabilities of the reader and the transponders to allow identities of items to be read at a distance. This means that by standing in the middle of a room and rotating once around the room with the reader, all tagged items in the room can be scanned and their identities passed via the Bluetooth link to a software package in the notebook computer.
The software will record the presence of all items tagged, note their current location and time of checking, and update the database. The system will also feedback which items have not been seen, giving details of the asset, when it was last seen, and who was in charge of the asset at that time. The operator can then immediately query the relevant person as to its current location. The software will also report items which have moved into the zone which were not expected, updating the database appropriately.
The database is further compatible with common spread sheet programs allowing easy maintenance and information extraction. The software also produces various reports that can be printed.
Long range passive RFID
The key to this system, is the availability of very low power long range UHF transponders. With the portable UHF reader, the read range is up to 10 meters between the transponders and the reader, with the reader able to read up to 800 transponders in a zone at up to 70 per second. This rate is far faster than can be absorbed by the human mind and hence the benefits of the software package for processing the information. The very sensitive transponders that operate at long range allow transponders that are very poorly placed to also be read at a good operating distance.
Features of the transponders.
The transponders are generally credit card sized, although other sizes are available. They can be attached to most objects, even metal items. In most cases they can be attached out of sight of users, such as under a chair or table. Other forms of transponders available are a thin wire transponder, a special transponder for attaching to wooden items, and a transponder for attaching to laptop computers. Transponders are passive (do not have a battery) and have a lifetime of more than ten years.
Features of the reader
The reader is a UHF RFID portable reader that can provide a low power energising field to energise the transponders and that can read their identities. It is battery operated with all the electronics being housed in a small unit that is carried in a small bag on a shoulder sling, not bigger than a hiker's waterbottle. The reader has an antenna that is attached to the reader on a flexible cable such that the operator can direct where he wants the reader to send its energising field. The reader is connected to the laptop computer used for the software via a Bluetooth interface.
The portable reader passes its data to the notebook with the monitoring program via the Bluetooth interfacing system. This requires the use of a Bluetooth dongle on the notebook computer and a Bluetooth software package to transfer the data to the asset monitoring program. The Bluetooth communications link allows the reader and the notebook to be separated by 20 meters, allowing the notebook to be operated comfortably on a table while the reader is moving around.
Asset monitoring software
The asset monitoring software runs on a Win 32 laptop or notebook computer with operating systems such as Win98SE, Win XP or Win Vista.
The software has a Bluetooth management package for managing the Bluetooth communication via a USB/Bluetooth dongle and routing the data from the reader to the RFIDasset management software.
The RFIDasset management program is a customised program that allows the user to set up the system for all measurements via drop down menus. It takes measurements from the UHF reader, and applies these to the central database automatically updating the current location of items, and informing the operator of which items have not yet been seen at this location. The system also generates reports that can be viewed and printed from any WWW browser to provide a paper trail.
All databases are stored in common type formats, letting programs like Excel spreadsheets import/export the master database for massaging and data capture should that be necessary.
To operate the software, the user sets the current location where he is scanning. He then moves around the room pointing the UHF reader antenna at the various spaces and reading the codes of the items at high speed into the software. When finished with the scanning, by querying the software to show what items have been missed, he is given a list of items that were in that scanning location the last time a survey was done, and which are not now yet detected. This allows him to immediately follow up with the queries before moving onto the next location.
When finished with all locations he can produce reports on what was and what was not seen, and then update the master database to reflect the date and current location of all the items that were identified.
The system includes a feature to locate a particular tag in a situation where many tags are present at the same time. The tag number is entered and the environment scanned. As soon as the software detects a match, it makes the notebook computer start beeping and flashes a message on the screen. This is repeated at one second intervals while the target transponder is in the zone. When the operator turns away, the warnings stop and so the operator can home in on the actual tag location
The RFIDasset Management system is sold as a package of hardware and software to solve the application. The client needs to supply the laptop/notebook computer that will be used run the management system and that can be used with the portable reader when surveying the different locations. This system needs to have Win98SE/Win XP or Win Vista for an operating system.
The package comprisesAdditional Ecochiptags can be bought as needed.
The system can be expanded by placing fixed readers at exits of buildings to control the unauthorised removal of equipment such as laptops, where the same transponder that is used for the asset monitoring also is used for preventing the removal of assets from the building. This is viable due to the long read range achievable with RFID Technologies Ecotag technology, and the development of a range of compatible transponders that are suitable for the different scenarios required.
RFIDasset(tm) is the trademark of RFID Technologies CC
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