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RFID Benchmark Tests Prove Positive for IT Asset Tracking

A new benchmark test report says passive UHF RFID tags and readers can perform very effectively to track IT assets in data centers and other environments. The tests also found major performance discrepancies among tags and readers, so good performance and system success cannot be taken for granted.
Sep 08, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

September 8, 2008—Passive UHF RFID technology has matured and improved enough to consistently meet the growing demand for IT asset management systems, according to a new performance benchmark study by ODIN technologies, an RFID integration firm headquartered in Dulles, Virginia. The benchmark measured the performance of different Gen2 tags and readers to identify servers, blades, laptops and other IT assets in data center and user environments. Excellent read rates could be attained for all the use cases tested -- but not by all the tags and readers.

"Performance ranged from knocking the cover off the ball to a complete strikeout," ODIN president and CEO Patrick Sweeney told RFID Update. "The results showed there is still the need for some thoughtful up-front work on the physics of implementing RFID to track IT assets."

ODIN has produced 12 benchmark test reports on various different RFID technologies and use cases, including a recent evaluation of metal-mount tags (see 'Myth Busted' -- Tests Find RFID Works Well on Metals), which were used exclusively in the IT asset tracking benchmark. Sweeney rates the data center environment an eight on a scale of one (easiest) to 10 (hardest) for the challenge of obtaining accurate RFID reads. "We found the difficulty is not so much that the IT assets to be identified are made of metal, but from the metal's proximity to other metal on racks, servers, etc.," Sweeney said. "What's encouraging is that we found RFID for IT asset tracking can work 100 percent of the time without human intervention."

The benchmark evaluated seven different metal-mount Gen2 passive RFID tags that are available now to end users, plus several other models that are expected to be introduced at this week's RFID World show in Las Vegas. Two handheld readers and one fixed-position reader were also evaluated. Tests simulated IT asset tracking in both data center and office environments. Tagged assets included servers, racks, blades, routers, PCs and laptops.

"Performance results were actually pretty consistent among different assets," Sweeney said. "One of the biggest variables to performance was the footprint of the tag. Some assets, like blades, have very little room available to apply the tag, and users only have a few options for small tags they can use."

Sweeney said the wide range of performance that was observed in the benchmark tests is consistent with what he hears from end users who have implemented or are evaluating real-world systems. "Some people have 100 percent read rates and are getting full ROI in three or four months. Others struggle to get the performance they need," he said.

ODIN's various benchmark tests have shown that RFID performance has significantly improved, so organizations that previously considered RFID for asset tracking but dismissed it because of poor performance should reconsider. Passive UHF technology is improving at least twofold every year, according to Sweeney.

"When organizations talk to us about RFID IT asset tracking, the same two questions always come up: 'Does it work?' and 'Is there any benefit to using RFID over bar code?' This benchmark answers yes to both questions," Sweeney said.

Hewlett-Packard brought attention to RFID systems for IT asset tracking earlier this summer when it announced it would preinstall Gen2 tags its ProLiant and Integrity servers and support RFID in its OpenView Asset Center software as part of a new asset management service offering (see HP Launches RFID Service for IT Assets). Shortly after, the Financial Services Technology Consortium (FSTC), a non-profit industry association, launched an initiative to develop standards and other resources to help financial institutions implement RFID for IT asset tracking and other uses (see Banking Interest Climbs for RFID, Spurs Standards).
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