Arnlea Brings Field ID System to NA

By Bob Violino

Intrinsically safe RFID technology for tracking field equipment can be used in harsh environments.

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April 24, 2003 – Moving into the North American market for the first time, Inverurie, Scotland-based Arnlea Systems Group has opened offices in Bragg Creek, Alberta, and North Vancouver, British Columbia. It is also signing up channel partners to sell its SmartFieldOps electronic identification and field data collection product.

The SmartFieldOps system is designed to help companies manage both fixed and mobile equipment and resources. The system includes RFID tags, handheld readers, industrial-style RFID readers and back-office software. It is already being used in manufacturing, oil, automotive, waste management and many other diverse industries, particularly those with potentially hazardous environments.

A worker scans a button tag on a motor-driven pump

“We have something that no other tag manufacturer can deliver — high stress, high-performance tags,” says Steve Makar, vice president of Arnlea Systems North America. The tags can withstand 15,000 pounds per square inch of pressure and temperatures ranging from minus 40 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Both tags and readers can be made intrinsically safe, which means if they are dropped or damaged, they will not cause a spark that could ignite gasses or other inflammable materials.

SmartFieldOps can be used to manage and track mobile equipment. One oil-drilling customer uses the tags to track drilling equipment 10,000 feet under the sea. But Arnlea says an equipment-rental company could also use the system to receive an automatic notification when equipment is returned. “This means reduced loss of equipment, as well as precise knowledge of when equipment is available,” says Makar. “That improves resource management and billing.”

The tags can also be used on fixed equipment that requires regular maintenance or safety checks. Maintenance work orders can be automatically downloaded to Arnlea’s rugged handheld computers and carried by field personnel to guide and assist their work. Their work is then recorded by the handheld computer and later updated to the enterprise database. This type of application has delivered dramatic savings to existing customers, according to Makar.

“One large oil company has told us of maintenance savings of between 30 and 70 percent, depending on the unit,” he says.

Arnlea has two basic types of tags. One stores only a unique 15-digit number. The other can store up to 32 kilobytes of additional information, similar to traditional metal equipment tags. Prices range from 60 cents to as much as $6 per tag, depending on the level of custom development and the environment the tag will have to endure.

The RFID tags can be mounted in a number of ways, depending on the environment and tag size. It can be either stuck or riveted on, embedded within the unit, or even put inside a piece or equipment, such as a junction box.

Arnlea already has an existing user base across North America. Its SmartFieldOps RFID technology was originally developed by Indala. Motorola bought Indala’s industrial RFID product line and manufacturing capability, then sold them to Assa Abloy, a Stockholm-based manufacturer and supplier of locking systems, in November 2001. Arnlea bought the business from Assa Abloy in July 2002.

Arnlea says it has been speaking with its North American customers about the SmartFieldOps, and it has been approaching potential channel partners. The company has signed up Drexel Western, an industrial services company in Western Canada, and Matrix Technology in Markham, Ontario. Arnlea is also in discussions with prospective channel partners in the United States. — By Jonathan Collins

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