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William Frick Offers Municipalities a Low-Cost Solution for Tracking City Assets

The tag manufacturer has released an RFID-based solution designed to let municipalities, utilities, industrial companies or hospitals monitor equipment using software loaded on a handheld reader, without requiring integration with a back-end system.
By Claire Swedberg

The ruggedized reader is the first produced by Frick. When a municipality acquires the system, personnel attach an adhesive tag to an asset, such as a hydrant, and use the handheld to read or scan a bar code on that tag. The workers then input any necessary details, such as the specific hydrant's identifier number or code, along with its maintenance history.

At the time of inspection, an inspector utilizes the handheld—which has a typical read range of 15 feet—to capture the ID number of a hydrant or other object. In some cases, Trebacz says, Frick also provides tags with read ranges of up to about 30 feet. Software on the reader calls up information regarding that item, stored in the handheld's SmartCAT software. The software also records GPS location data, in order to confirm where that asset is situated. The GPS data can then be used to locate an item in need of maintenance, based on information stored in the handheld's software.

GPS and RFID technology in the SmartCAT device enables a user to track a particular asset's location within a municipality.

During inspection, the handheld's software displays a list of tasks on the screen that the user must complete for that specific asset. The inspector can configure the tasks, and can not only respond to prompts, indicating he or she has completed a particular job, but also input any details, such as the discovery of damage to the item. The user could also utilize the handheld to take a photograph to accompany his or her report. The culled data is stored on the device—which has a storage capacity of up to 250 megabytes—until it is returned to the office, where it can then be docked and all asset data can be uploaded to a computer. What's more, the system comes with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capabilities, enabling data to be sent from the device while the inspector is still in the field.

The system can also scan 2D bar codes. Thus, municipalities could begin with bar-code scanning and then transition to radio frequency identification, or use RFID to track high-value assets and bar codes for lower-value items.

For an industrial application, the same solution could be employed to manage rental equipment used on construction sites. In this scenario, a company that rents items—pieces of scaffolding, for instance—could track which units had been rented for which job sites, as well as when they were returned, thereby making it easier to identify if specific assets were not returned when expected. Frick is currently in conversations with such a rental company, regarding its trialing of this solution.

In addition, Poplawski says, hospitals could use the SmartCAT solution to track health-care equipment or patients wearing wristbands with built-in Frick tags. The technology also works with any other EPC UHF RFID tag, he notes.

A kit providing a handheld reader and software costs $5,750. With 26 durable tags included, the price is $5875, but Frick is presently offering a coupon for a free tag starter kit for anyone who purchases the reader and software. The solution comes with a three-year warrantee.

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