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Tyco Electronics Uses Wi-Fi for Trailer Tracking

The electronic products manufacturer is using OATSystems software and its existing Wi-Fi access points to track truck trailers with active tags at its distribution center.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 03, 2008Electronic products manufacturer Tyco Electronics is using a Wi-Fi-based, active RFID system to track truck trailers at its distribution center in Greensboro, N.C. Tyco Electronics has implemented OATSystems' Asset Tracking solution, as well as Wi-Fi active tags with G2 Microsystems' system-on-chip (SoC) technology. By leveraging the DC's existing Wi-Fi access points, the company avoided having to install new RFID reader infrastructure.

Tyco Electronics builds products and product components for a number of industries, including automotive, aerospace and consumer electronics, and ships them from a variety of manufacturing sites located in North Carolina. Its Greensboro distribution center routes materials destined for Tyco Electronics manufacturing facilities, as well as finished products that ship to customers worldwide, making for a complex supply chain. "Our North Carolina distribution center acts as a hub," says Kevin Anderson, Tyco Electronics' RFID director and product line manager. "There is a high volume of material routed in and out on a daily basis."

Kevin Anderson
To track those shipments, Tyco Electronics personnel have often resorted to phone calls and visual reads of truck trailer numbers to determine which shipments have arrived or departed, and when. Trailers are frequently moved from one building to another as products are unloaded and repacked for shipment elsewhere.

Tyco Electronics sought an inexpensive method for increasing automation and improving operational efficiencies. In the fall of 2007, it deployed the initial system by attaching one active Wi-Fi 2.45 GHz tag each to the inside of 20 tractor-trailers. Each Wi-Fi tag has a uniquely assigned ID number and is identified using an OATSystems Internet-based server. The tags are battery-powered and constantly send out a brief beacon signal containing the tag ID data.

When a truck arrives within 100 feet of existing Wi-Fi access points, in any of the three facilities included in the current implementation, the system captures its tag's unique ID number. These access points then forward this ID number to the OATSystems software running on a server, which correlates it to the access-point location, then time-stamps and displays the truck's arrival or departure information on a Web page that Tyco Electronics can access via the Internet.

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