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Major Roll-out Sees 15k Active RFID Tags Deployed

AeroScout, a provider of real-time location systems (RTLS) using WiFi-based active RFID technology, today announced a major deployment for City Link, a U.K.-based express delivery provider. The deployment will see 15,000 tags distributed across 70 geographically dispersed locations.
Mar 19, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

March 19, 2007—AeroScout, a provider of real-time location systems (RTLS) using WiFi-based active RFID technology, today announced a major deployment for City Link, a U.K.-based express delivery provider. The deployment will see 15,000 tags used across the company's numerous facilities around the U.K.

City Link uses "roll-cages" to house its clients' parcels as they are transported. The number of parcels in transit can number up to 300,000 at any given moment. With 15,000 roll-cages distributed across 70 locations, the company was challenged with dynamically allocating the correct number of roll-cages to each facility. "The problem is that the movement of roll-cages between facilities is not smoothly distributed, especially at heavy times such as Christmas," explained AeroScout's director of marketing Josh Slobin. "Some areas were ending up with shortages, while others had surpluses, and there was no way to tell. When a facility does not have enough roll-cages, it needs to use pallets to move packages instead, which increases shipping time and the possibility of damage."

By equipping each roll-cage with an active RFID tag, City Link can know in which facility each of its entire fleet of 15,000 roll-cages is currently located, all in real-time. "With visibility into the locations of all the cages, they can actively re-distribute to make sure every facility always has enough cages," said Slobin. While City Link has not broken out return-on-investment metrics, it did say that the deployment has resulted in the improved efficiency and speed of its delivery services.

In addition to the volume of tags deployed, which AeroScout indicates is the largest of its kind, a notable characteristic of the deployment is how broadly distributed it is geographically. RTLS deployments are more typically limited to one or a cluster of neighboring facilities. By contrast, City Link's deployment has visibility from its National Distribution Centre in Wednesbury, West Midlands, into facilities all over the U.K. This wide-area capability was enabled by Cisco's WiFi network. "The size of this implementation demonstrates that WiFi location-based services are not only effective within small areas, but can also be used to improve operations across a large network of disparate sites," Richard Roberts, Cisco's director of wireless sales business development, was quoted in the announcement. AeroScout and Cisco have worked together in the past; as recently as last month the companies announced an initiative to co-market an asset-tracking solution that combines AeroScout's technology with Cisco's wireless network infrastructure equipment (see Cisco, AeroScout Team to Market WiFi RFID).

AeroScout partnered with U.K.-based JDH Consultancy Limited to both deploy the system and design customized tags for the roll-cages. The tags are based on AeroScout's T2 Tag, with the primary difference being that the battery life is extended from four years to eight. Slobin noted that while most AeroScout customers use their tags off-the-shelf, the company did design its core tag technology to be flexible for a range of specialty uses. "As an example, we also sell an integration tag -- which is the core 'guts' of our tag, for equipment manufacturers to add directly into their products."

Last month AeroScout introduced the T3 Tag, which has a ten millimeter-thick, card-shaped form factor that is thin enough to use as an ID card (see RTLS Innovation Continues with New Card-Size Tags). And just two weeks ago, the company announced $21 million in third-round funding.

Read today's announcement from AeroScout
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