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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
At this stage, ICS has a small set-up, using a single CS101 handheld interrogator from Convergence Systems Ltd. (CSL) and a few hundred ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 tags provided by UPM Raflatac. Tagged objects are read by the handheld reader, which is connected to the network via Wi-Fi. Information is sent to the Smarttrack database server, and all object records with changed locations are written to a movement file. Vernon's CMS reads that file and updates the location information. The new data is then transmitted back to the Smarttrack database in a second movement file.

Information can also be updated while the system is offline. Tagged objects are read by the handheld interrogator, with location changes made using Smarttrack's mobile software. The handheld device is then connected to a PC via USB, to synchronize with the Smarttrack database, where information is then sent as a movement file, as outlined above.

"Items continuously come and go from ICS, so the number of tagged items will vary depending on the objects and artworks we hold at any given time," Bickersteth says. "We will continue to acquire additional tags, and may include Smarttrack portals in a number of high-traffic doorways in the future."

Another organization that is watching the project with interest is New Zealand's Otago Museum, which currently seeks lottery funding to install the system. The organization has been in discussion with Smarttrack about being the first museum in New Zealand to utilize the system, and possibly the largest test site in Australasia.

According to Clare Wilson, the museum's director of exhibitions, development and planning, by adopting the Smarttrack system, Otago Museum would become a market leader in tracking technology, and would act as a reference site for colleagues, both locally and internationally.

"RFID tagging of collections has many benefits in cost, time, efficiency and accuracy of collection management," Wilson explains. "The ability to read many tags at once in a few seconds greatly reduces the time resources needed for collection inventory. Because the tags can be read through many types of packing material, line-of-sight and object handling are not necessary to identify objects. Over time, the saving in staff resources will be enormous, meaning resources can be reallocated to other collection care, conservation and research needs."

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