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Geolocation, RFID Companies Selling System for Pipe and Equipment Tracking

ProStar Geocorp is deploying the RFID technology of its sister company, EchoRFID, to offer a holistic solution to track the GPS-based locations of pipes and other equipment in storage and in field installations, using RFID tags and handheld readers.
By Claire Swedberg

EchoRFID provides Omni-ID Dura 3000 and Dura 1500 on-metal RFID tags that can be attached to pipe sections and other assets. The Pipe Talker application is loaded on a Pipe Talker handheld device that includes a Technology Solution (UK) Ltd. (TSL) RFID reader and a BlueStar GPS precision GPS unit. The Pipe Talker app enables the capture of RFID tag ID numbers, and allows a link between the tag ID and the GPS-based location, which can be sent via GPRS or Wi-Fi to the Transparent Earth software. The results can then be provided to users on a dashboard that could indicate what assets are installed at which site, as well as the status of those assets, such as maintenance records.

If the assets are installed, for instance, as part of an underground pipe system, each tag is mounted to a specific pipe and can be accessed via an RFID reader before the pipe is buried. The GPS data captured at the time that the pipe section was installed, along with the tag read, can be used to approximate the location of that section. Tags can be printed in the field using a printer that combines RFID and bar coding, Tucker says.

If maintenance or repair is necessary, a user could access the system to find the GPS-based location, uncover the pipe and then confirm that pipe section with an RFID tag read. If the user employs one of ProStar's own branded GPS units, the location can be pinpointed within a foot or less. The Omni-ID tags, Tucker adds, can be read at a distance of up to 12 feet, provided that they are not buried underground.

The system can be used by the oil and gas industry for the inspection and management of production and drilling equipment, such as tubing and casing inventory. To ensure the security of the data, Tucker says, the software uses a military-grade three-part security sign-in for users to access data. Typically, the full solution could be used to track assets before they are installed, from a storage yard to a work site. Then, once they are installed, either above or underground, their location is stored along with the GPS data.

Users equipped with the Pipe Talker readers could periodically walk around a storage yard, work site or installation site, interrogate the tags with the reader, and store that tag ID with the GPS location—along with the items' details, such as manufacturer and size—in the ProStar software. Users could also employ the EchoRFID Pipe Talker app to take pictures of an item (a pipe section, for instance), input details about it and store all of that data on the cloud-based server.

Tucker's vision, he says, is a "client-driven, traceability system starting at the manufacturing facility." In the meantime, he adds, the technology can provide benefits for laydown yards or other sites as it is piloted and deployed.

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