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RFID Tracks Assets at Canada's Oil Sands

Atlas RFID's Jovix system is being used to expedite the tracking of materials and tools at industrial construction sites, enabling one customer to reduce its staff by 70 percent.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 21, 2013

About five years ago, Atlas RFID Solutions developed a solution to track approximately 4,000 fabricated pipe spools (sections of pipe preassembled with flanges and other fittings) at the construction site of a power plant in Virginia. Based on that system's success, the company launched a full-scale construction-management solution, known as Jovix, which employs radio frequency identification tags and readers to monitor materials and tools at oil and gas facilities, power plants, and similar industrial construction projects—often from the point of an item's manufacture until it is built into the facility.

To meet a growing demand for its industrial asset-management solution, Atlas RFID opened an office in Calgary, Canada, in October 2012, in large part due to growth in the Jovix system's use to support oil-sands projects. Since then, five such projects in Canada have deployed the Jovix solution, according to Jon Chesser, Atlas RFID's Canada regional manager and VP of construction solutions. On average, each site tracks between 10,000 and 100,000 critical items, such as fabricated pipe spools, valves and cable. At one such location, the operator (which has asked to remain unnamed) has reduced its staff by 77 percent, by decreasing the amount of labor required to search for lost materials.

At a construction site, a worker equipped with a handheld reader utilizes the Jovix system to locate snow-covered pipes.

The Jovix system comes with RFID readers for tags, including a ruggedized tablet with a built-in reader for interrogating active ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags that construction site personnel can use to identify an item being moved. The device can also be operated in Geiger mode to locate a piece of equipment or a tool. In addition, the company provides fixed passive or active RFID readers to identify assets moving around a construction site or storage area.

Jovix also includes the use of vehicle-mounted devices with built-in RFID readers and GPS units. In this case, the device is installed in a truck or on a forklift, and personnel simply drive the vehicle around a construction site, warehouse or storage yard. The reader captures the ID numbers of all tags within the vicinity, and then couples that data with the vehicle's GPS location and forwards that information via a Wi-Fi or cellular connection, or stores it until the vehicle comes within range of a wireless network connection. The Jovix software can identify the locations of all items, and determine if anything has been moved since its last RFID tag read, as well as whether that location is the one that management would expect.

Atlas RFID provides its Jovix solution to project owners, such as oil and gas companies, as well as engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractors that serve such companies. The technology is also often employed by material vendors, fabricators and construction managers, to ensure that the correct items can be located and used throughout a project. The Jovix system consists of readers and tags supplied by a variety of vendors, depending on the application, as well as installation and software to manage data about the receipt, location and status of goods, based on RFID tag reads or bar-code scans.

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