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RFID Lures Maker of Electronic Lobster Callers

Used to entice lobsters into traps, the gadgets are fitted with EPC Gen 2 tags, enabling the manufacturer to monitor which fisherman are using which devices—and get paid accordingly.
By Claire Swedberg
The units are shipped to one of three current distributor locations, in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands or the Florida Keys. An ABT staff member presses a prompt on the reader, indicating for which distributor a particular case of Lobster Callers is destined, then scans the ID numbers once more.

ABT provides distributors with two ID cards apiece, each containing an EPC Gen 2 tag. One card is used for checking in the devices a lobsterman has returned, or that arrive from ABT; the other is utilized to check out units given to the lobstermen. Like the distributor, each fisherman also has two cards—one for checking in the devices, another for receiving replacements. In this manner, ABT's system can record what action is being taken at any given point in the process.

A distributor receiving a shipment employs a Motorola XR480 reader to scan the appropriate ID card, then scans the incoming devices to alert ABT that the specific units have been received. When returning units for recharging and picking up new ones, a lobsterman also scans the proper RFID ID card. The tags in the fisherman's Lobster Callers are scanned in as well, linking that person with the units being returned. The process is repeated when a lobsterman is given units to replace those returned. Data is stored on a Web-based system hosted for ABT by a third party.

"We can use this system to know how much to bill the lobstermen," Black says, by tracking exactly how many units are in that fisherman's possession, and charging $10 a month per unit. The system also helps ABT determine how many devices the distributor recharges monthly, since the distributor gets paid $1 for each unit recharged.

"It couldn't be easier for the distributors," says Price. Once they receive an interrogator, he states, "they plug it in, set up the antennas and make sure there's an Internet connection." According to Price, the simplicity of the system "is a matter of defining workflow around the idea of eliminating keyboard entry. That's where the ID cards come in."

Price adds that "it's a nice, clean, simple RFID system that just works," noting that the entire system, including readers for the distributors, costs about $40,000. Black says he is happy with the system, but was disappointed at the rising cost of the RFID hardware and might shop for less expensive readers and antennas as he expands his system to other parts of the world.

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