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RFID Follows Art

International Conservation Services, a provider of art services, is using an EPC Gen 2 RFID solution from Smarttrack and Vernon Systems to track and manage its high-value objects.
By David Friedlos
RFID has been employed for tracking rare and valuable artworks in the past. In 2007, Kuala Lumpur's National Museum launched a project to track millions of artifacts and relics (see RFID Helps Malaysian Museums Track Artifacts). The museum's staff used an RFID interrogator to register each item in its database and encode information to that item's tag. Once it was returned to its shelf, the item was scanned and its information was linked in the database.

Earlier this year, traveling exhibits manager Arts and Exhibition International began utilizing RFID to protect the treasure of King Tutankhamun's tomb as the artifacts were displayed around the world (see RFID Protects Tut's Treasures). Readers detected signals from each tag, and then transferred the data via an Ethernet connection to the server, where software translated and stored that information.

But Rogan says the Vernon/Smarttrack system will enable museums and art galleries to achieve fully automated collection tracking, while retaining all location information within core collection-management systems.

International Conservation Services (ICS), a New South Wales company that conserves, restores and manages valuable artworks, began using the integrated system to track high-value objects and works on its premises. The project's goal, says Julian Bickersteth, ICS' managing director, is to improve the visibility of all objects and artworks in its care, in order to assist with internal tracking procedures, enhance security and potentially reduce insurance costs.

"The software and hardware provided everything we required, pretty much out of the box, and took just one day to load the software and provide training," Bickersteth states. "It has given us much greater visibility of the objects we hold at any given time. We can be nearly 100 percent certain now that we have an accurate and up-to-date inventory of the objects and artworks that we hold, and where they are, which provides greater clarity about our insurance liabilities."

Bickersteth adds, "We still need to work out the actual dollars, but at this stage, we would expect the return on investment to be at least 100 percent per annum, purely based on staff time savings. In the longer term, we might expect even greater returns if we can persuade our insurers that the system reduces the level of risk to the objects and artworks."

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