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New Haven Public Schools Keeps Tabs on Laptops

An RFID-based system enables the school district to track environmental conditions in its electronics storage closets, as well as the locations of laptop computers within the school building.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 11, 2009Connecticut's New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) district has installed an RFID-based system at its John C. Daniels Elementary School, in order to provide visibility of its laptops, as well as sense temperature changes in its data closets and computer lab. Auto-ID systems integrator Queralt installed the system—which includes RFID hardware and software manufactured by RF Code—in July 2008.

The school deployed 1,500 active 433 MHz RFID tags, complying with the ISO 18000-7 standard, on its desktop and laptop computers for tracking. It also deployed one humidity- and three temperature-sensing tags in two data closets and a computer lab, as well as a tag that senses when the door to a laptop storage cabinet is opened. In addition, says Queralt's managing director, Michael Queralt, readers installed throughout the school help the district track assets such as computers if they are moved from one location to another.

Mitch Medford
Like many school districts, NHPS is facing difficult financial times, according to Frank Gentile, the New Haven Board of Education's director of information technology. "Educational expectations remain high," he says, "yet funds for staffing and support remain fixed or are decreasing." The district was acquiring additional computers and had insufficient staffing to track the assets manually. The school sought a system that would enable the district to maximize computer usage and availability for employees and students, as well as reduce the expense of losing laptops to theft, without increasing the man-hours that would be spent searching for the computers.

The RFID tracking system ensures that school administrators know about the movement of computers. It also allows them to conduct a quick and accurate physical inventory of the assets at any time, and to easily verify the laptops' availability for staff and student use.

Initially, Gentile says, the district researched and interviewed vendors, then selected the RF Code system because of its flexibility, overall price and ease of use.

The district was looking not only for a system with which to track the electronics, but also a way to monitor the temperatures in the data rooms so it could be alerted if a data closet experienced a surprising elevation or drop in temperature. RF Code tags containing temperature and humidity sensors are attached to laptop cabinets or walls in data closets, Queralt says, and door sensors are attached to the cabinet doors to detect when one has been opened. RF Code interrogators, spaced approximately every 300 feet, are installed in the ceilings to provide visibility throughout the entire building.

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