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Chinese Opera Gives RFID Its Props

Taiwan's GuoGuang Opera Co. has deployed an RFID system from EPC Solutions Taiwan to help track the locations and distribution of thousands of costumes and accessories stored within its warehouse.
By Claire Swedberg

If the actor wishes, she can print the list to carry with her inside the warehouse. She then takes a large basket and collects the props and costume components she needs, placing the smaller items in the basket. If an item is not where it should be located, she can use a handheld to pinpoint that lost article. Once she is finished collecting all items, she brings the basket and any other costume pieces or props to a table near the exit. Incorporated into the table are an Alien Technology ALR-9650 desktop reader and an antenna measuring 90 centimeters (35 inches) in length by 50 centimeters (19.7 inches) in width. She places the filled basket, as well as any larger items she is carrying, on the tabletop antenna, and the ALR-9650 captures all of the tags' unique ID numbers.

In some cases, an actor may be wearing a costume (if he opted to try one on for size and then kept it on as he left the warehouse, for instance). In that scenario, a warehouse worker would use a wand antenna connected to the table's reader to capture all tag IDs, by waving it over the costumed performer. The ALR-9650 reader typically comes with two antenna ports, Liu says—one for its built-in internal antenna, and one for an external antenna. "We have modified the ALR-9650 to create two external ports," Liu explains. "That means we took out the embedded antenna and replaced it with the slim table antenna."

Each smart rail has a flexible antenna running along its length, enabling an RFID reader to capture the tag ID numbers of the 15 or so garments hanging on the rail.
Once the performance is finished for the night, the actors return their items by presenting their ID cards to the HF reader at the entrance, indicating what they are returning and then leaving the garments at the warehouse to be stored. Warehouse personnel receive the costumes and props, read the tags and proceed to clean the items, if necessary, or simply put them away until they are needed for the next performance. The warehouse workers then log into the EPC Solutions software to update each item's status as being returned or cleaned, as well as on which shelf it was returned.

In some cases, costumes frequently used and of high value are hanging on rails, and their presence there needs to be verified daily. In this case, another ALR-9650 reader is installed and connected to EPC Solutions Taiwan's Flexant 1-meter-long (3.3-foot-long) cable antenna. Each rail has a flexible antenna running along its length, enabling the reader to capture the tag ID numbers of the 15 or so garments hanging on that rail. That data is forwarded to the EPC Solutions software on a daily basis, and if a garment that should be on the rail is discovered to be missing, the software can issue an alert to the production managers.

Initially, GuoGuang Opera Co. has tagged approximately 1,000 items that will be used during performances of The Clever Mayor. However, Zen says, costumes and props will be tagged for other operas as they open. According to Zen, the opera company expects to have all 65,000 of its items tagged within the next three years.

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