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Tracking Assets from Prairie to Peak

Within months of deploying RFID to keep tabs on its IT equipment, Colorado's vast El Paso County expects to soon recoup its investment.
By Bob Violino
Data Systems International's RFIDActivator data collection software enables the county to continue using both the bar code and RFID systems to track items, Dorpinghaus says. The application from the Overland Park, Kan., company automatically determines whether data is coming from a bar code reader or an RFID reader, she says.

The DSI software prepares data from the RFID and bar code readers for integration with the EnterpriseOne ERP system from PeopleSoft, which is headquartered in Pleasanton, Calif. El Paso County has been using the EnterpriseOne software as a back-office system to track inventory, enterprise assets and other key business objects and processes.

By using EnterpriseOne in conjunction with RFID technology, El Paso County will be able to produce detailed lists of all its assets by type and location. For example, it will generate reports on how many PCs or printers are located in a particular department or county building in Colorado Springs. The PeopleSoft application will also enable the county to accurately calculate the current value of all the IT hardware it owns, which will help county officials assess its inventory for insurance purposes.

Through the use of RFID tags to locate IT items, the county expects to make the process of taking inventory of those items much less time-consuming, says Dorpinghaus. "We have a bunch of outlying assets in facilities across the county, and it has become far too labor intensive to conduct inventory of these assets," she says.

RFID tags will gradually replace bar codes for tracking IT assets. Because the RFID system does not require line-of-sight scanning as does the bar code system, county workers will be able to identify assets more easily. But the county plans to continue using bar codes to track less expensive items because the lower cost of the items makes it more difficult to justify the expense of purchasing RFID tags.

For example, up till now, taking inventory of desktop PCs has been cumbersome because workers need to get line-of-sight readings of the bar codes, Dorpinghaus says. The PCs are typically located under employees' desks. "So if someone is out conducting an inventory check, they are likely to interrupt the person who's working on the PC in order to get a reading," she says. Using the RFID reader, the inventory taker only has to get within 6 feet of the equipment to get an accurate read, and so will not interrupt someone working on a PC during a walk-by inventory.

For inventory checks of IT assets stored in warehouses, workers will be able to quickly scan shelves in a room to get an accurate count. "It will take only 10 minutes or less to do that with an RFID reader," says Dorpinghaus. "By comparison, if we had to scan 200 devices with a bar code reader, it could take hours because we might have to move boxes out of the way to read the bar codes. This gives us a more efficient way to know how much IT equipment we have."

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