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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

The company designated an RFID team to look into options to improve on this process via RFID technology, and to ensure that auditors can access the tools they seek. ID Integration described the V-Tag solution to the company, and then launched the pilot in late 2014. Approximately 200 fixed tags have been installed around the facility to date, while about 1,800 assets tags have been attached to jigs, fixtures and other basic tools. Both types of tags measure about the size of a box of Tic Tacs and have a transmission range of about 300 feet. The company intends to add another 5,000 asset tags in the future. The system also includes 18 gateway readers to capture data from the fixed and asset tags.

The fixed tags beacon at preset intervals, and the assets tags are designed to transmit data only when they are moving, in order to conserve battery life. With this method, says Chuck Stygar, InfinID's president and CEO, the tag's battery life is typically about four years.

When a tool is tagged, a user inputs data about that object into the AssetWorx! software, where it is linked to the unique ID number encoded on the tag. The asset tags come with a built-in accelerometer, and can identify when they begin moving, and then start transmitting a unique ID. With the mesh network, the fixed and asset tags receive each other's transmissions and forward that data to the gateway. The AssetWorx! software then uses received signal strength indication (RSSI) to identify the fixed tag to which the asset tag is closest. The software can then display that asset's location. Once the asset stops moving, it becomes dormant, and the software identifies its location based on the last reading taken at the time that movement ceased.

According to Moe, the aerospace company has completed the pilot and is now implementing the solution at two of its facilities.

The second company piloting the system provides maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) services to aircraft companies, and is using V-Tags to track work-in-progress. In this case, aircraft parts are brought into the facility for servicing, and move through specific workstations to have the required maintenance or repair work done. Due to the high level of metal present in the facility, the company's managers were concerned about the reliability of RFID tag reads, but during an initial, limited 30-day pilot carried out in November 2014, they determined that V-Tags worked well. The company is now testing the system in a larger, facility-wide deployment.

The MRO company also had concerns about the flexibility of any RFID system selected, because with each new contract for a customer, it may need to change its workflow, and thus change the locations and functions of workstations, but it must still be able to track items moving through that new setup. The V-Tag system solves that problem, since the fixed tags can simply be affixed to walls or other locations using Velcro, and then be removed when necessary and reinstalled elsewhere, with the new locations updated in the software.

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