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RFID-enabled Lockers Help U.K. Organizations Manage Electronic Equipment

Britain's Highways Agency, police departments and schools are using Traka's lockers to monitor the storage of radios and other devices, as well as those who use that equipment, and when.
By Claire Swedberg
The Highways Agency is responsible for maintaining the nationwide road network within the United Kingdom. In 2010, it adopted Traka's Intelligent Airwave solution, in order to help the organization comply with the U.K. government's Airwave Code of Practice, which pertains to the auditing of radios operating over the Airwave radio network. Airwave, a secure, encrypted digital national radio network owned and operated by Airwave Solutions Ltd., is dedicated for the exclusive use of the United Kingdom's emergency services, along with those organizations with a recognized public-safety responsibility. U.K regulations require that government agencies keep an eye on the Airwave radio terminals used by their staff, in part by conducting a full audit at least twice annually, with one physical audit mandatory.

Until the RFID system was installed, tracking every radio was a time-consuming process, involving the collection of location data for each device, and then manually writing it down using paper and pen. To save on costs, the radios are shared by multiple employees working successive shifts. This is the less expensive alternative to issuing a specific radio to each employee, which would require the purchase of considerably more radios. Because of this sharing, however, the Highways Agency's office managers did not know the number of times that each item had been used, or by whom. With Traka's Intelligent Airwave solution—consisting of RFID-enabled lockers, RFID asset tags and software to manage read events—the radios can be utilized by multiple workers, and data can be tracked electronically regarding when they are removed and returned, as well as which employee has which radio at any given moment.

Over the past two years, the solution was installed at 150 office locations throughout the country, enabling the agency to track the use of each radio. Upon approaching a locker, an employee swipes the magnetic stripe of his or her ID card through the locker's magnetic card reader, which recognizes that person's ID and unlocks the locker. The user can then take out the radio. The RFID tag affixed to that radio has a read range of approximately 50 millimeters (2 inches), and once the radio is removed, the locker's RFID reader is no longer able to interrogate the tag. The reader then forwards that new status to the Traka software, residing on each office's back-end system, thereby indicating that the asset has been removed.

At the end of the shift, the employee again swipes his or her mag-stripe ID card to open the locker and return the item, at which time the interrogator can once again read the object's tag and update data in the software accordingly. The worker can also indicate the radio's condition, using the keypad mounted outside the locker. For example, if the item was not functioning properly, that information could be noted as the asset was returned.

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