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Grunnarbeid Manages Tools With RFID

The Norwegian construction contractor is using EPC Gen 2 tags and readers, as well as GPS and cellular technology, to track the location and status of tools on work sites.
By Claire Swedberg
In April 2011, HRAFN installed the system's hardware—a CAEN RFID reader, a GPS unit and a cellular communication device linked to a small Owasys computer that stores software to capture and manage the data—in five cars that Grunnarbeid uses to deliver equipment to construction sites and in five of its 10- or 20-foot steel containers that Grunnarbeid uses for storing tools. The system also includes TraceTracker Asset, a Web-based software system to track equipment movements in real time.

Passive UHF EPC Gen 2 tags from Omni-ID and TheTagFactory were screwed, glued, welded or taped to a variety of objects from pumps to power generators, laser measurement tools or heavy equipment, all of which are stored in containers at the work site or transported to the site by car. In total about 1,000 items are being tagged. Each tag stores a unique ID number, and Nordic ID handheld readers are used to read the tag as it is applied to a piece of equipment, and link the ID to that item and its description in the TraceTracker Asset server. HRAFN ensured 100 percent read rate of tags of tools stored inside the containers by installing several antennas, says Vevle, and the high quantity of metal in the environment acts to reflect the reader's RF transmissions, thereby even further ensuring that all tags are read.

Whenever the Shepherd software detects a change in the tags being read, it routes that data via the cellular connection to TraceTracker Asset software indicating the ID number and GPS coordinates of the container or vehicle and which items left or entered. For example, when a tool is removed from the container, the reader stops reading its tag ID number. The status change is sent to TraceTracker, which waits several minutes to ensure there is not just a missed read, then changes the item's status from idle to "in use."

If a specific tool is needed on a construction site but not available, a central dispatcher can log onto the TraceTracker Asset server and input the item he is seeking, such as a water pump. He then sees a display with Google Maps that points to the location of all tools that match that definition and their status—idle or in use. If an item is found that is idle, a worker or a courier can be contacted to move the piece of equipment to the location where it is needed.

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