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Tracking Construction Cranes in Real-Time

Stafford Tower Crane is using an active RFID system from AssetPulse to track the location of cranes and components at construction sites.
By Claire Swedberg
Stafford is deploying the AssetPulse system in two phases, says Vijay Sarathy, AssetPulse's cofounder and vice president of marketing. Initially, he explains, the ID numbers of tags affixed to crane components are being captured with an RFID reader in a backpack carried by Stafford personnel.

The company is using active 433.92 MHz RFID tags from RF Code on its cranes and parts. The tags use a proprietary air-interface protocol and have a read range of 300 to 2,500 feet, depending on the size of the reader antenna. Their unique ID numbers are captured by the RF Code reader, loaded in a seven-pound backpack that Stafford personnel can wear at a job site.

Using the reader, employees can immediately determine if all components are present and verify which construction site they are in. The interrogator connects wirelessly to a laptop at the site, which then transmits via a GPRS connection to the server running the AssetPulse software and hosted by AssetPulse. Stafford, or its customers, can log on to the software via the Internet and locate a specific crane or its components.

For the second phase, scheduled to begin in the next quarter of this year, each crane will have its own RFID reader installed in its cab, to identify the components used for that crane. Data will be transmitted via a GPRS connection. The cranes will also have GPS units installed so Stafford can pinpoint the location of the crane or its various components at a large construction site.

The AssetPulse asset-tracking software can operate with any RFID or bar-code readers, Sarathy says. The server, where data about the parts and their locations resides, can be hosted either by the customer or by AssetPulse. "It's a completely agnostic system," he says.

Stafford Tower Crane intends to make the system available to its customers as well, by encouraging them to purchase their own RFID readers and tags for such high-value items as the generators frequently located at construction sites. "We're happy with the way things are progressing," Stafford says, adding that the larger division of Stafford Tower Cranes, located in Ireland, may follow the lead of the U.S. division with RFID tracking.

Using the backpack reader, Sarathy says he can now go to a job site, turn on his reader and immediately know if a component has been left behind with a new shipment. "When I arrive at a staging area," he says, "I know what inventory we have out there."

For the second phase, the interrogator in the cab will replace the need for a backpack reader.

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