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Tool-Bearing Truck Brings RFID-tagged Tools to Wind Farms

WindBed, developed by Choctaw Renewable Services, is a truck loaded with equipment and outfitted with EPC RFID technology to track tool usage and maintenance.
By Claire Swedberg
May 18, 2011Choctaw Renewable Services, a start-up based in Midland, Texas, plans to release a new solution next month for tracking tools on job sites, that provides wind farms, construction firms, oil and gas companies and other users with a truck to store tools, as well as the tools themselves, calibration services and an RFID system to provide visibility into where those tools are located—and when and how frequently they were used. The solution, known as the WindBed, and initially designed for the wind power-generation industry, will be available for leasing for three-, four- or five-year terms, according to Tony B. Sam, the company's owner.

The RFID portion of the system—designed by WinWare and known as CribMaster—includes a handheld reader, a laptop computer stored in the cab of the WindBed, and ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags attached to each tool included in the vehicle's storage area. Data regarding the tools, as well as each reading of the tags on those tools, is stored on software accessible to an end user via a password-protected Web site.

Choctaw's WindBed truck

Sam, a Choctaw Indian with a long career in the oil industry, launched his company to provide a tool-storage solution for the oil and gas sector, as well as wind-energy job sites at remote locations. He is presently the VP of operations at Caza Petroleum and was previously a petroleum engineer at Chevron.

Sam says he was seeking a solution to the problem of tool loss at job sites, which can cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. For example, he says, wind farms—for which he initially developed the system—require maintenance crews to arrive at a farm and work several months at a time, testing and servicing equipment, using leased or company-owned tools. Tools invariably disappear, he explains, and by the time a project is over, there is no easy way to trace where or when they went missing. Individual tools can cost $6,000 apiece or more, he notes.

Several on-site tool-tracking solutions exist with regard to RFID technology, typically including a trailer loaded with tools, along with an RFID-enabled portal at the trailer's door (see Tool Tracking Goes Mobile and Grunnarbeid Manages Tools With RFID). Choctaw sought an affordable, more nimble solution, however, in the form of a pickup truck or a similarly sized vehicle loaded with tools and parked at a construction or oil and gas site, or at a wind farm.

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