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Have RFID and GPS Been Integrated With Materials Management?

Posted By RFID Journal, 11.25.2013

If so, can you please provide some examples?

—Name withheld

———

It depends on your definitions of "integrated" and "materials management."

In 2012, Ameya Logistics, for example, outfitted mobile cranes—known as reach stackers—with a device from C&B Electronics that incorporates an RFID reader, a GPS unit and a GPRS radio. The reader's antenna is installed on the underside of the boom that lifts the container, in order to capture the unique ID number of the tag on a shipping container, and the GPS unit then ascertains that container's longitude and latitude coordinates. All of this data is forwarded to the back-end software via GPRS cellular transmission. The reader continues to interrogate the tag as the reach stacker moves the container, until that container is deposited within a specific area of the yard, at which time the stacker drives away and thus no longer interrogates the tag. The software calculates the exact time at which the tag ceased to be read, and links that time with the location, within 1 meter (3.3 feet), based on the GPS coordinates. This enables the company to know the exact location where a container was placed within a very large yard (see Ameya Logistics Uses RFID to Add Efficiency, Value to Its Freight Yard).

Do you consider port operations "material handling?" If yes, then RFID has been combined with GPS and integrated into material handling. If, however, by integrated with material handling, you mean has it been integrated with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, including SAP, Oracle, BPCS, MAPICS and other systems that companies use to manage materials, then the answer is no. These systems do not accept RFID and GPS data without creating custom systems or using existing application programming interfaces.

I should point out that Ameya Logistics' use of RFID and GPS is unusual, because the GPS device was integrated with the reader, not the tag. Zebra Technologies' WhereNet unit offers a hybrid RFID-GPS tag, while Identec Solutions, based in Lustenau, Austria, added GPS to its I-Q RFID tags to enable end users to track high-value assets even if the RFID technology they'd installed was unable to provide visibility at the level of granularity they required (see WhereNet, Identec Solutions Offer GPS Tracking).

In 2009, Savi Technology and Numerex introduced a hybrid tag that could intelligently determine whether to communicate via an active RFID network or satellite communications (see Hybrid Tag Includes Active RFID, GPS, Satellite and Sensors). And AeroScout introduced a Unified Asset Visibility (UAV) solution combining GPS and Wi-Fi tags (see Air Force Base Deploys Wi-Fi/GPS RFID System Across 2,500 Acres).

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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