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MIT Research Lab Taps RFID to Manage Files

The Research Laboratory of Electronics is using an EPC Gen 2 RFID system from Barcoding Inc. to manage thousands of funding proposals and other paper documents.
By Beth Bacheldor
Mar 16, 2009The Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is employing EPC Gen 2 passive RFID tags to keep tabs on thousands of documents. The system includes Barcoding Inc.'s RFID interrogator, known as the CaptureTech RFID Interpreter, as well as custom software that the company designed specifically for MIT.

The RLE, one of MIT's interdepartmental academic research centers, focuses on electronics, starting at the most basic physical realm of particles and quantum physics, and extending to complex engineering applications.

Prior to implementing the RFID-enabled file-management system, the RLE stored personnel files—pertaining to faculty members, as well as MIT graduate and undergraduate students working at the research lab—in cabinets located in the head of personnel's office. Proposal applications for all research projects submitted for funding were stored in cabinets kept within a separate office. Employees at the RLE relied on the manual honor system, simply pulling documents from cabinets as needed, then returning them at a later time.

"We had absolutely no system in place," says Krista Van Guilder, the RLE's manager of media and design. "Files were lost on occasion—or often just sitting on someone's desk, under papers—and it was very difficult to find files regularly. If someone went to pull a file, and it wasn't where it was supposed to be, they would have to walk around the offices and ask for it."

Now, RFID tags are being attached to the inside of each folder used to store a document, and all folders have been moved to shelving units housed in a central office. Staff members can visit the office, pull a document's tagged folder from a shelf, walk to a wall-mounted touch-screen computer and wave the folder past the CaptureTech RFID Interpreter attached to the computer. The reader captures the tag's unique ID number, and the worker simultaneously views a list of names on the computer, then touches his or her name to check out that document. Later, to check it back in, the same procedure is followed.

The CaptureTech RFID Interpreter, unveiled in July 2008, is an RFID interrogator that can be used with a Windows-based PC without the need for any additional software, or software changes (see Barcoding Inc. Intros Plug-and-Play RFID Reader). The interrogator plugs into a PC's USB port and leverages Barcoding's CaptureTech RFID Wedge, which automatically converts tag data into a format that PC-based software—including Word, Excel and other Microsoft Office applications—can comprehend.

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