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Kingston University Gets Payback by Using RFID to Track Loaned Equipment

The solution enables faculty and students to return borrowed media equipment outside of business hours, and staff members to conduct fast inventory audits.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 26, 2013

London's Kingston University is employing TrackerPoint's TrackCAB solution to automate its after-hours return process, as well as to conduct inventory counts of 2,000 pieces of media equipment, such as cameras, laptops and computers, that it loans out to students and faculty. The solution enables borrowers to return goods outside of business hours, by placing items into RFID-enabled lockers, and also reduces the amount of time required for personnel to take inventory of items stored in the equipment stockroom.

Kingston University loans out media equipment to students and faculty members as needed for coursework. Although there is no charge to borrow these items, there is a fine for returning them late. During the day, the area is manned by workers who check out equipment to students and record each transaction, including the item's serial number and the identity of the student receiving and later returning it. During evening hours and weekends, however, the loans room is closed.

A Kingston student unlocks a TrackPoint locker by tapping his ID card on the HF reader built into the locker's door, and places the borrowed piece of equipment within. The system then reads the item's UHF tag, thereby verifying the returned item.

"One of the biggest complaints we had from our users was that they wanted to be able to return items at times when we were unable to keep the loans room open and manned," explains David Rimmer, Kingston University's faculty technical manager.

The university sought a solution that would enable students to return equipment during business off-hours. Without the system, some students were inclined to simply place the equipment outside the borrowing area for the staff to retrieve the next business day, leaving the devices vulnerable to theft.

In addition, the university hoped to find a more efficient method of locating equipment kept in the facility's storage room. Because most goods are stored in a case, each case typically would need to be opened during inventory audits to determine what was contained within.

With the TrackCAB solution, a passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tag (both Omni-ID and Xerafy tags are being used) is permanently attached to each item. When a student needs to return a borrowed camera or other piece of equipment, he proceeds to a cabinet composed of multiple lockers and taps his ID card next to the high-frequency (HF) reader on one of the locker doors. The reader then interrogates the ID number of the card's Mifare RFID chip, after which the TrackCAB software confirms the student's identity—and that he has borrowed equipment—and unlocks the compartment, according to Cliff Evans, TrackerPoint's owner.

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