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IBM Offering IT Asset-Tracking Solution

The system, which uses high-performance EPC Gen 2 RFID tags from Omni-ID, has already been deployed at five data centers.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
May 13, 2008IT giant IBM is launching a packaged RFID solution enabling companies to track valuable IT assets. Four data centers operated by IBM—three in Europe, one in the United States—as well as a data center operated by a major insurance provider located in Germany, are already employing the RFID-based system to improve the speed and accuracy with which they can track valuable, mobile IT assets such as blade servers, laptops and peripherals. Based on the success of those deployments, IBM is now marketing the RFID solution to other companies as well.

The solution, according to Nancy Kingston, a global solutions executive with IBM's Sensor and Actuator Solutions division, was created by an IBM development center in Dublin in response to requests for such an application—both from business groups within IBM, and from the company's customers. Kingston says the system is comprised of hardware, software and installation services.

Omni-ID Prox tags are applied to blade servers.

Prior to being deployed by end users, Kingston says, the application showed promise: An IBM test center in the United Kingdom carried out a time-and-motion study that involved taking inventory of 150 tagged assets manually, then with a bar-code scanner, and finally with an RFID handheld interrogator. The results, she notes, showed that the RFID-based inventory process was six and a half times faster than the bar code-based procedure, and 11 times as fast as the manual method.

But one of the real-world deployments, Kingston adds, has shown even better metrics, with the inventory of tagged IT items completed 15 times faster than it would take to count them manually. "We're seeing really significant results in doing inventory with RFID versus bar code," she says, "in terms of speed and accuracy and overall productivity gains." The solution, for which IBM has partnered with tag maker Omni-ID, is the latest in a series of RFID-based offerings created by IBM—all designed to improve business processes in industries ranging from health care to manufacturing.

Overall, the use of RFID in asset-tracking applications has grown markedly over the past year. Tag makers continue to make strides in developing passive RFID tags that operate well when mounted on or near metal, which tends to interfere with RF signals. This means passive tags are becoming a viable option for IT asset-tracking applications in which tags are mounted on servers, blades, laptops and other IT devices. To date, most IT asset-tracking applications have used active (battery-powered) RFID tags, such as that offered by RF Code (see RF Code Announces Platform for Tracking IT Assets).

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