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Can I Monitor Vehicles via RFID and GPS?

Posted By RFID Journal, 04.03.2015

I am looking for a mobile solution to scan passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) 915 MHz tags and return GPS latitude and longitude coordinates to help track the location of inventory on a car lot. Is this feasible?

—Name withheld

———

A company called EchoRFID has developed a solution for the oil and gas industry that includes a device called the EchoShield PipeTalker, which comes with an RFID reader (different makes are available) and a GPS transceiver. EchoRFID's sister company, ProStar, provides the GPS mapping software, known as Transparent Earth, used in the solution. By reading a tag and linking its ID number with the reader's longitude and latitude coordinates, the PipeTalker software—which operates both on the cloud-based server and on the handheld device—can store the pipe's location. Workers can use the handheld's GPS functionality to identify a tagged object's location and, if appropriate, automatically call up information about that item (see EchoRFID Offers Views Into Buried Oil and Gas or Utility Pipes).

William Frick & Co., which makes hard tags for a variety of industries, introduced a handheld in 2013 that enables users to read a tag and capture the GPS coordinates of the tagged object (see William Frick Offers Municipalities a Low-Cost Solution for Tracking City Assets).

Keep in mind that using a handheld reader or smartphone would require a person to stand next to each car and interrogate the RFID tag on it (perhaps hanging from the rearview mirror) and associate the GPS location with that vehicle. The amount of labor and potential for error (if someone forgets to read the tag, for instance, the car's location will be unknown) might make this solution difficult to use.

Some companies have employed active RFID systems to track the locations of specific cars in large lots. Holmgrens Bil, one of the largest automobile distributors and dealerships in Scandinavia, installed a Wi-Fi-based active system in 2006 (see Swedish Car Dealer Turns to RFID).

Gulf States Toyota, a large Toyota distributor based in Houston, Texas, installed an active RFID system from WhereNet (now part of Zebra Technologies) to create a solution that tracks cars on its 84-acre lot and speeds up the process of installing optional car equipment. The system lowers costs and keeps Toyota dealers and customers happy (see Active RFID Keeps Toyota Distributor Rolling).

Emirates Motor Co., a member of the Al Fahim Group, the world's largest Mercedes Benz facility, sought a solution to decrease the amount of time it took workers to locate vehicles within its 93,000-square-meter service center. Locating vehicles at the facility took between 30 to 45 minutes per car before an RFID-enabled solution was implemented. The firm is using RFID to track vehicles from the time that a customer arrives at the service reception, as well as while that person's vehicle is being repaired in the service center, and to speed up delivery once work is completed.

The locating of vehicles has been reduced to 5 to 10 minutes per car, increasing technicians' productivity, efficiency and utilization. The company's non-productive staff cost has decreased by 25 percent, with an overall increase in customer-satisfaction scores to 95 percent. The firm has produced a video that explains how the system works (view the video). Emirates Motor Co. worked with technology solutions provider TagStone, which has developed a vehicle-management software platform.

One last thought: It might be possible to use Near Field Communication (NFC) tags and record the GPS location in a smartphone by writing a simple app. NFC is a short-range passive high-frequency (HF) form of RFID, but if a worker needs to be close to a car, no matter what, then NFC could be a lower-cost solution.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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