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RFID Helps Parents Find Lost School Uniforms

Approximately 100 schools have adopted the RagTagd system since the company launched two years ago, enabling parents to receive a text message if their child's garment is left behind in a school's lost-and-found area.
By Claire Swedberg

With the RagTagd system, the company sews an off-the-shelf UHF RFID tag into the garments before they are then sold to parents. The label comes with a unique ID number encoded in the tag, and a corresponding number printed on it.

Parents must activate the tag upon purchasing the uniform. However, they aren't required to download an app to do so, since the company maintains that no one requires an additional app on their phone to manage. Instead, they simply send a text message containing the six-character code printed on the label. The phone's number is then paired with that ID, along with the tag's RFID number. The box is a plastic receptacle with a built-in RFID reader and antennas, which plugs directly into an outlet and transmits data to RagTagd's server via a cellular connection.

RagTagd only collects tag IDs once in a 24-hour period, Holdenson says, since real- or near-real-time information is unnecessary. The company reads every tag once, in the middle of the night. The software interrogates and interprets each garment's tag ID. At 7:30 the next morning, a text message is sent to all phones linked to those garments, indicating that a piece of clothing is available for the children to pick up from the box. So far, Holdenson says, 6,000 items have been identified and recovered, and 200 items are detected nightly.

According to Holdenson, once the prototype was built and proven during the Roseville Public School pilot, the company began reaching out to other schools as well, which amounted to him and his colleagues simply walking into schools and describing the new technology. Ninety percent of those with whom the company spoke responded well, he reports, and 30 percent have signed up for the technology with the first contact.

This month, the company signed an agreement with Spartan School Supplies, one of Australia's largest school uniform wholesalers, to sell its uniforms with the RagTagd RFID label. "Our vision extends far beyond that," however, Holdenson says. "We're going to use our early success as a spring board to the U.K., South Africa and eventually the U.S."

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