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RFID and Sensors Protect Fine Art in Hong Kong

Restoration and storage facility Beautiful Mind is using a combination of HF and UHF passive tags and ZigBee sensors to monitor the location and storage conditions of artwork, and to control access.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 21, 2013Beautiful Mind, an art storage and restoration company in Hong Kong, can assure art owners of the security of their paintings, sculptures, tapestries and porcelain, thanks to an automated solution consisting of passive high-frequency (HF) RFID tags (which provide access control to storage units), passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags and readers (which track each piece of art) and ZigBee wireless sensors (which monitor the conditions within each storage unit). The system, including the tags, readers, software and installation, was provided by EPC Solutions Taiwan.

The 10,000-square-foot building, located in Hong Kong's North Point section, houses 23 climate-controlled storage units in which works of art can be stored, as well as five VIP storage rooms. Each storage unit and VIP room is equipped with an HF RFID reader at the doorway, to manage who accesses that area. In addition, a UHF portal tracks individual pieces of tagged artwork as they leave the unit or room, while ZigBee sensors provide information regarding temperature and humidity. EPC Solutions Taiwan software, residing on Beautiful Mind's database, manages all collected data. EPC Solutions also manufactured the HF readers, as well as the EPC and HF RFID tags.

Installed at the doorway to each of Beautiful Mind's storage rooms are RFID readers that control access and track the passage of artwork.

The facility provides three services related to fine art: professional art restoration, art education, and storage for clients such as collectors and galleries. "The initial thought, when I planned this space and storage, was to make sure the environment was built specifically for fine-art collectors' use," says Vinci Chang, Beautiful Mind's president. She sought a solution that would allow collectors to enter and exit their units, while remaining assured that artwork—which could be of high value—was always safe against theft, loss or damage from improper temperature or humidity levels. To ensure that this would be the case, she says, she realized the solution "would have to have advanced technology for storage control and maximum security."

To access a unit or VIP room, Beautiful Mind's employees and clients (owners of artwork stored within the units) are issued 13.56 MHz passive HF RFID tags complying with the ISO 14443A standard. Each staff member wears a badge with a built-in HF tag, while clients carry HF RFID cards similar to a credit card. In either case, an individual presents his or her RFID tag to the reader connected to the door lock. The software will not unlock the doors unless both an employee and a client are present. If the software successfully captures and confirms both an RFID tag with a unique ID number corresponding to the proper unit client, and an employee's own ID number, the door unlocking mechanism will be triggered, according to T.H. Liu, EPC Solutions Taiwan's president. The software also stores a record of that event.

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