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ID Integration, InfinID Offer Active RFID System for Aerospace and Government Sectors

The technology is being tested by two aerospace companies to track the movements of work-in-progress or tools, by forwarding read data across a mesh network to a single gateway reader.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 13, 2015

Two aerospace companies have been testing radio frequency identification solutions enabling the creation of a wireless mesh network of battery-powered tags that can identify the locations of moving, tagged items, and be reconfigured quickly if the layout of their facilities changes. The RFID solutions, supplied by aerospace industry systems integrator ID Integration, include V-Tags and AssetWorx! software from InfinID Technologies, based in Pasadena, Calif. One company has completed its pilot and is integrating the solution into its production system, while the second is still trialing the technology. The two firms have asked to remain unnamed.

Based on the early successes with the two pilots, ID Integration says it has released the V-Tag solution for commercial deployment this month, which it will provide to aerospace and government customers. InfinID has also begun selling its V-Tag system to customers in other sectors, such as health care and military.

ID Integration's Gary Moe
The system that ID Integration and InfinID are selling is designed to be simple and easy to deploy, the companies report. High-value items that move around an aerospace facility are tagged with the battery-powered V-Tags, which transmit 2.4 GHz signals via a proprietary air-interface protocol. V-Tags are also affixed to ceilings, pillars or walls, and the location of each of these fixed tags is stored in the AssetWorx! software. A gateway reader is installed somewhere in the vicinity, in order to read transmissions from the asset and fixed tags, as well as forward the collected read data to the software to identify a moving asset's location. On a map of the facility, the AssetWorx! software displays an asset tag's location—based on which fixed tags received that asset tag's signal, and on the signal's strength, as received by those fixed tags.

ID integration, based in Mukilteo, Wash., sells solutions for its customers—both commercial aerospace and the government—that manufacture aircraft and aircraft parts, or perform maintenance and repair work. As part of its solutions, the company offers laser engraving systems to create unique identifiers on aircraft parts. In recent years, however, it began exploring RFID solutions.

The company says it did not launch its active RFID solution until it could be sure that the technology would be both beneficial and affordable for its customers. "We've seen improvements in the technology for tags and readers," says Gary Moe, ID Integration's president. Such improvements, he explains, have included metal-mount tags and tags with longer battery lives. "We're very cautious; we're careful only to put out systems that we know are reliable. About two years ago, we made a market decision to begin offering RFID solutions." The firm already had a 10-year relationship with InfinID, which makes bar-code, passive RFID and, most recently, active RFID solutions in the form of the V-Tag. Last year, ID Integration began offering the V-Tag and AssetWorx! system for pilots.

The first company to carry out a pilot is a parts manufacturer for commercial and government aircraft, which operates a 250,000-square-foot manufacturing plant. Within that facility, the firm is responsible for between 3,000 and 4,000 tools used to make those parts. Because it works for specific customers, the parts manufacturer typically uses tools provided by those customers, and thus needs to be able to account for them. Periodically auditors representing those customers arrive onsite to identify whether the tools are in good working order and in use. These auditors must walk through the facility to examine the tools, and the company may fail the audit in some cases if the tools couldn't be found.

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