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Army National Guard Tracks Assets

A PICS RFID system enables U.S. Army National Guard divisions to locate laptop computers and other electronics as they are moved in and out of their Washington, D.C., headquarters.
By Claire Swedberg
As the interrogator is carried through the office, it captures ID numbers from tags attached to assets up to 5 feet away. PICS' Asset Tracker software translates data from the RFID reads and displays alerts specific to missing or misplaced items on the reader. Once an employee has finished making the rounds, that person takes the interrogator back to the laptop and places it in the cradle to upload the reader data to the computer.

The inventory application is not integrated into the Army National Guard's back-end computer system, Milam says, because such software integration would have required a time-consuming certification process that would have delayed the use of the system. "The system is completely off-network," he states.

According to Roots, this is the first of a two-phase installation. The second, which he expects to launch in August of this year, will involve installing RFID portal readers in selected doorways, to be operational by 2009. Roots says the National Guard will install a portal reader at each of the two lobby doors leading in and out of the building, as well as three at the parking garage through which assets can pass on the way out of the building, and at the doorway to every other floor above ground level. The every-other-floor deployment is intended to capture RFID tag numbers as assets are moved from floor to floor, so if a tagged item is taken from a non-RFID-enabled floor, its movement will be noted when it passes an RFID-enabled floor.

Whenever an interrogator reads an item's tag, it sends that data to the PICS back-end system, which triggers an alarm (when appropriate) and automatically records the time and location of the incident. The Army National Guard can then review surveillance images at that time to determine whether an item was moved without authorization, as well as who removed it. Before that system can be installed, however, the Army National Guard needs to acquire additional funding with the 2009 budget.

The first phase, including hardware, software and installation, cost $94,000, with the second phase expected to cost an additional $80,000 to $90,000. Training and installation was straightforward, Roots says, requiring the training of seven Army National Guard personnel—including Roots—who will then train others for each division. "It's been working fine," he adds.

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