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Ford Thinks It Has the Right Tool for the Job: RFID

For its 2009 F-Series pickups and E-Series vans, the company is offering its Tool Link option, featuring a built-in EPC Gen 2 RFID interrogator for tracking equipment and other assets used in the construction industry.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Feb 06, 2008You know that supply chain RFID mantra—the right product, at the right place, at the right time? At the consumer-oriented Chicago Auto Show, which opens this week, Ford is rolling out a new take on the concept—the right tool, in the right place, at the right time—to contractors and other building professionals who drive trucks and vans to work sites.

To that end, Ford has partnered with RFID company ThingMagic and toolmaker DeWalt to develop Tool Link, an RFID asset-tracking application being offered as a feature on Ford's 2009 F-Series pickup trucks and E-Series vans.

Each time the vehicle's engine starts, a built-in interrogator reads the tags of items placed in the bed or cargo hold.

The RFID application is one tool in the automaker's new Ford Work Solution platform, which also includes an in-dash computer that—in addition to running the asset-tracking software used in combination with a vehicle's built-in ThingMagic Mercury 5e interrogator—serves up high-speed Internet access via the Sprint Mobile Broadband Network. The computer also provides GPS navigation.

"There has been a great collaboration between all parties involved to create an RFID system that works well and is easy to use," says Edward Pleet, Ford Work Solutions' business and product development manager.

Companies and individuals who buy the RFID-enabled trucks and vans will need to place passive EPC Gen 2 UHF tags on their tools (or anything they wish to track), then put them in the vehicles' beds and cargo holds, which are fitted with RFID interrogator antennas. They'll then be able to use the in-dash computer's touch screen, or a keyboard plugged into the computer, to associate the number on each tag with the object to which it is attached.

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