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RFID Finds Buses for Blue Bird at Manufacturing Site

The global bus maker has installed an active RFID system from GuardRFID that locates buses as they move through finishing processes following assembly, and as they leave the facility for sale.
By Claire Swedberg

To become more efficient, the company considered several technology-based solutions. It looked at offerings from nine vendors, each having a unique solution, including active RFID (operating at various frequencies), ZigBee, GPS fleet tracking and handheld radio-based solutions. One of Blue Bird's requirements, however, was that the system would need to be easy to deploy, and would have reusable tags that could be removed from a bus when it left the yard, and then be attached to a new vehicle.

"The buses are made of steel construction, and the transmission of RF signals could prove challenging in the presence of all that metal," says Walker. "Another concern was getting power to the system, as some buses can be located in sections of the yard which are considered remote areas, where cabling readers or gateways could be unfeasible and costly."

A tagged bus with a receiver antenna and a Wi-Fi antenna to communicate with solar readers
According to Walker, the company chose the GuardRFID solution because the magnetic tags could be easily attached to buses. The tags could transmit a signal through a bus's windshield and windows. The readers, in some locations, could be powered by solar power when necessary. The system was taken live in July 2017, following a month of testing.

GuardRFID's solution consists of 14 wired readers and five Solar Powered Tag Readers (SPTRs) when running cable is not feasible. Of the wired readers, 12 include Ethernet and power connections, while two have only electric cables and use the yard's Wi-Fi infrastructure. The five SPTRs utilize the Wi-Fi network, which GuardRFID provided. The software to manage the collected read data comprises GuardRFID's Argus software, hosted on a local server, as well as the user-facing AllGuard software platform to display location data for Blue Bird's employees.

Once a bus is assembled, an RFID tag is applied to the interior near the windshield. A worker uses the AllGuard software to input the tag's ID number, then links that information to the vehicle number, body model and any unique features that would make the bus easier to find. This information is then displayed on the app via employee phones or tablets, letting them know which bus they are looking for.

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