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IBM Offering IT Asset-Tracking Solution

The system, which uses high-performance EPC Gen 2 RFID tags from Omni-ID, has already been deployed at five data centers.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Omni-ID—which spun out last summer from QinetiQ, a science and technology company based in Farnborough, England—is based in the United Kingdom and Menlo Park, Calif. IBM had been in discussions with Omni-ID since before that time, Kingston says. Omni-ID's Prox tag complies with the EPC Gen 2 standard and, at 35 by 10 by 4 millimeters, is smaller than most metal-mount passive tags. Its plasmonic structure—a layer that reflects an interrogator's RF signal and focuses it on the tag's RFID inlay—renders it immune to interference from water, metal and other outside materials. The tag's chip can hold up to 240 bits of user memory and has a range of up to 8 feet.

IBM provides the data centers with RFID tags pre-encoded with unique serial numbers, after which the centers apply the tags to assets and associate each tag's ID number (also printed on the tag's face, both as text and as a bar code) with the corresponding asset's internal identification numbers. According to Thomas Pavela, president of Omni-ID, his company and IBM are currently developing a means by which end users will be able to encode and print an ID number and bar code of their choosing on a small RFID-enabled label, then attach that label to the base of the plastic housing containing the plasmonic structure layer to form a complete tag. This, Pavela says, will provide customers with the flexibility to encode their internal asset identifiers directly to the tags, rather than associating a pre-encoded tag serial number to their internal numbering system in a database in the Asset Tracking software, which IBM developed as part of the solution.

The software, which runs on IBM WebSphere Premises Server platform, stores the data encoded to each asset tag and maintains a database associating tag data with an asset's location. According to Kingston, the software will associate a single blade's tag data to a server, the server to the data encoded to a tag mounted on a rack holding it, and the location of the rack on a specific floor—and the floor itself—to an entire building.

Customers can choose either handheld interrogators, for reading tags on assets stored in server racks, for instance, or fixed-position readers that can be used to interrogate the tags attached to assets as they are brought into and out of specific choke points. (The assets could be associated with the individuals bringing them through the choke points if workers carry RFID-enabled personnel IDs.)

Kingston says IBM is offering a startup package, starting at just under $100,000, that consists of two handheld Intermec computers with an IP4 RFID interrogator and a bar-code scanner, the IBM Asset Tracking application, running on an IBM X-Series Pentium server with the Microsoft XP operation system, and 5,000 Omni-ID Prox tags. IBM, she says, is seeing strong interest in the solution from clients in the financial services industry.

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