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DIRECTV Uses RFID to Cut Inventory Time From Years to Months

The satellite TV company plans to utilize an RFID system, already live at one of its broadcast centers, to manage a total of 200,000 assets.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 26, 2015

Broadcast satellite company DIRECTV is implementing a radio frequency identification system to track 200,000 pieces of equipment at three broadcast centers, as well as nearly 200 smaller facilities. The system is intended to reduce inventory tracking time tenfold, the company reports, while also boosting inventory accuracy from 75 percent to 97 percent. The solution, provided by RFID Global Solution, allows DIRECTV to conduct inventories of servers and other equipment, via a combination of handheld and cart readers. The equipment, which is being tagged with passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 RFID inlays, includes video compression equipment, amplifiers, routers, switches, decoders and antenna-related systems.

The RFID system was taken live in December 2014, and limited inventory checks indicate that company will be able to reduce the amount of time required for performing a full inventory from years to mere months. The next phase of the project will involve tagging and tracking assets at the company's laboratory in El Segundo, where system-development work is performed, and then at about 190 remote locations—13 of which are broadcast centers, the rest signal-collection or uplink centers—located throughout the United States.

Antennas are mounted on opposite sides of the Audit Cart, so that the RFID reader can capture ID information from tags located on both sides of an equipment aisle or row, simultaneously and rapidly.
DIRECTV has three major broadcast centers, one in Colorado and two in the Los Angeles area, as well as multiple signal-collection or uplink facilities, where it receives feeds from local TV stations and operates uplink facilities that forward the collected content to the companies' satellites, explained Adam Seskin, DIRECTV's director of broadcast engineering asset management, during an RFID Journal virtual seminar held last week (see DIRECTV—Asset Management in Broadcast Engineering).

At its various sites, DIRECTV mounts a wide variety of equipment in racks, and the assets tend to be replaced as old models become obsolete, at a rate of about every three to five years. It takes the broadcast company about five years to conduct a full inventory count of all the $1 billion worth of assets at its approximately 200 locations, Seskin said, which means that in some cases, an asset could be acquired and then be retired before it was ever included in the company's software-based inventory record. To make inventory tracking more efficient and accurate, DIRECTV issued a request for proposal (RFP) to RFID vendors. It selected the Visi-Trac system from RFID Global, Seskin reported, due to the RFID company's flexibility and focus on developing a custom solution that could be integrated into DIRECTV's own management system based on its unique inventory-tracking needs.

"Their mission was to improve accuracy and efficiency of their inventory processes," Diana Hage, RFID Global's CEO, said during the virtual event, recalling the requirements that DIRECTV brought to her company (see RFID Software That Delivers Business Metrics). "Not only did they want to improve insights and have a view into what they have at what locations," she added, but the firm also wanted to capture data that would allow it to collect business analytics regarding the history of different types of assets as they are stored or moved throughout DIRECTV's facilities.

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