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RFID Sensors Help Macau Museums Protect Art and Artifacts

The technology, installed throughout several of the region's historical museums, measures temperature and humidity levels to ensure exhibited items are not exposed to damaging heat or dampness.
By Claire Swedberg

The software, in turn, interprets the data and stores each tag's temperature and humidity readings, which are then linked in the software to the artwork or artifacts within the tag's vicinity. If the temperature or humidity range falls outside the excepted parameters, the software can issue an alert via e-mail or text message to authorized museum employees, or display that event in the software for the staff to view.

For museums using this technology, the solution is intended not only to ensure that conditions remain optimal for the artifacts, but also to provide an electronic record of those conditions. Most museums currently track conditions manually. Typically, they periodically send staff members through the facilities to record temperature and humidity readings on sensors located throughout their exhibits. This process is time-consuming, however, and does not provide the volume of data that can be derived from a real-time sensor-based tracking system, according to Craig Jo, Hong Kong RFID's business-development director.

Hong Kong RFID Ltd.'s Craig Jo.

The largest of the Macau museums using the technology opted to install the system during the fourth quarter of 2012. The solution consisted of 65 Tempcorder Moist Tags and 13 Empress readers, in order to provide coverage throughout both floors of the 6,867-square-foot facility. The readers send data to Hong Kong RFID software operating onsite at the museum. The software, created specifically for the museums by Hong Kong RFID, is not integrated with the facility's own management system, but rather stands alone.

"The environment-monitoring system has brought convenience and efficiency to the operation and management of the exhibits," Jo says. Although the museums' managers declined to comment for this story, he notes, they reported to Hong Kong RFID that "time and effort are saved, as no manual monitoring is required anymore." Another benefit, he adds, is that if conditions change, museum management can access the sensor reporting a problem, verify that the temperature or humidity is at risk of damaging an artifact or piece of art, and take immediate corrective action.

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