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Playboy Uses RFID to Track Tapes

The cable TV station will save time and money by knowing where master tapes are at all times.
By Bob Violino
Jul 27, 2003By Jonathan Collins

July 28, 2003 - Europe's Playboy TV is deploying RFID to track master tapes at its Hayes, Middlesex headquarters, where tapes are edited for broadcast over the UK and European cable and satellite networks.
Tracking tapes in the library will no longer be a headache

"Master tapes are edited for promos and trailers as well as used for broadcasting, and that means we can spend hours looking for them throughout the ten editing suites and the rest of the building," says Claire Dalton, head of programming services at Playboy TV UK Ltd.

Intellident, a Manchester, UK-based systems integrator, will help Playboy tag each of its 11,000 videos. Each tag has an I-Code RFID chip from Philips Semiconductors, which incorporates both RFID and electronic article surveillance (EAS) capabilities. The I-Code chip is ISO 15693-compliant and operates at 13.56 MHz.

The RFID tag is used to identify, manage and track each video tape as it moves among the broadcast booth, editing suites and the library. The security devices are incorporated into the label to stop the unauthorized removal of the tapes from the library.

At present, Playboy TV manually tracks each tape by entering a serial number on the cassette into a database. If the database hasn't been properly updated, finding tapes can sometimes be a time-consuming exercise. With the new system, staff will check videos out of the library using an Intellident's "self-check station." This requires the user to type a PIN on a touch screen, select the location they are taking the video to and then pass the video over a reader. The system detects the RFID tag on each of the videos and logs the items out to that user. The reader can scan several videos simultaneously.

As the video is logged out of the library, the EAS feature is deactivated. If a user does not check the video out correctly, or if a tape is removed without being checked out, then a reader at the library exit will detect the tag and an alarm will sound. That triggers an email alert to the administration team and automatically activates a Webcam, so the person can be identified.

Videos are returned through a drop box in the wall of the library, where the RFID tag is read and EAS feature is reactivated. The database is automatically updated each time a video is checked out and returned. The system records who removed a tape and where they wanted to bring it. So Playboy will be able to check the database and see it a video has been checked out. If it has, the system will show who checked it out, when and where it is now.

Intellident is set to install the new system by the end of August. In addition to installing readers at the exit and at the self-check out station, Intellident will provide a handheld reader, so Playboy TV can quickly check inventory both inside and outside the library. Intellident says it was able to use fewer readers and lower power tags for the library system because it's relatively easy to track videotapes. "It's far harder to get real read distance from CD and DVD tags," says Darren Ratcliffe, Intellident's RFID sales manager.

Intellident has already done the largest public library RFID deployment in the UK and the country's largest academic library deployment. The Colchester Public Library has tagged 280,000 items, and the library at Nottingham Trent University has tagged more than 450,000 items.

The size of the Playboy project is far smaller than those two projects, but Ratcliffe, says it's still important. "This contract may not be a significant size," he says, "but it does open a new market in the commercial cataloguing space."

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